Finding muscular injuries in dogs – a palpation explanation

Griff having a free muscular health check
Griff having a free muscular health check

If you’ve ever seen me at a show you’ll have seen me running my hands over the dogs doing something called ‘palpation.’Palpation is something of a lost art and it involves feeling the dogs muscles for signs of injury.

But what exactly am I looking for?

Canine Massage Therapists refer to signs of a muscular injury as the four ‘Ts’ and we use this information alongside the gait analysis and the information you tell us about your dog to build a picture of the type of muscular injury the dog is suffering from.

The four ‘Ts’ are:


The heat of a dog’s muscles can give us some clues as to what is going on. A hot muscle is indicative of inflammation whilst a cold muscle could indicate a problem with circulation or even a neurological condition.


Experience has taught me what healthy muscles feel like and I am looking for any abnormalities in the density and elasticity of the skin and muscle fibre. Ridges, ripples or fibrous tissue, amongst other things, are all indicators of a muscular injury.


Tenderness of the muscles can be determined by a clear reaction from the dog, or something we call a ‘local twitch response’ where the muscle will twitch or visibly move as we press into it.


Tone refers to the amount of tension in a muscle. Sometimes muscle tension can occur due to the build up of scar tissue in the muscle, following a strain or tear to that muscle. It can also occur because the dog has been over-exercised. If the muscle is too tight, the blood can’t circulate properly meaning that less oxygen and nutrients can get into the muscle and toxins and lactic acid can’t get out.

Other things I look for are whether the muscles are either too flaccid or if they are wasted, or smaller than they should be

So the temperature, texture, tenderness and tone of the dog’s muscles all help me to build a picture of what’s going on before I then go on to treat the dog. What do then will have to wait for another day.

Don’t forget that you can get your dog checked over for free at any of the shows I’m at. Find out where I will be and when by visiting my Facebook page –

Look forward to catching up with you then.

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