Laurie's Blogs.


May 2012

The Underwater Treadmill Question

The UWT Question…



I am looking into starting my own rehab practice within a referral/emergency hospital. We are debating on whether the purchase of an UWTM is necessary to have or not. All of the local competitors have them. I figure that you can rehab dogs just as well without one and they are so costly to purchase. Is the cost justified? I think the perception of the non-rehab-certified veterinarians is that you NEED a treadmill to do rehab and if we don’t have one, they may not refer to me. I think it would be great to help the older, overweight, or arthritic dogs and get them moving in the water.  Of course the neuro cases would also benefit.  So, my big question is, ‘Do these machines pay for themselves and how long does that take generally?’  Thanks!




Well this really is a big question!  I worked in this field for 10 years before getting an underwater treadmill… and yes, I did get dogs better without it!  However, I do think that the perceptions account for something intangible, which is why, when my business partners and I created The Canine Fitness Centre, we put in an UWTM.  All in all, I think it boils down to – IF you are going to have a physical facility, then the UWTM / pool is a real and perceptual benefit.


From a real perspective, when you have a physical facility located within a referral & emergency hospital, you are likely to be referred many of the more difficult cases (neurological cases, post-operative cases, and cases with significant mobility issues).  These cases all benefit from UWTM therapy.  From a perceptual benefit, I’m afraid that referring veterinarians and even the public might think that a clinic that has access to an UWTM is better prepared to treat their animal in need of rehabilitation.


The unfortunate thing is that these machines don’t pay for themselves quickly, as not all cases SHOULD go to the UWTM.  I think that many clinics try to make the UWTM pay for itself by putting inappropriate cases into the UWTM!  I think that you need to plan on 5 or more years to pay it off (if you are not treating it like a ‘magic dishwasher!)


Now, if you have a small in-house practice or a mobile practice, then an UWT would be overkill.  Small facility or mobile rehabilitation practitioners would do well to niche themselves appropriately – either keeping to in-house referrals, sporting dogs, or geriatric cases for example.


Let me know your thoughts at