How did my dog injure itself?
As a canine massage therapist, one of the most common questions that clients ask me, is how a dog developed a particular injury. Without being there I am obviously not going to be able to tell you specifically how your dog obtained an injury, but there are some broad principles that can give us some clues.
In part one of a two part blog, I explain about the most common muscular injury that I encounter as a Canine Massage Therapist and Canine Conditioning Instructor – the strain – the symptoms to look out for and what causes them.
A strained muscle is a stretch or a tear to the muscle fibres or tendons. It should not be confused with a sprain which is a stretching or tearing of a ligament.
A strain can be either acute or chronic.
An acute strain occurs when the muscle is suddenly stretched beyond it’s usual range of motion, resulting in a tear or a pull to the muscle.
Acute strains usually happen as a result of:
- Slipping eg on laminate floor or on a muddy field.
- Running, jumping or turning suddenly.
Chronic strains are a result of prolonged repetitive movements and may occur as a result of any number of activities the dog does on a regular basis eg playing ball, tugging, jumping on and off the sofa.
How do I know if my dog has strained a muscle?
The truth is that it will be difficult for you to know for sure. If you’re in any doubt, please seek advice from a Canine Massage Therapist. However, some of the symptoms to watch out for are:
- Your dog is in obvious pain
- There is swelling or bruising in an area
- Your dog may be limping
- Your dog is licking a particular area
- Your dog’s behaviour and temperament suddenly changes ie they may appear depressed and withdrawn or may suddenly become aggressive with other dogs
- Your dog is unwilling to do certain things it could previously do eg jump in and out of the car or lie in a particular position.
- Your dog “presents” a particular area to you to be rubbed e.g. it’s neck or hind quarters.
What sort of things put your dog at increased risk of muscle strains?
Of course your dog can injure itself during a routine walk in the park. But what are the key factors that puts your dog at increased risk?
- Poor conditioning. If a dog has weak muscles, particularly core muscles, they are at an increased risk of injuring themselves. As a Canine Conditioning Instructor, I see many supposedly “fit” dogs that could easily run twenty miles yet their core muscles which support their spine and pelvis are weak. In such cases the risk of the dog straining it’s muscles are high as muscles not designed to do a particular job try to take over. Being overweight is also a risk factor.
- Fatigue. Tired muscles are less able to provide ample support to the joints. When a dog becomes tired it’s natural movements become compromised and the dog is more likely to succumb to forces that could over-extend a muscle.
- Improper warm up and cool down. How often have you seen people drive their dog to the park, let them out of the car and immediately start throwing a ball for them. This is a recipe for disaster. Usain Bolt would never arrive at the starting blocks and go into a full sprint without warming up, so why would you let your dog do exactly that? Always ensure that your dog is warmed up properly before you let your dog run off at full pelt. Ten minutes on the lead is ideal for this, gradually increasing the pace from a walk to a trot.
- Environmental conditions such as wooden flooring (which should always be covered by mats to prevent your dog slipping), muddy fields or ice are all risk factors. On cold days your dog’s muscles will need extra time to warm up.
- Repetitive activities. If your dog is habitually doing an activity such as chasing a ball, jumping on and off the sofa or tugging it drastically increases their chance of injury.