We all put so much time, effort, money and love into our precious gundogs and looking after their musculoskeletal health is vital for them to live a long, healthy and pain free life.
I seem to start all my blog posts with the above statement but I passionately believe that we owe it to our working dogs and ourselves to look after their musculoskeletal health (muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons) and there is no better time, with the season just ended, to give them an MOT.
Whether your dog is out several times a week or just a handful of times during the season, they will have been in and out of cars, waiting around in inclement weather, going from 0 to 60 on a runner, jumping, swimming, running over uneven ground, carrying birds, carrying birds over barriers, in water, over uneven ground. Add to this slipping on wet or icy ground. All of which will have put strain on their muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments.
I observed my dog on a shoot day attempting to get away from an untrained dog who kept chasing him and taking the quickest but toughest route to find me which had him overstretching across a river, a move that I knew would cause him problems and sure enough he had heat in his right lumbar region later that day and was not fully weight-bearing on his right hindlimb for around a week.
Strain to neck muscles is common from carrying birds, especially in the smaller breeds, and in an attempt to ease their neck, they carry the birds high which creates tension over the sacroiliac joint (where the hindquarters join the spine).
Muscle strain is not limited to just when they are working, I’ve also observed my dog during the recent winter weather slip on wet leaves and icy patches in the garden and out on walks.
Even if your dog is showing no obvious signs of musculoskeletal injuries or imbalances, working dogs sustain microtraumas* often out of sight of us and they may well show no signs of pain, we all know how stoical they are.
(*microtraumas are when a small number of muscle fibres are injured).
Microtraumas build up over time causing the dog to start compensating by adapting their posture:
For example, a dog with issues in their hind limbs will shift their weight forward in an attempt to ease discomfort and keep moving; the neck and shoulders will adapt their role in order to take on the extra work now required from them and become denser and stronger and subsequently there will be extra weight and strain down through the fore limbs and paws. The front end of the dog already carries 60% of the body weight so think what effect jumping, carrying a bird, carrying a bird whilst jumping will have when they are already shifting forward. Eventually, the dog will have issues in the front end and the back end and this is when the body really starts to breakdown. Massage is great for treating compensatory issues and maintenance massage treatments are so beneficial in helping prevent these compensatory issues building in the first place.
A Zen MOT will include an assessment to look for any gait changes and postural adaptations; palpation to feel for issues such as tight muscles and restrictions; exercises to repattern gait, build the stabilising postural muscles and connect and stretch the dog from neck to tail. I will teach you some techniques that you can use at home and incorporate into your warm up and warm down routine. Together, we take a look at lifestyle and environment and what small changes could be made to help with musculoskeletal health. All these elements combine to promote good musculoskeletal health and mobility as well as help prevent injuries in the future.
You can book a discovery call via my website to tell me about your dog and ask any questions.
You can contact me by WhatsApp or text - 07900 697383
You can contact me by email - email@example.com
Zen Canine Therapy
Flimwell, East Sussex