Underwater Treadmill (UWTM)

Humans and horses have been benefiting from the use of land and underwater treadmills for years! Pawsitive Strides now provides this amazing opportunity for cats and dogs in the Des Moines area, helping your furry friends maintain better health and rehabilitation through the use of hydrotherapy.

Hydrotherapy in an underwater treadmill uses the natural properties of water providing buoyancy, stability and hydrostatic pressure to provide cardiovascular conditioning and therapeutic benefits in a safe environment. The water supports the weight of the patient but this workout is 3 to 5 times harder than land exercise so even at a slow walk your pet can get an intense workout. The warm water also soothes aching muscle and improves circulation. It is not unusual for an animal that is not using a limb on land to use it when walking in the water. They often use it an exaggerated motion, which adds to the therapeutic benefits of hydrotherapy.

At Pawsitive Strides we provide a full assessment prior to underwater treadmill use and tailor a water-assisted exercise plan to specifically meet the needs of your pet. Sessions vary in length and intensity and are always overseen by our specially-trained technicians and rehab vets.

We also provide a pet shower area for your convenience to rinse off and dry your pet for their added comfort following the use of the underwater treadmill.

Examples of Indications that may benefit from UWTM:

        • Muscle, Tendon & Ligament injuries
        • Arthritis
        • Post Operative Recovery
        • Neurologic Conditions (surgical or nonsurgical)
        • General Muscle Weakness
        • Debilitated or Geriatric Pets
        • Weight Loss and Weight Management
        • General Muscular and Cardiovascular Conditioning
        • For Fun and to Drain Excessive Energy

Positive Effects:

        • Warmth of the water (82 F-90 F) helps to relax muscles, decrease pain and muscle spasms and increase range of motion.
        • Hydrostatic Pressure of the water reduces swelling by creating a gently pressure to the body and legs, thus reducing any existing edema in the legs during exercise.
        • Resistance of the water promotes muscle use, increased range of motion in joints and minimum pain during exercise. The resistance can also provide a more intense work out when working in the water vs on the on the land.
        • Buoyancy of the water decreases the concussive forces on the bones and joints during exercise. In pets with weakness and poor balance the buoyancy of the water provides assistance, as the water can support 60-80% of the pet’s body weight.

F.A.Q. about UWTM:

What is the difference between underwater treadmill (UWTM) therapy and swimming?

Both therapies are beneficial for cardiovascular fitness but the UWTM provides a total body workout with your pet using both front and rear legs while allowing for control of the water level, treadmill speed, and water resistance. When animals swim, they typically use the front legs to swim and the back legs to rudder or sporadically kick but not in a controlled manner. Rehabilitation with the underwater treadmill increases leg flexion (bending) with near normal extension (straightening) of the leg. Swimming only increases flexion.

What if my dog doesn’t like water? Or he doesn’t know how to swim?

All pets are introduced to the underwater treadmill slowly with a lot of positive reinforcement. We work patiently to make sure your pet is comfortable in the UWTM before proceeding, often one of our trained rehabilitation technicians will start in the UWTM with your pet. Most pets get used to the underwater treadmill very quickly which we feel is because their feet are touching the ground at all times. Lifejackets may also be used to assist your dog.

Will my dog be wet when I pick him up?

We have a shower available if you would like to rinse your dog off after the UWTM and towels are available for you to use to dry off your pet after his session. We also have a forced air dryer available for you to use if desired to supplement the towel drying after the UWTM session.

Are there any rules to follow to be able to use the UWTM?

  • Any dog with a skin condition will not be able to use the UWTM until after the skin condition clears.
  • Dogs should not be fed prior to their session.
  • All owners will need to sign a release form prior to their pet’s use of the UWT.

Does my dog have to be a rehab patient to use the UWTM?

  • We have fitness swims available by appointment for dogs to increase their conditioning, burn off extra energy or to have fun in the water.
  • All fitness swim dogs will need to have a Fitness exam with our veterinarians prior to using the UWTM.

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Office Hours

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2911 Ingersoll Ave. Des Moines, IA,50312


8:00 am-5:30 pm


8:00 am-5:30 pm


8:00 am-5:30 pm


12:00 pm-5:30 pm


8:00 am-5:30 pm