Lori Lutskas, a certified physical rehabilitation therapist at Washington State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, answers this week's questions.
Question: If someone owns a working/herding dog that requires a lot of exercise, such as a Siberian husky, but finds walks just aren’t enough, would it help if the dog worked out on a treadmill?
Answer: Yes, most dogs can be trained to use an electric treadmill, whether it is a walking treadmill or underwater treadmill. (Never use a manual treadmill.) However, the animal should never be left alone on a treadmill. The pet will need to be supervised and monitored.
As with humans, you should also make sure your pet is able to handle the exercise routine, thus be sure your veterinarian has approved the activity first, especially if your pet is older.
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Question: What is the advantage to training on a treadmill?
Answer: On a walking treadmill, the weight can be evenly distributed to reduce stress on some joints. This is especially true with an underwater treadmill, where as much as 38 percent of the weight can be reduced on the lower joints, such as the wrists and ankles.
Question: We assume treadmills are not right for every dog. Please explain.
Answer: Not every dog will enjoy the treadmill. It may be afraid of the machine or have health conditions that prevent increased exercise. Remember, supervision is always required.
Injuries can occur if the pet falls from the tracks or is overworked. They could be sprain or soft tissue injuries.
And if you have a long hair pet; the hair will need to be brought up so it does not get caught in the treads/motor.