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ADVERTORIAL
How to Integrate Hydrotherapy into a Veterinary Practice

By Erica Shoults, DVM
For The Education Series

Posted: Oct. 9, 2012, 6:30 p.m. EDT

This article will discuss ways in which you can integrate an underwater treadmill into your veterinary practice and the key essentials you should consider in choosing the system that is ideal for you. 

Treatments
One of the first things to consider is how to use the underwater treadmill in your facility. The most common reason is for post-operative rehabilitation due to orthopedic or neurologic issues, such as cranial cruciate ligament tears or intervertebral disc disease. 

The water can be raised to a certain height, which minimizes the weight of the patient, allowing him/her to exercise in a controlled environment. 

The underwater treadmill also allows pets with degenerative diseases, such as hip dysplasia or degenerative myelopathy, to walk with stability and confidence from the support of the water. 

Petsafe underwater treadmill for dogs
Another way the treadmill can be incorporated into your practice is by implementing conditioning and weight loss programs. Extra resistance can provide an additional challenge for the canine athlete, while overweight patients can comfortably work out to improve their cardiovascular fitness and shed pounds.

Fitting In
Understanding the amount of floor space required by an underwater treadmill is very important in the planning process. You need to know how many pieces come with the system, the dimensions of those pieces and how they will be oriented in order to maximize the efficiency of your space. 

Having a drawing created will be the best way to ensure that the treadmill will fit.

Selling the Service
There are a variety of pricing options for underwater treadmill sessions to consider when calculating the amount of time it will take to recoup your investment.

If you are rehabilitating a patient, the average treatment ranges anywhere from $30 to $100.  For conditioning or weight loss sessions, you can choose to charge per time or per workout. An example of this would be charging $15 for every 15 minutes in the treadmill or $25 to $50 a workout. 

But by far one of the most effective ways to charge for the underwater treadmill is to sell packages with a certain number of sessions in each package.

Promoting Healing
Also consider how you are going to market your hydrotherapy service to make it a successful. 

Get in touch with your local news outlets to see if they would give you some recognition within the community.  Have an open house featuring the underwater treadmill and invite your existing clientele along with other animal clinics near you.

And consider adding video testimonials from owners whose pets have had positive results from their treadmill sessions to your website and other social media arenas. 

Letting those around you know about your state-of-the-art services should help you maintain a steady stream of patients and income.

Choosing Your System
Once you have a plan on how to add hydrotherapy to your services, you are ready to start exploring which underwater treadmill will work for you. Consider these four key essentials when doing your research:

Customer Service
The level of service you receive after the underwater treadmill has been installed is extremely important.  Find out who you need to get in touch with in case there are any issues and what the expected response time from that party is going to be if an onsite visit is needed. 

Petsafe underwater treadmill
Photos courtesy of PetSafe.
A nice feature that recently became available is having remote diagnostic capabilities to help in servicing units.  This allows the service team to dial into the treadmill’s computer system from an alternate location and troubleshoot any issues, which would minimize the need for costly service visits.

Software
There have been a multitude of recent advancements in underwater treadmill software. Increased software capabilities will make running the underwater treadmill a more enjoyable experience. It should be user-friendly and function appropriately for your needs. 

Choosing a system with software that maintains patient databases and has programmable treadmill sessions will provide you with a variety of treatment options for each patient or issue. A system with a handheld remote offers more freedom and flexibility for working with dogs during hydrotherapy sessions.

Maintenance
Consider the maintenance that needs to be performed to keep the underwater treadmill in working order.  It is important that the water be changed regularly and that the treadmill chamber is thoroughly cleaned at the same time. 

To make that process as simple as possible, select a system that will actively pump the water out to reduce downtime and has a belt that can tilt up and out of the way, giving you full access for cleaning. 

Some things need to be checked daily, weekly and on a yearly basis, so make sure you check with the manufacturer’s recommendations to ensure your unit lasts for many years to come.

Features
Take a look at the special features of the underwater treadmill to see how they are going to benefit you and your patients. A durable system composed of stainless steel and tempered glass will stand the test of time, in addition to helping minimize microbial growth. 

Doors on each end of the unit allow debilitated patients to easily walk in and out of the chamber, while glass on all four sides provides an adequate viewing area for assessing a dog’s gait. 

It is also important that the speed of the treadmill varies from a fraction of mile per hour up to 8 mph or more to allow maximum usage, whether it is for post-operative rehab patients or canine athletes.

Now you have a better understanding of how you can incorporate canine aquatic therapy into your clinic. Evaluating your needs, as well as your patients’, will give you peace of mind that the unit you choose will be the best for your clinic. 

Dr. Shoults joined PetSafe in 2010 to bring rehabilitation services to clinics across the country. She blogs for the company at www.Petsafevet.com.

This Education Series article was underwritten by PetSafe of Knoxville, Tenn.

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