Physio for your pooch
So many of you may well know Bee, my collie cross. Well for a while now I've noticed her coat changing in certain places. For the most part I thought this was likely to be age related and becoming more 'collie like' as she aged. However part of me couldn't shake a post I saw once that said don't ignore coat changes. I can't recall anything else other than that, but it niggled away in the back of my mind.
So last time I had the physio out for my horse, I asked if she did dogs- and she said she did. Now I'm quite particular about who I let treat my animals, especially when they are on the worried side- which Bee is. The physio I have is extremely kind, but I still wasn't sure if Bee would let her treat her, but I thought it was worth a go anyway.
So yesterday after giving the horse the once over, I brought Bee over and she started working her magic. Instantly she said- she's got fibrous myofascia around her shoulders. She asked if she said wears harnesses a lot- which she doesn't. "What about collars?" she asked. I showed her the collar she normally wears so that was ruled out too. I later found out harnesses and certain collars can often cause this issue- but it wasn't what was causing Bees. Being a collie, she asked if she often does the collie 'stalk'. I replied "if she's playing, yes, but she will go flat down, not keep her bottom up. So that wasn't it either. We then got into what work she does and although she's not really an obedience dog, it does appear a lot in her work load- and thats where we had the 'ah ha' moment. So now I want you to look at her coat change and her in a present position (whilst this isn't the best as it was a quick demo for the physio) I think it's pretty clear to make the link as to why she might be having tight myofascia in this area.
Combine this with where she will hold her head in heel work, constantly up and curved to the right around my left leg, I don't think it's any surprise that she is feeling tight around her shoulders and neck.
Now her coat change around the base of her tail isn't quite so clear as to why this would happen. Looking at her tail in this picture, it may be an indicator but without paying this more attention from now on, I can't say for sure. She did have a slightly tight hip so this will be kept an eye on.
Bee doesn't really have the best conformation for obedience work, she is big in the chest and long in the body, so she does the best she can, but she simply can't get into the best position possible. Below is a picture of a dog much more conformationally designed for this kind of work.
Here you can see the dogs chest doesn't get in the way like Bees' does, so the angle of her head isn't so acute. The handler is also in a better position, rocking her body slightly back to give the dog more room (which is something now I've noticed I can work on to improve).
So, what does this mean for Bee. For one she will have regular physio to help. However more importantly we have exercises to do to help undo that tight fascia which will help prevent problems later on down the line. We will do ladder work with treats to help her stretch out that hollowing position, lateral work (getting her hind legs to cross over)- again being very careful where her head and neck are positioned and stretches using treats to help stretch all those muscles out. We will also do more work on the right hand side of me so help even out that one sided work that the obedience work requires.
So my take home from this is really do look out for coat changes in your dog. And if you work your dog in any kind of sector, think about what impact that might have on their bodies. I have always regularly had physio for the horses, and now it will be a regular occurrence for the dogs too. Prevention is always better than cure as they say.
And just a last little note- our training paid dividends whilst she was having her treatment. Being able to stand on command, wait and even use a prolonged nose touch, made it so much easier for the physio to keep working where she needed to be :)
So don't stop working your dogs, just maybe think a bit more about the effect it might have on them. I am certainly hanging my head in shame that I left it this long to make it a part of their care- Bee is certainly grateful.