Sudbury

Underwater treadmill provides beneficial treatment for animals, veterinarian says

At the end of 2017, Scott Morrison’s dog Mandi hurt her leg.

Walden Animal Hospital has been offering the therapy for 2 years

Mandi — a Corgi and Australian Shepherd mix — takes a break from exercising while her owner, Scott Morrison, looks on. (Wendy Bird/CBC)
Imagine being able to give your pet the benefits of a one-hour walk with only 10 minutes of effort. It's a concept that's being tested by an animal hospital near Sudbury. The Walden Animal Hospital is home to an underwater treadmill. It's an exercise machine on which dogs -- and sometimes cats -- can get a really good workout in a short amount of time. The treadmill is being used to help pets recovering from surgery, or to help them lose weight and become more active. Up North's Wendy Bird recently stopped by the animal hospital to check out the treadmill in action. 8:03

At the end of 2017, Scott Morrison's dog Mandi hurt her leg.

"She was just playing and slipped in some mud," he said.

"She was immediately going lame on her leg. We had some trouble getting a diagnosis for it."

Mandi eventually had surgery, followed by therapy sessions that include an underwater treadmill.

"It's definitely helped Mandi," he said.

Mandi is a patient of the Walden Animal Hospital in Greater Sudbury.

"We have been doing some alternate therapy for a little while for dogs and cats who are dealing with chronic conditions, whether it be pain or a loss of dexterity," Dr. Carolyn Lariviere, owner and senior veteran at the hospital explained.

"For a long time, all we could offer was either surgery or medicine. But as with humans, the field has really opened up and we've learned that things like physiotherapy, massage, acupuncture, chiropractic — these are all important … to contribute to wellbeing and pain control."

The Walden Animal Hospital has a water treadmill which helps dogs increase resistance, eases pressure on joints and increases circulation. 0:42

Lariviere says the underwater treadmill helps animals build up muscle mass, without it being pain.

"The water provides resistance," she said.

"So they're able to build up that muscle and that cardio without having heavy impact on the bones and joints that hurt."

Says she sees positive results when animals do the therapy after surgery.

"We've noticed that the patients that are taking this kind of a therapeutic approach after surgery are healing quicker," she said.

Vet technician Leah Gibson, Dr. Carolyn Lariviere and Scott Morrison watch Mandi — a Corgi and Australian Shepherd mix — exercise on an underwater treadmill. (Wendy Bird/CBC)

"They're able to do more after that surgery than another dog six weeks out. It's really impressive."

The therapy can also be used for cats, but water is not involved.

"We've had a couple of cats who have obesity and issues with constipation [and] once they start walking on the treadmill, they're actually doing exercise," she said.

"It's a way to get that exercise."

With files from Wendy Bird

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