KNOWING WHEN YOUR DOG MIGHT BENEFIT FROM CLINICAL CANINE MASSAGE
Around 45% of your dog's bodyweight consists of muscle and there are over 700 of them in their body. Depending on the length of their tail, dogs have around 320 bones. Bones act like 'levers' so that when muscles pull on them, movement occurs. Muscular injury and/or dysfunction can happen for a variety of reasons such as Trauma, Slips, Daily Activities, Orthopaedic Conditions, Neurological Conditions, Repetitive Movements and Sporting Activities.
Sometimes it can be very obvious when something isn't quite right with your dog but other times, the signs can be much more subtle. Dysfunction within or injury to the musculoskeletal system typically leads to pain and dogs will show this in various ways. An excellent way to help identify if your dog is experiencing muscular or myofascial pain is to watch for changes in their gait, posture, behaviour, performance or activities of daily living (ADL's). These '5 Principles of Pain' frequently respond to Clinical Canine Massage Therapy with positive changes seen in 1-3 sessions. However, it is vital to note that some of these symptoms can also be caused by conditions or diseases which are not musculoskeletal. As such: YOUR FIRST POINT OF CALL MUST ALWAYS BE YOUR VETERINARIAN.
CHANGES IN GAIT
Commonly Seen as Lameness.
One of the main signs of a musculoskeletal condition is lameness or limping. The severity can range from barely noticeable to running on 3 legs and may be persistent, intermittent or compensatory. Other possible changes in gait include stiffness, head nodding, single tracking, pacing, crabbing, a lack of reach, a lack of drive, hopping, skipping, abduction, adduction, swinging/throwing a leg, a change in the rhythm/fluidity, a reduced range of motion or simply moving more slowly. A loss of coordination, known as ataxia, is a common symptom of a disorder within the neurological system.
CHANGES IN POSTURE
Kyphosis (roaching of the back) or Lordosis (swayback), abnormal tail carriage and neck/shoulder issues are the most commonly thought of changes in posture. Other things to watch out for are coat changes (areas where the coat flicks up, changes direction or is very dry), uneven claw wear, twitching/shivering of the skin, tremors and awkward sitting/lying positions.
CHANGES IN BEHAVIOUR
Subtle or Obvious changes.
Dogs are excellent at hiding pain, it is in their nature to do so. However, you might notice changes in behaviour. Examples include anxiety, nervousness, unwillingness to be touched/groomed, snapping, withdrawn character, sleeping more, becoming 'old before their time', grumping, loss of sparkle, frequently rolling on the back and 'tickly spots'. Another thing to watch for is self-mutilation such as nibbling themselves or excessive licking which can lead to the development of lick granulomas.
ACTIVITIES OF DAILY LIVING (ADL'S)
If you notice that your dog is struggling or reluctant to do things they used to find easy or enjoy, this is a sure sign that something isn't quite right. Common examples include difficulty with stairs, unwilling to exercise, pacing around/unsettled, weakness of the back legs, lying down when eating, reduced appetite, reluctant to jump on/off furniture or in/out of a vehicle, loss of interest in playing games and signs of ageing.
CHANGES IN PERFORMANCE
Knocking poles, weave entry problems, contact issues, loss of speed, change in jumping technique, early onset fatigue, retrieve issues, missing/avoiding jumps, crabbing, pacing, not pulling in harness and lack of enthusiasm. Essentially, any change in the way your dog performs or in their desire to perform may indicate a muscular issue.
A Note About Sporting Dogs
It is important to acknowledge that sporting dogs will often keep working through mild to moderate discomfort with little or no symptoms due to their strong desire to continue to do what they love, and, to continue to please us!! Indeed it was this very fact which inspired me to train as a Clinical Canine Massage Therapist. A maintenance massage session at intervals to suit your dog (perhaps 2 or 3 times a year) can help to identify any issues before they become more of a problem.