Sunday, March 31, 2024

Common Imbalances in the Canine Body

Common Imbalances in the Canine Body

Nowadays it has become commonplace to see dogs who have developed imbalances in their bodies which can result in dysfunctions. Simply walking down the street it is easy to spot them. To illustrate what I am referring to I have drawn arrows on the body of the Chocolate Lab in the photo below and will explain what you are seeing.


When a dog's lower back is raised it may indicate that the dog has tight muscles on either side of the spine. Notice that in his right front leg his elbow is slightly turned out, not in line with the leg (pointing toward his hind leg) as it should be.

The majority of these issues can be addressed with massage and bodywork. They are great preventatives for active dogs. Issues can be addressed as they arise, nipping them in the bud before they become a problem. Below I'll touch on some issues that I see most frequently. I have separated them into physical, neurological (specifically, nerves constricted by tight muscles and fascia) and behavioral categories to provide a view of the dog as a whole.

BACK:

Lordosis is a curvature of the spine that is usually an inherited condition. The back sags in the middle (thoracic region). This is due to dysfunction in the spine and puts undue pressure on the hip, shoulder and back muscles. In contrast, a "roached back" can be observed when the lower back (lumbar region) arches up. The back muscles and those in the hindquarters are usually quite stressed. Although both these conditions can be congenital, they are often the result of trauma or a dog trying to find pain relief by taking weight off the back muscles.



In this photo, if you draw a straight line between the dots they should be even but they aren't. This is due to
 imbalances in the limbs and the resulting effort by the dog to compensate. This results in dysfunctional movement. He holds his head slightly cocked to the left, indicating a problem with the occiput (knob of bone at the base of the skull). It is jammed on the left, whereas there is more space on the right side

STIFFNESS:

Massage and Bodywork are very effective in alleviating joint pain, increasing blood flow and carrying oxygen and nutrients to the tissues. Shaking of the hind legs—especially in senior dogs can be a sign that not enough blood flow is getting to those muscles.


TRIGGER POINTS:

 Trigger points are muscle fibers that have constricted into a taut band within the muscle. As the muscle and fascia (tissue directly under the skin which encompasses all internal structures from head to toe) tighten, nerve endings in the muscle will be squeezed more and more. Left untreated, this can result in muscle atrophy (loss of muscle).

FASCIAL DYSFUNCTION:

The fascia is a body stocking that exists just below the skin and extends from the nose to the tip of the tail. It extends 3-dimensionally down through the body, encompassing all structures within the body. Trauma to the body can result in physical changes to the fascia that will be transmitted to additional areas of the fascia if left untreated. Massage and bodywork can help restore function.  For more information on fascia, visit my blog.

SCARS:

All organs in the body emit an electrical charge. This is true of scars as well. When there are 2 or more scars on the body they will grow towards each other. When the scar tissue connects with another scar on the body the scars bind together, reducing muscle flexibility by up to 50%, resulting in restricted movement. Another problem scars pose in the body is that their presence interrupts the electrical charge of other organs, disrupting the body's optimum performance. Bodywork can effectively turn off the electrical charge of scars, improving the dog's ability to function.

PAIN:

Continual panting and pacing can often be signs of pain.

DOGS THAT APPEAR WELL-MUSCLED:

Rock-solid muscles are extremely unhealthy. The muscles have become shortened and contracted. This is often seen in Bully breeds.

MOVEMENT ISSUES:

  •  A dog who limps

  •  Is hesitant to jump onto an object

  •  If you see excessive movement in a dog’s hindquarters as they walk away from you,

that can be a sign of pelvic or hip issues

  •  Holding the head low is often a sign of lameness before it appears in the gait

  •  Cannot move the head as far to one side as on the other side

  • Wagging the tail more on one side than the other often indicates a problem in the pelvis



There are imbalances in the left side of the body. On that side the skull is higher than on the right, beneath it the left side of the neck bulges out which indicates that the left side of the neck is thrown into compensation for the left side of the skull. To continue with the body's attempt at compensation the left shoulder is higher than the right and the left ribcage is thrust to the left. The tail is resting to the left, which points to a pelvic imbalance on that side. In an attempt to accommodate the dysfunctions in his body, this dog sits with the left foot forward and his right hip on the ground.

Skeletal issues:






Dogs who sit with their knees pointing forward are sitting in a way that is most correct for their bodies.



Photo by Jorge Zapata on Unsplash 

 Dogs who do the lazy/puppy/sloppy sit (sitting with the foot of one hind leg on the ground and the knee pointing forward) and the other hind leg is bent with the thigh resting on the ground and the knee pointing to the side). This can be seen in the Pug on the left. It is normal in puppies due to loose connective tissue but may indicate back, hip or knee problems in dogs two years and older.


Photo by Justin Aikin on Unsplash 

Dogs who sit without their feet under their knees may also be showing signs of an issue. See the photo above. This puts pressure on the knees and hips and may result in problems in the future. Have the dog checked out by your veterinarian.

  • Dogs who wag their tail more on one side than the other. This can indicate pelvic problems, which I work with. However, it can also indicate a neurological issue. In this case, a vet would need to be consulted. Afterward, it is helpful to have the dog evaluated by a canine rehabilitation specialist. For more information, see canine rehabilitation.
  • Licking and chewing may frequently be an attempt to relieve internal pain such as Arthritis.


Behavioral Changes/Issues:

If behavioral changes occur, always contact your vet first to ensure that there are no underlying physical problems causing pain.


In this photo, if you draw a straight line between the dots they should be even but they aren't. This is due to imbalances in the limbs and the resulting effort by the dog to compensate. This results in dysfunctional movement. He holds his head slightly cocked to the left, indicating a problem with the occiput (knob of bone at the base of the skull). It is jammed on the left, whereas there is more space on the right side

BREED CONFORMATION:

      Breeds or mixes of breeds such as Chihuahuas that have a mouth too small to accommodate their tongue, frequently develop very tight muscles in the skull, jaw and cheek muscles.

  • Shepherds with sloping backs develop issues in their backs, hips and shoulder muscles as they try to compensate for the angle of their lower back and hips.

  • Long backed breeds such as Dachsunds and Corgis often develop tense back and hindquarter muscles to support their movement.

       Anxiety:

  • By addressing the nervous system, bodywork helps the dog to slow down and move from the branch of the nervous system that supports fight or flight (the sympathethic) -- to the parasympathetic branch (rest and digest). The more frequently a dog with anxiety or fear moves into the parasympathetic system (which is a more peaceful state) an increasing number of nerve connections (neural pathways) are made in the brain which results in the peaceful state becoming stronger. This is accomplished by doing bodywork repeatedly so that the calmer state increasingly becomes part of the dog’s behavior. An additional benefit of bodywork for the anxious dog is stress reduction by reducing the amount of cortisol (a stress hormone) entering the bloodstream.

Now look at your dog. Does anything jump out at you?


                          For more information or to schedule an appointment,

                                 contact Jill Deming at jilldeming8@gmail.com

Saturday, March 23, 2024

 

FASCIAL WORK: CRANIOSACRAL THERAPY and MYOFASCIAL RELEASE

Hannah, a four year old Dalmation mix was a whirling dervish of activity. To channel her energy in a positive direction, her owner enrolled her in agility training. Hannah took to it with such vigor that she outdid herself, ending up with a minor leg sprain. In an effort to get Hannah to relax enough so that I could work with her, I used a technique where I placed gentle traction on her head and sacrum. With a sigh she laid her head down on the floor, her eyes closed and soon she was snoring softly.

CranioSacral Therapy and Myofascial Release are two separate methods for working with the fascia, so I will address them together.

Fascia is a bodystocking of connective tissue that exists from the brain to the toes. It exists just under the skin and extends three-dimensionally throughout the body. Fascia surrounds every muscle, bone, organ, and all other structures and innervates many of them. Visualize grabbing an area of your T-shirt. Now notice how surrounding areas are also affected.



Collagen fibers compose sheets of fascia that surround all the structures in the body.

An injury, stress or even exercise can cause a restriction in the fascia. This will result in waves of additional dysfunction in the surrounding fascia. Visualize grabbing an area of your T-shirt. Now notice how surrounding areas are also affected. In your dog’s body, as time goes on more and more areas of the fascia will become affected unless you intervene.

Animals (and people) have so much fascia in their bodies, that it encompasses all the structures (and innervates many of them) within the body. Because it occurs everywhere, you can travel anywhere in the body and never leave the fascia. If we didn’t have fascia, we’d be nothing but a bag of water. Fascia gives us our shape. It also is important to the health of an animal by providing a transport system between cells, which in turn contributes to the health of the organs.

An injury, the traumas of daily life, exercise, pain, hydration and nutrition can all result in unhealthy restrictions in the fascia. Left untreated, these restrictions build up and result in ill-health. 


Monday, March 4, 2024

Using a technique with Oliver, who experiences
a form of shoulder arthritis.


THE IMPACT OF BODYWORK IN RELIEVING CANINE ARTHRITIS 






 In young dogs, signs of arthritis (also known as osteoarthritis) can be caused by issues that prevent the joint from developing properly, such as hip or elbow dysplasia and luxating patella,  just to name a few. Obesity plays a major role in the development of this condition in both young and old animals. The additional weight carried by an obese animal puts pressure on the joints and damages the cartilage so that it cannot properly protect the bone.

Several factors contribute to arthritis in older dogs. One of the most common is when the cartilaginous cushion between the bones begins to degrade and weaken due to wear and tear. Without the cushioning effect of the cartilage, the bones grind against each other causing pain and inflammation. Another contributing factor could be a fracture earlier in life resulting in weakness in the bone.

Arthritis (Osteoarthritis) in Dogs

Unbelievably, 20% of dogs become arthritic by the time they are a year old. As they age the number climbs to 80%, some sources estimate it to be even higher. Arthritis, also known as Osteoarthritis or Canine Joint Disease) can be caused by:

  • Issues that prevent the joint from developing properly

  • Hip, Elbow, or Shoulder Dysplasia

  • Patellar Luxation

  • Cranial Cruciate Rupture

  • Fracture or other trauma

Obesity can also play a major role in the development of this condition in both young and old animals. The additional weight carried by an obese animal puts pressure on the joints and stresses the cartilage so that it cannot properly protect the bone.

Several factors contribute to arthritis in older dogs. There is a cartilaginous sac filled with fluid (known as synovial fluid) located between bones where they come together to form joints. The synovial sac functions to cushion the bones and allow optimum, pain-free movement. As the dog ages, this sac begins to degrade and lose fluid, allowing the ends of the bones to come in contact with each other. Without the cushioning effect of the cartilage, the bones grind against each other causing pain and inflammation.                                                                                                                                                                                              



Addressing Mo's spondylosis, a type of arthritis in the spine.

                                                               

BODYWORK CAN HELP RELIEVE ARTHRITIS BY:

  • Reducing inflammation, swelling, and pain in the joints

  • Stimulating the body to release endorphins—proteins that act as natural pain-killers

  • Encouraging blood circulation, bodywork increases the amount of oxygen and nutrition reaching the tissue

  • Regularly used it can aid in the prevention of trigger points (a combination of lactic acid build-up and the irritation of motor nerve endings)

  • And much more

Regardless of the contributing factors, bodywork and massage can aid in the management of your dog’s arthritis by:

  • Reducing the inflammation, swelling, and pain in the joints.

  • Stimulating the body to release endorphins—proteins that act as natural painkillers.

  • Encouraging blood circulation, massage increases the amount of oxygen and nutrition reaching the tissues.

  • Regularly used, massage can aid in the prevention of trigger points (a combination of lactic acid build-up and the irritation of motor nerve endings)

Many dog owners have found that regular bodywork sessions enhance their dog’s mobility. It is a helpful tool in their arsenal of arthritis management strategies. Although a discussion of the multitude of management strategies is beyond the scope of this article, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the success many owners have had with CBD oils. Click here for an in-depth discussion of them.

Article: A Guide to CBD for Dogs and Cats Part 1 and 2, by Adored Beast Team:

Part 1, https://blog.adoredbeast.com/a-guide-to-cbd-for-dogs-and-cats-part-1/

Part 2, https://blog.adoredbeast.com/cbd-oil-for-pets-part-2-how-to-use-it/


For more information or to schedule a session for your dog, please contact Jill Deming at                                                                       jilldeming8@gmail.com.

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