If you have a dachshund or other dog that's been going through IVDD or any kind of mobility issues due to arthritis or hips or injury, etc, you've probably heard about hydrotherapy or aqua therapy from your vet. Which means, a "water treadmill", which is an amazing tool for low-impact exercise to build strength, improve gait, and also encourage sensory signals to nerves.
However, using this machine means going to a veterinary rehabilitation clinic, which not everyone has nearby.
Plus, just trying to do 3 short sessions per week will get expensive, and can be inconvenient trying to fit it into your work schedule, etc.
We wanted to find a way to do this type of hydrotherapy from home, so we could practice a little everyday when we wanted.
So I built Crusoe this "trough"-style pool, which we call our homemade "Manual Water Treadmill", where he could do walking laps back and forth.
And it works amazing. We wish we had done this a year ago when Crusoe first had his surgery because I'm sure it would have been even more beneficial back then.
We did debate just buying a kiddie pool and having him walk in circles, but we preferred him practice walking 'straight' (rather than always on a curve), and also a kiddie pool can be slippery and we don't want him to slip.
How to Make it & Everything You Need
It's not just the pool you'll need, but a few things to go along with it as well.
A Cover - to keep leaves and junk out of it. Otherwise just use a strainer to clean it.
A Mixing Tool - we use a paddle, to help mix in the chemicals and also mix the water after you've been using the heater.
Treatment Chemical - we use bromine granules but you could use chlorine. If you're going to use the pool for any extended period of time you definitely need this so you're dog isn't swimming in a pool of algae and bacteria. It's quite easy. Also not pictured here, is Pool Test Strips that you can use to make sure you are properly treating the water (not too much, not too little).
A Portable Water Heater - We bought this one from Amazon (Canada) for just $30 and it works great.
A Thermometer - to check your temperature.
How to Build it
- 10' or 12' long plywood board, 1" thick. (May need more than one board depending how wide/high you make it)
- 1 2"x4"
- 12'x14' tarp, or at least 2' longer than the length of your pool.
- Screws (probably 2.5" is good)
- Circular saw or jigsaw
It's really pretty easy. The height and width should depend on your dog. You'll want the water to come up at least halfway up their back, with a few inches as buffer room. So if your dog stands 8" from floor to shoulder, you might make the height 10" or 12".
Likewise for the width, test a little area on your floor to see what the minimum required width would be for your dog to turn around comfortably. That will be your width.
So with your two side panels and bottom floor panel, calculate your measurements for the end pieces.
To strengthen the shape, I cut 2x4s to the inside width of the pool and placed this on the inside ends of the pool.
From there, just carefully lay your tarp into the box, tucking it nicely into the corners, etc as best you can. Once you fill it with water, the water will keep it snug to the box anyway, but you just want to flatten out any big folds first. We also decided to fold our tarp in half first (so that it's double thickness).
I then wrapped the excess tarp with duct tape around the box just to keep it neat and tidy, but that's probably optional.
How We Use It
Crusoe will walk back and forth, being led by small treats for 5-7 minutes at a time, once a day.
We keep the water temp around low-70's which is brisk and I think helps systemic inflammation, but put whatever temperature you feel is best or most comfortable for your dog.
For dogs who have trouble walking or still can't totally walk on their own, keep the water level high so they have more buoyancy. For dogs that can walk and you're just working on strengthening/maintenance, you can keep the water level a bit lower.
If I can make a little plug here, prevention is key with any sort of back or joint injury. Check out my own brand of dog ramps here with options for the bed or couch, for small dogs to large dogs.
They're strong, sturdy, grippy on the paws, and made of solid hardwood like a true piece of furniture.
Thanks for reading. Hope this helps.