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Taking a quick look at your dogs muscles

Taking a quick look at your dogs muscular health

Did you know that your dog has 700 muscles and about 320 bones (depending on the length of the tail)?

The muscles attach to the bones, which act as levers. When the muscles pull on the bones movement occurs.

Muscles attach to the bones via tendons and many muscular injuries occur at the muscular tendinous junction where the muscle inserts onto a bone. These strains, sometimes known as “torn” muscles, will mend given time. When they repair the muscle fibres don’t knit together as smoothly as before, collagen scar tissue forms which can shorten the muscle. This increases the risk of re-injury and reduced range of motion (see below).

In sight hounds the gracilis muscle is very prone to strains. Also known as the “0-60” muscle, this can tear when the dog goes from a standing start to speeds of up to 45mph without being warmed up. It is sometimes called a ‘dropped muscle’ in the racing world. Fresh strains are often seen as a bulging muscle which is tender when touched, bruising may be seen and it feels hot.

If you see this in your dog then apply ice contained in a plastic bag for at least 10 minutes to reduce the swelling and act as a painkiller then seek advice from your Vet. Repetitive strains here can lead to gracilis myopathy indicated by the dog ‘throwing out’ the hock and having a shortened stride and jerky movements when the leg is raised.

Different muscle fibres for different dogs

Depending on your dog’s breed they will have a different make up of muscle fibres, e.g. a Lurcher will have more “fast twitch” or anaerobic muscle fibres in their legs than an Alaskan Malamute that has more “slow twitch” aerobic fibres.

This is all to do with how form and function vary between different breeds of dogs. If you looked at a Lurcher’s leg muscles they would be relatively white compared to those of a Malamute.

Why? Well because a Lurcher needs to have fast but short bursts of speed so doesn’t need so much sustained blood flow to their legs. Malamutes on the other hand need sustained blood flow to maintain endurance over long periods of time.

The redness of the fibres, or the lack of it denotes the amount of red blood cells (the ones that deliver oxygen) in the muscles

A Gracilis strain is often called a "dropped muscle"

Signs your dog may have a muscular problem

  • Changes in posture i.e. the way they sit or stand. Do they have a roached (arched) or sway (dipped) back? Are they fully weight bearing on all 4 limbs?
  • Changes in gait i.e. the way they walk, trot or run. Do they appear to be lame or limping? Do they carry or ‘throw’ a leg?
  • Are there changes to their activities of daily living i.e. are they reluctant to exercise, jump in the car or on furniture, struggle with stairs etc?
  • Have they become withdrawn, grumpy or reactive to being touched or groomed in certain places?
  • Has their performance dropped off i.e. slowed down, unable to turn as fast etc
  • Do they have an orthopaedic condition e.g. hip dysplasia or arthritis? The muscles either side of the affected joints will be acting as splints to support the joint. Also other muscles in different areas will be compensating for the condition too.


Massage is an effective and recognised therapy for human athletes

In the human sporting world, remedial, sports and deep tissue massage is recognised as an integral part of the athlete’s routine. Your sporting dog is an athlete too!

However, it isn’t only sporting dogs that get muscular and soft tissue injuries. Certain actions, such as running and slipping on laminate floors for example will cause micro tears to your dogs muscles. Dogs that get on and off the furniture, go up and down stairs frequently are all prone to repetitive strain injury.

And, let’s face it, when we age we get aches and pains… so do our dogs!

Clinical Canine Massage can resolve your dogs muscular and soft tissue injuries and issues.

Whether they are sporting dogs or they have an orthopaedic condition such as hip dysplasia or arthritis. Whether they have had surgery on a cruciate ligament or a luxating patella; structured clinical remedial massage is beneficial.

Results you can see & your dog can feel…


Claire Kirton is based Alfreton, Derbyshire
Tel 07806 895704 / 01773 830242
Facebook @clinicalcaninemassageuk

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