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As we age, our joints and muscles continue to need motion to maintain their balance and motion. True for animals too. When your dog and cat (or other pets) begin to reach those golden years, daily exercise is even more important in some ways.
Joints begin to stiffen somewhat with arthritic type changes and that limits the amount and comfortableness of the joints in question. In dogs, it is very common to see that stiffness upon getting up first thing in the morning, after lying for the day, after too much vigorous activity. Like the rusty hinge we all know about, after we get things moving, they move easier and with less resistance.
The joints involved in motion are called facet joints (in the spine) and these are a type of hyaline joints (as with knee, shoulder, hip joints). This hyaline cartilage in its healthy state is smooth, almost slick, and has fluid producing capability that lubricates those joints. As joints age, the ability to self lubricate decreases and the hyaline cartilage changes its sliding ability (friction increases, elasticity of tissues decreases) and as that particular joint spacing narrows, the stiffness shows up. The bony areas rely on motion to maintain calcium uptake. The hyaline joints require movement to help with the lubrication aspect. The intervertebral disc need motion to get any sort of blood flow going to them.
So how much is too much? GOOD QUESTION!! Each dog is different and “too much” often relates to their history of previous injury, breed specific type of arthritic tendencies, and the kind of exercise. An animal with neck problems due to injury or overuse, is likely to have some discomfort if their exercise regiment involves jumping down off of high areas. The dachshund or beagle that has those disc tendencies (short legs, long back, short to the ground) it helps to have exercise that keeps the abdominals strong – working on exercise peanuts, swimming, digging with the head lower than the tail. Larger dogs like german shepherds or golden retrievers tend to have those low back, pelvis and hip imbalances in general so they can benefit from most exercise.
Lots of breeds have knee injuries and the stop/start fast movements can irritate those dogs.
An animal is also neurologically primed for specific actions. The golden retriever and black labs want to chase, grab, and retrieve. The pointer and other bird dogs thrive on stalking, and finding ground birds. The beagle puts its nose to the ground and and does not even hear their commands because their neurology takes over. All dogs have things that are satisfying to them and knowing your breed and allowing them to do what that breed is designed for is so important. We could talk about Jack Russells too but that would take a bit longer. Digging and jumping come to mind as well as lots of other things……and for these little guys, they are very smart and need challenging things to figure out.
So your pet can be the daily exercise you need. Be sure to find a safe place to allow them to run at times, retrieve things if it is not a problem with knees, smell, jump (within reason) and do those things that they do automatically. Their genetic tendencies are always there.
Check with your veterinarian to discuss your breed or mixes of your breed and their natural tendencies and try to provide some of what they love doing if left to themselves.
Enjoy daily walks, runs, and swims with your animals. They will help to keep you motivated…
Actually, the initials are PST which stands for Pulsed Signal Therapy. This technology has been used extensively on humans and is now available for dogs, cats, and other small animals. It is a therapy that significantly helps joint pain, joint and muscle tenderness, painful motion, joint inflammation and helps improve mobility, sleep and general activities of daily living (paraphrased from pstvet brochure).
All I can say is the dogs that Dr. Tami Shearer sees, love this treatment and benefit from it greatly. Dr. Shearer specializes in treating and caring for animals in chronic pain. Shearer Pet Health Hospital in Sylva, NC gets referrals from around the area for her special treatment of these pets. PST is a non-invasive therapy that assists new bone and cartilage growth as well as the benefits listed above. It is an honor for me to work with Dr. Tami monthly at her clinic providing chiropractic care for the same population of animals.
So what is PST? The device emits pulsed signals (very comfortable to your pet) while the animal lies and rests. It is non-surgical and painless therapy that has no documented side effects. We use this treatment as an effective alternative to NSAIDs (anti-inflammatory drugs) and analgesics (pain relievers) and it bypasses possible side effects of these drugs.
I use a form of PST called PEMF (pulsed electromagnetic force) with patients at my human office and with horses and dogs as well. It is a slightly different device with the same benefits as PST. A bit easier to use with humans. My personal experience is amazing improvement with pain level and function of my knee in which I tore the ACL completely (chronic) and injured the medial meniscus (acute). [I then was able to exercise and strengthen the surrounding muscles because of reduction in pain level]. When used with horses the changes in range of motion and decreased pain in an area is dramatic.
I am frequently asked about “when do you know if chiropractic is indicated in my pet’s situation?” Asking your veterinarian first is, of course, indicated and I find that unless that veterinarian is versed in chiropractic and/or has been a patient of chiropractic offices, they often are still learning which conditions are responsive to chiropractic. I am still learning some of these myself and I have been a chiropractor for over 25 years.
Chiropractic care is very successful with mechanical problems. By that I mean, sprains, strains, disc problems, shoulder and elbow problems, non pathological limping or lameness, neck problems. In other words, we are specialists in analyzing joints and there movement and have techniques to help normalize these areas through balancing the musculoskeletal and nervous system associated with those areas. Chiropractic dovetails very nicely with physical therapy, stretching, accupunture, Tellington Touch, and other neuromuscular therapies. Used in conjunction they are synergistic.
Watching your animal walk and perhaps run as well (called gait analysis) is important. After that, evaluating the joint movement in the areas in question for abnormal motion, pain, restrictions, heat, noises etc. You as a pet owner are extremely helpful when we talk about your pet and what is going on. As with people, the history of the condition is so very important. So look at your dog, cat, horse, llama, donkey etc. and draw a visual line down the center and observe the animal walking away from you, then toward you, then observe from both sides. Does your pet move the same on both sides of the visual line? Is there head bobbing, tail swishing, shoulder dropping? These are some of the things to look for.
Often, the conditions that your veterinarian uses anti-inflammatories and pain meds for might also be helped with chiropractic care.
So, the next time you are out with your pet and you notice some asymmetries of movement, limping etc. give it a day or two and if it is still present call for an evaluation.
Underwater treadmills are becoming much more common in veterinary offices around the country. I was fortunate enough to work with a veterinarian 5 years ago that included this great therapy in her office along with acupunture and chiropractic care for her canine patients.
These treadmills are designed with rehab in mind. The dog is supported with a life jacket (when needed) and the water is raised until the dogs feet are easily moving through the movement of the treadmill. More water can be used with joints that need less compression – post surgical knees, symptomatic discs etc. Speed can be monitored.
These tools are great for rehabilitation of dogs that have had disc symptoms (weakness of hind or front ends, knuckling, sensory changes in extremities, pain in low back etc.) and have been used very extensively with ACL surgeries to get the dog back to peak performance faster.
In the veterinary clinic I am affiliated with here in Asheville, NC we have a veterinarian that is certified in rehabilitation and we devise programs for the patients appropriate for the goals of the owner and patient. Chiropractic is often included in the program as well as flexibility and toning. The treadmill is also used simply as an exercise machine when some owners are unable to get their dog the necessary exercise to maintain health. Agility dogs are assisted with recovery of minor injuries as well as specific exercises for keeping muscle tone.
It is becoming very clear that motion into fixated or surgically repaired joints is essential in the recovery of that joint system. Joints rely on muscles, ligaments, and soft tissue to function properly. The nervous system monitors this through the peripheral nerves. The combination of treadmills, other rehab tools like swiss balls, peanuts, weave cones, wobble boards, chiropractic care, flexibility/stretching are all available to assist your canine companion.
Find a veterinarian in your area today that utilizes treadmills, chiropractic, rehab and ask if those therapies might be helpful to your pet. There are many vets and physical therapists pursuing rehabilitation credentials. Also find a certified animal chiropractor – either a licensed veterinarian or chiropractor. The American Veterinary Chiropractic Association’s website is www.animalchiropractic.org and to find a certified doctor follow the link or go to www.avcadoctors.com
To view a dog on underwater treadmill check this out: