Underwater Treadmill: The Amazing Technique That Helps Obese Cats and Dogs Slim Down

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October 14, 2013 • 28,820 views

Story at-a-glance

  • A very overweight dog in the U.K. and a morbidly obese cat in Tennessee are melting off the pounds using underwater treadmills for exercise.
  • Mike, a yellow Lab in Leicestershire weighed 132 pounds when he wound up at a shelter after his previous owner died. Thanks to a strict diet and several months of exercise on an underwater treadmill, Mike has lost about a third of his body weight!
  • Buddha, a fantastically fat cat living in a shelter in Franklin, Tennessee, is working his way down from a high of 34 pounds, also thanks in part to his three weekly hydrotherapy sessions on an underwater treadmill.
  • Fortunately for Mike, he’s found his new forever home with a family living in Nottinghamshire. Buddha’s caretaker and rehab specialist want to get him down to 20 pounds so he’ll be healthy enough to adopt out.

By Dr. Becker

Dogs in the U.S. aren’t the only canines around the world with a weight problem. More than 18 million pets in the U.K. are too heavy, and like their North American counterparts, are at risk for a host of obesity-related diseases including diabetes, arthritis and heart problems, thanks to poor-quality food and too much of it.

Mike the Leicestershire Lab Tips the Scales at 132 Pounds

A dog named Mike living in Leicestershire in the U.K. was so overweight he grew breathless just walking a hundred yards. His obesity also resulted in damage to a ligament in his leg.

The three year-old yellow Labrador Retriever weighed over 130 pounds when he was dropped off at the Leicestershire animal shelter after his overindulgent owner passed away.

Mike’s Rx: Less Food, More Exercise (on an Underwater Treadmill)

Fortunately for Mike, he was placed on a diet and encouraged to walk in a hydrotherapy tank on an underwater treadmill for several months. The dog was too large to get into the tank initially, but once he was able to start exercising on the treadmill, his weight gradually dropped to 84 pounds.

Mike is now living with accountant Paolo Terzaga in Nottinghamshire. His new dad says Mike “just seems happier that he can get around easier.”

Buddha, the 34 Pound Cat from Tennessee

In the U.S., more cats are overweight or obese than their canine counterparts.

Among them is Buddha, a very corpulent kitty living in Franklin, Tennessee. Buddha is morbidly obese despite his large frame, weighing in at an alarming 34.1 pounds.

Buddha, like Mike, has also been working out on an underwater treadmill three times a week at Stonewater Rehabilitation at Animalia in Franklin.

At the time the video below was taken, 6 year-old Buddha was down to 27.6 pounds. His rehab specialists want to help him lose weight in a safe manner, which means no crash dieting. Fast weight loss in cats can be very dangerous due to the risk of hepatic lipidosis. Buddha should lose only one to two percent of his body weight per week until he reaches his current goal weight of 20 pounds. He’ll still be a big cat at that weight, but hopefully he’ll be healthy enough to be adopted out.

Buddha Dictates How Long He Walks on His Underwater Treadmill

Not only has the underwater treadmill helped Buddha melt off ounces and pounds, it also reduces impact to his knees, hips and elbows while he exercises. This is very important for a cat his size whose bones and joints weren’t designed to support all that weight.

According to Penny Adams, a volunteer who manages the non-profit cat rescue where Buddha currently lives, the kitty is usually on the treadmill for 7 to 10 minutes at a time. “He kind of dictates the timing,” says Adams. “He’ll just stop walking and you know he’s done.”

Unlike many felines, Buddha doesn’t seem to mind getting wet. But then he’s a generally happy cat with a good disposition, according to Adams. “He’s a very friendly cat who’s sleeping most of the time and recovering from all his exercise. And he’s a talkative cat who rolls over on his back and seeks out belly rubs,” she says.

Buddha has become a bit of a local celebrity. Folks stop by Adams’ non-profit, The Cat Shoppe, for meet-and-greets with Franklin’s largest feline. Of course, Buddha is unavailable on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays when he’s working out at Animalia. “That’s when we tell people he’s at the gym,” Adams says.

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