As with human athletes, working and sports dogs are subjected to extra stresses and strains due to the demands of the work we ask then to do. Part of the conditioning process is to challenge the body’s musculoskeletal and cardiovascular system resulting in micro damage, to which the body responds to by healing and improving the areas of damage. This is a totally natural process which leads to improved fitness, stronger muscles and more flexible joints.
However, sometimes there may be more than micro damage, and in order to be kept these dogs fit for their sport they need a bit of help. Muscle lesions are the most common type of injury that I treat, caused by over stretching, mis-firing of opposing muscle groups, or repetitive strain. Fatigue can also contribute to the risk of muscle injuries.
- Repetitive jump landings and stop contacts can cause concussion injuries in muscles and joints in front legs, neck, ribs and back.
- Weaving and sharp turns can cause muscle strains in neck or back . It also causes excessive strain on the shoulders which can lead to medial shoulder instability.
- Fast acceleration and braking, slipping, and twisting and turning, can lead to over stretch injuries when muscles are not firing in coordination.
In addition to most of the issues affecting agility dogs, flyball dogs frequently have wrist and shoulder girdle injuries from the concussion of hitting the ball release box, and repetitive stress injuries in wrists, shoulders and back as they tend to brake and turn in one direction on the ball-release.
Obedience dogs frequently suffer from repetitive strain injuries in their shoulder, back muscles and thigh muscles due to the sustained stabilising work they do to achieve well balanced heelwork.
The high head carriage, or head lifted high and to the right creates tension and fatigue in their neck muscles which can lead to repetitive strain injuries.
As they work on the left side of their handler, this can cause unequal weight distribution through their shoulder and pelvic girdles, which can lead to joint issues or muscle imbalances.
It can be hard for an owner to know if their dogs is carrying a minor injury as a high drive dog with an adrenaline rush will work through mild to moderate pain. Therefore all sports dogs benefit from the routine physio fitness checks that I offer to correct minor issues which, if left untreated, will develop into more extensive injuries which will take longer to heal. Any subtle loss of performance or change in temperament should be investigated as they may be due to a minor musculoskeletal injury.
If your dog is showing any of these problems, I recommend that you get in touch to book a physiotherapy fitness assessment:
- Sensitivity to touch
- Alteration in lay of coat
- Crooked sits
- Off loading weigh – shown as one paw being spread more than others.
- One leg placed to the outside or centrally
- Taking down poles (1st jump?)
- Measuring jumps
- Faulting in the weaves
- Loss of stamina / fatiguing
- Stiffness, especially after exercise
I also offer injury prevention and performance programmes which prepare your dog to deal with the demands of their sport . These consist of activities to improve:
- Body and hind leg awareness
- Balance skills and coordinated firing of postural and stability muscles in legs and spine
- Sport specific conditioning and fitness advice
- Advice on warm up, cool down routines.