Wednesday, April 21st, 2021

Aqua Animals

Technology aids with animal rehabilitation

By William Kincaid

Mile Creek Animal Hospital in Minster has added an underwater treadmill as part. . .

MINSTER - In the human world, orthopedic surgery without physical therapy could be considered malpractice. The same should hold true for animals, said Dr. Leslie Winner of Mile Creek Animal Hospital.
"And yet I would challenge you to ask any vet around here who does orthopedic surgery, 'How often do you prescribe physical rehab?' You would be hard-pressed to find anybody that says, 'I do,'" Winner said.
Just like people, dogs, both young and old, can benefit greatly from physical therapy, whether recovering from surgery or beset with a degenerative disease such as arthritis.
Looking to add another dimension of therapeutic care, Winner last month installed an underwater treadmill as part of the hospital's canine rehabilitation center.
"This rehab piece is a piece that has been missing in the area," rehabilitation center coordinator Lisa Faust said, noting Minster is likely the first rural community in Ohio to offer an underwater treadmill.
The therapy is intended to restore physical function in and hopefully extend the lifespan of aging dogs with mobility issues or arthritis. It also helps maintain strength and ward off disease in younger dogs that are active in sports such as agility competitions.
"This gives me that multi-modal approach. We can help with weight and exercise and instill muscle strength needed to help those joints," Winner explained.
The AquaPaws underwater treadmill offers low-impact, high-resistance therapy or workouts for rehabilitation, training and conditioning and weight loss, according to manufacturer Hudson Aquatic Systems.
"The thing about the water treadmill is it's not high impact because of the flotation of water so it allows them to keep moving those muscles," Faust said.
The dog, hooked up to a safety harness, is placed on a treadmill in the center of the system and the system is filled with a certain amount of water based on the dog's size.
"It's going to depend on how tall your animal is. The max fill is 30 inches, which would take almost 400 gallons," Faust said.
Depending on it's strength, the dog walks a specified number of minutes at varying speeds.
Winner's dog Sam, an Australian Shepherd mix, has been using the underwater treadmill for about a month. Sam suffered a ruptured disc in his lower back and has limited use of his rear legs. He uses a two-wheel cart to get around.
His course of therapy is multi-purpose, involving neural patterning and rebuilding strength, Winner said.
"That starts with, 'Let's teach the dog to feel what's going on down here and start rebuilding the brain," Winner said about establishing a connection between Sam's brain and legs.
The muscles in Sam's back legs need strengthening, too. He may never be able to run a marathon again, but he might be able to push himself up on his own, she said.
"(The treadmill) gives him buoyancy so he doesn't have to bear weight," she said. "That belt keeps that pattern going over and over again so that's that feedback to the brain. 'OK, this is what my leg is supposed to do.'"
Winner, who has been practicing veterinary medicine in the area since 1994, said the decision to add the underwater treadmill was driven by her love of older dogs.
"And the biggest issue we see with them is mobility," she said. "So it really grew out of that passion for helping these dogs as they get older with their mobility and not having to put them down because they just can't get around anymore."
Winner graduated in 2020 from Canine Rehabilitation Institute as a certified canine rehabilitation therapist.

We also have a photo album and a video of the treadmill in action.
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