How You Can Help Your Dog Avoid Muscular Injury
My job as a Canine Massage Therapist means I see lots of dogs.
They may be of differing breeds, range in age from 1 year to 15 years, with an assortment of jobs and hobbies. Massage may be required for an a range of issues, such as:
- A muscular injury – a strain or trigger point causing the dog to limp or go lame
- An orthopaedic condition – such as arthritis, hip dysplasia or elbow dysplasia
- To speed up recovery following surgery e.g., cruciate ligament
So what do all these dogs have in common?
Their owner wants the best for their dog and for them to be happy.
They have come to me for complementary therapy to help their dog be pain-free and mobile. Whilst I can identify the muscular injury and help improve the problem, I need the co-operation of the owner to help their dog’s recovery and more importantly, prevent it from re-occurring.
In fact, the most common question I am asked is “What can I do to help my dog?”
Here are my 5 Top Tips for Dog Owners to minimise the risk of muscular injury
1. Laminate / Slippery Flooring
This flooring is the biggest cause of muscular injury at home. They are like ice-rinks to dogs. As dogs run on slippery flooring, they slip or skid, especially around corners. This causes a muscular strain.
If you do not want carpet for whatever reason, pop rubber-backed mats down to provide your dog with some grip. These mats should ideally be in large areas, but do not forget those places where your dog is turning direction.
2. Dog Beds
Avoid the curved plastic beds. These keep the spine and muscles in the same position for prolonged periods and can also cause neck injuries as the dog hangs his head over the side. Ultimately they do not allow your dog to fully stretch.
Out and About
3. Walk First
Warm muscles are less likely to injure, so before letting your dog off the lead to run walk them first for a good period to warm up their muscles before increasing the stress on them. Think of human runners – they always warm up first – your dog’s muscles are exactly the same.
4. Ball Throwers / Chuckers
Your dog may think this game is great fun and it’s a quick way to exercise your dog, but they are a common cause of muscular injuries, especially if you haven’t warmed your dog up first!
The extended distance the ball is thrown means that the dog builds up greater speed. This puts excessive force on his flexors muscles when braking to collect the ball. It also means the ball is more likely to bounce off in another direction. Your dog will also change direction, at speed, to follow the ball, which intensifies the stress on the lumbar area and increase the risk of muscular injury.
Know Your Dog
5. Know the Signs of Muscular Injuries
Dogs are naturally resilient and great at hiding their injuries. If owners are aware of the signs of a potential muscular injury, they can spot the problem earlier. Getting it treated early prevents overcompensation injuries and allows the injured muscle to recover sooner.
There are obvious signs, such as:
- Pain response – yelping, discomfort, reluctance to be touched
- Mobility problems – lameness, limping, stiffness or not fully weight-bearing
- Physical issues – slowing down, difficulty going up and down stairs, getting on/off the sofa or jumping in/out the car
Some lesser known signs include:
- Change in behaviour or personality e.g. appearing depressed
- Twitching down their back, quivering skin or coat flicks
- Tickly spot
- Posture irregularities – roaching (curved) or swayback (dipped) spine
- Gait irregularities – crabbing (moving diagonally) or single-tracking
I hope these tips will help you help your dog minimise the risk of injury.
Author: Jenny Youdan
For more information please visit Jenny Youdan‘s biography