Water. We’ve got a lot of that at ARC- in fact, at any time, there’s approximately 1600 litres in the underwater treadmill system and 9000 litres (yes, 9 tonnes!) in the swimming pool. The two systems are separate and are managed quite differently- the swimming pool is quite a large body of water with a steady constant filtering system which means sudden changes in the water balance are less common and easier to control with daily monitoring. The underwater treadmill system is more like a spa or jacuzzi because of the warm temperature (both operate at 26-28C) and the constant mass turbulent motion of the water pumping in and out of the treadmill chamber, and it demands very close attention with water sampling and adjustment between every few patients and a total change one or two times per week.
Water balance is a fine art. Our systems employ both coarse and fine net filters, sand filters and ultra-violet to clean the water of hair, debris and microorganisms. We use a photometer to accurately test the pH and total alkalinity of the water to check the acidity balance and buffering capacity so that it lies in the correct range to avoid irritating skin and eyes and to ensure the sanitisers can work efficiently. We also test the level of the bromine sanitiser we use to keep the water safe from pathogens very carefully and make micro-adjustments throughout the day. We also regularly send water samples and swabs to a specialist lab to check for unwelcome bacteria.
One of the bigger challenges with a system used by our furry friends is the oil that coats their hair and makes it waterproof- this sheds into the water making a fine milky emulsion. Long haired dogs can shed a surprising amount in a few minutes, making a little ‘tidemark’ on the chamber. To ensure the filters can effectively deal with natural coat oils, we need to use clarifier- which affects the pH- which affects the sanitiser…… so behind the scenes, we’re constantly beavering away to keep our water perfectly clean, warm and safe for pets and for people.