Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sometimes I Wish I DIDN'T Know...

Throughout the years, due to injuries my dogs have gotten, I have had the "opportunity" to learn a great deal about canine conditioning, rehab and pinpointing injuries in my dogs. I went into this "opportunity" kicking and screaming sometimes, but there is nothing else you can do but learn as much as you can for your "tuition" :)

Day 103: Maintenance...It's Important...
It's been great learning all this stuff, from proper warm-ups and cool-downs, to diagnosing sub-luxations, strains, etc. I can do massages on my own dogs, and many times I can actually put their backs into place if they are out a bit. I know how to tell which leg they are lame on, what proper ROM is (range of motion) of each of my dogs parts...it's great. I know exactly what is going on with each dog and what they need.

Each of my dogs gets weekly massages, and if I find areas on them that need more attention, they get more. I do Passive Range of Motion as well, and check for heat. Each of my dogs have "target areas" that tend to have some issues for them.

Ace--Hips (he has HD)
Zip--Her back...normally at the thoracic/lumbar junction where she has arthritis and her hamstrings, plus her toe on her left foot that she broke and now also has arthritis
Klink--neck and shoulders, and back at times--she holds ALL her tension in her neck, like me :)
Gator--back if he has anything, sometimes his butt gets tight.
Lynn--gumby dog, she might have a bit of tightness behind her shoulder blades :)
Even--hind end tightness if working hard :) NO front end issues though!!!
Crackers-lumbar in back, and hamstrings being tight.

I once had someone tell me "Seems like maybe you are LOOKING for things wrong with your dogs"...I just chalked it up to not being educated about this stuff. Though I did feel bad for their dog if it has never been given a massage or stretched before a run.

Trust me, I don't want anything wrong with my dogs, I have spent more than I would like on injuries, but the bottom line IS...they are athletes. They sprint, they turn, they jump, they fall, they run in rain, they plan and do stupid stuff. We ask so much more of our dogs than the average pet owner does. Human athletes get massages, chiropractic visits etc etc. Why not dogs?

My dogs also work stock, which can be a dangerous thing, they can run into fence panels, get hit by a nasty ewe, and SURE, they can "shake it off" but if that same thing happens to us, we will be reaching for some Tylenol and if our back is killing us, we go get it adjusted. It would be GREAT if Gator would wake up and say "Hey Mom! Good morning! My triceps are KILLING me today!" but they can't. I sure wish that was possible though...

Even had a fractured elbow, I was told by several vets to "let her grow out of it"...um no.
Zip, I was told that "so what if she limps the next day after she works" she will be fine...um no. Give Klink some Rimadyl and she will be fine, probably just "ouchy"...um no.

There is no such thing as "just ouchy" in young dogs...sure, if your dog is 13, yes :) Ouchy happens. But a 10 month old puppy? A 3 year old dog? A 5 year old dog? Not normally. They should be in great shape, shouldn't be stiff coming out of kennels, shouldn't be limping after laying down for a long time, those are signs something is wrong.

Having 7 dogs, 6 of which are working, and several of those dogs are doing both agility and stock work...someone is bound to have something going on at any given time. Just the law of math :)

The problem I run into NOW, is I know just enough that I know what to look for. Injuries are not oblivious to me anymore, I see them in my own dogs and I see them a lot in others. I see dogs at trials that are lame, that have tight backs, are stiff...these dogs are trialing and it makes me sad. Because the owners don't know any better (I don't want to think about the ones that don't care). Or people stretching dogs that they just got out of the crate (a big no no--stretch WARM muscles please!!). People slamming their dogs into kennels right after running them (I sometimes have to do this, due to being very close in running orders at agility trials, but I try to avoid it if possible, and as soon as I am done running the other dog, I get that first dog out and take both dogs for a nice, long walk).

Usually, unless the dog's performance is an issue, they won't notice those changes. Once the dog starts missing entries, or their jumping goes to crap...the owners train and train and nothing changes, THEN they might go somewhere to get things checked out.
From my experience, most general practice vets are not good at soft tissue injuries...it's not their are of expertise and if it doesn't show up on an x-ray then they really can't give you much information. If you find a general practice vet that is good at soft tissue injury diagnosis...then they are gold--KEEP THEM!! They are probably horse vets :)

Luckily there are massage therapists, canine chiropractors and rehab centers that are becoming more prevalent and people are using those options. It's great to see that more and more people ARE caring about their dogs and using things to help the dogs stay sound, happy and pain free.

Now SURE, there are people that take it to the extreme, but I see no problems with people being aware of their dogs physical status and taking care of what is going on. To me that is just being a responsible dog owner.

If I have an injured dog, I normally go to a massage therapist first...then from there run the gauntlet of chiro/rehab etc...at this point in my experience, if no one finds what it is, I will be going to Maryland to visit Canapp...no more wasting time or money on things that are not panning out. I learned my lesson with Even. Go to the best if you can afford it.

And I wouldn't trade the knowledge I have and can utilize, but ignorance can be bliss :) However...having a dog injured, and not knowing why is a million times worse. I'll take knowing any day over that :)


Anonymous said...

Could you do a follow-up post to this with maybe a video showing how you warm up your dogs and then do the stretching with them? I'm always interested in the pre-run routines people have. Thanks!

K-Koira said...

I agree with Renate, I would love to see what your normal warm up and cool down and stretching routines are.

I did want to ask though, what about those people who are out with their dogs, knowing the dog is limping, or stiff in the back, but knowing that it is nothing they can do anything about, that rest won't help. Should they not do a sport their dogs love, or should they continue, while watching to make sure they are not pushing their dog too much?

Dawn said...

If you ever see anything in any of my dogs, please PLEASE say something to me. I do feel I have a pretty good handle on them, but I also think that when things come on gradually, sometimes people dont see it or become so used to it they dont notice it.
Having and loving an achondroplastic breed does have its own clhallenges.

Sarah said...

Hey Loretta, i totally can relate ... :) while yes our dogs are our pets, they are also Athletes! We ask alot from them. It's the same as us humans after a hard workout - our bodies need recovery time and we do get stiff - esp. as we get umm, errr older :)

It pains me to see people running injured dogs ... Gyp has been off 5 months from doing Agility - but damn she is in good shape right now, with all the conditioning we've been doing - Agility is not the thing that keeps our dogs in shape, and some people think that too.

anyway ... good post :)


Patty said...

I agree with Renate, would appreciate seeing a stretching routine video.

I will pull Sophie out before a race and have her walk around. We also take a walk after her runs to let her stretch. She gets chiro adjustments every 4-6 weeks as well.