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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – A rehabilitation technique at the
University of Tennessee involving an underwater treadmill is not
only benefiting athletes, but some canines as well.

The university’s athletic department credits the treadmill with
playing a key role in the rehabilitation of former UT wide receiver
Peerless Price after he broke his ankle.

The UT College of Veterinary Medicine’s small-animal clinic has
a similar device that’s currently being used by several canines,
including a 7 1/2-year-old black Labrador retriever named Garth. The dog is used by the Tennessee Highway Patrol to sniff out drugs.

When Garth tore a ligament in his left hind leg, his trainer
decided to send him to UT for surgery and follow-up physical
therapy. The cornerstone of his postoperative recovery has been the underwater treadmill, which is a Plexiglas box about 5 1/2 feet wide, 6 1/2 feet long and 4 feet deep, with a treadmill at the bottom.

Other than heavy-duty filters to remove dog hair, the machine is
virtually identical to the one used by UT’s athletic department.

In Garth’s case, water is filled up to his lower chest and, as
the treadmill begins to move, Garth hits his stride.

“Water reduces the weight on the joint, yet provides
resistance,” said Dr. Darryl Millis, an associate professor at the
veterinary college and orthopedic surgeon who designed the
treadmill, which also was used recently by Gov. Don Sundquist’s
dog, Millie.

“If we did surgery on Garth without the rehabilitation, he’d
lose one-third of his muscle mass in that leg within the first
month, and it could take him a year to build it back. It’s similar
with people.”