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.


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


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 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).


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.


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.


Continual panting and pacing can often be signs of pain.


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


  •  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


      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.


  • 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

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