What is Therapeutic Exercise if not an Underwater Treadmill?

Written by Jennifer Rouse, DVM CCRP Sep 24 • 2 minute read

Therapeutic exercise- the who, what, when, where, why, and how!

We've had a break from posting but are back to finish our conversation about modalities of rehab treatment! Today's post is all about land based therapeutic exercise. Water can be helpful, and an Underwater Treadmill (UWTM) is instantly recognizable by many as a rehab tool, but it doesn't = exercise alone. 

Much of the rehab of a patient relies on them practicing their exercises at home in between clinic visits and since most people don't have their own private UWTM in their house, land based exercise is something you can take home!  

Who can benefit from land based therapeutic exercise?

Everyone! Whether the patient is a dog or a cat! Land based exercise is readily accepted by many animals, even those that don't like water. 

What types of land based exercises are available? 

Land based exercises consist of any exercise that is not performed in the water. It includes regular treadmill, resistance band exercises, core strengthening and balancing exercises, sit to stand, down to stand, and many other exercises that use the patient's weight as resistance or external equipment to challenge a patient's strength and coordination. These exercises can be grouped into isometric, eccentric, concentric exercises for strength training. Endurance and cardiovascular exercises are sometimes also used to improve overall fitness and athletic performance. Flexibility exercises are commonly used to improve range of motion of joints. 

When do I use land based therapeutic exercise for my pet? 

A rehab therapist takes into account several factors when prescribing exercises: the problem being addressed, the stage of healing that the patient is in if it is for rehab of an injury, and how the patient is responding to the current program. This is why it is important to work with a therapist when designing a rehab program so that your pet can best benefit from an exercise program and avoid injury if there are some exercises that are inappropriate or ill timed for your pet's condition. 

Where can I use land based therapeutic exercise?

With the exception of using specialized equipment, anywhere! The beauty of land based exercises are that you can learn them in clinic, perform them at home, or work on them anywhere that you may travel with your pet. Working on your pet's exercises outside of the clinic also allows for more efficient visits, since you can reserve that time for treatments that can't otherwise be performed at home. 

Why are exercises prescribed by a therapist?

Therapeutic exercise is prescribed to increase range of motion, flexibility, endurance, strength and proprioception for patients. These exercises help patients recover more quickly from surgical procedures or injuries, promote functional independence, and keep canine athletes at peak performance levels. 

How are these exercises performed?

Just like with people, there are right ways and wrong ways to perform exercises. Pet's will sometimes "cheat" on performing reps if they are used to working their body part a certain way. An example is when a dog has weakened quadriceps and may avoid using this muscle group when standing up from a sit by kicking the lower limb out to the side and leaning forward. Carefully monitoring each repetition and using techniques that encourage proper use of the limb for reps can help to improve the efficacy of the exercise for your pet. Working with a rehab therapist can help to screen for any other underlying inability to perform the exercise and encourage your pet to work out in the safest and most effective way possible. 

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