Our dogs are just as likely as our horses to suffer from back pain and musculoskeletal problems. Whether they are working dogs, pets, agility, show or obedience dogs they are all susceptable. 

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Common causes of back pain in the dog are:-

  • Constant pulling on the lead
  • Falls
  • Playing roughly (tug games and rough and tumble with friends)
  • Road traffic accidents
  • Repetative training
  • Compensations from other injuries

These are a list of common symptoms your dog may display when suffering from discomfort in the back.

  • Unlevel gait
  • Crab like movement
  • Stiff when gets up
  • Change in behavior or energy level
  • Dislike of being touched in certain areas
  • Loss of performance
  • Lethargic
  • Asymmetric muscle tone
  • Always sitting or lying on one side
  • Tripping
  • Uneven claw wear

Rehabilitation

Swimming can provide an excellent form of rehabilitation exercise and is great for strengthening the muscular tone. This can be done in the controlled environment of a pool or rivers, ponds and the sea may also be used as long as you are satisfied the current is safe.

There is also a lot more information available now on strength training and core stability training for dogs to help prevent injuries and build week muscles after accidents.

Massage and stretching. You may be given specific exercises to do by your dogs practitioner after treatment.

Prevention

Regular check ups and treatments will prevent minor injuries developing further and pain and stiffness from developing.

Massage your dog. There are several courses now available where you can learn to massage your dog. As well as being therapeutically beneficial this can be as enjoyable for the owner and a way of spending 'quality time' with your dog. If you are interested in attending a day workshop in canine massage register your interest here

Obedience training should be done from both sides so the dog is not always on the left side of the owner. This will prevent neck strain if the dog is always looking up in one direction. This can also apply to pet dogs that pull on the lead. Try leading on alternate sides to prevent repetative injury.

Warm up and cool down before training. Especially if it is something as energetic as agility. Agility dogs are typically excitable but it may help to go for a controlled walk before and after to help the muscles gradually warm and cool. This could be on or off the lead depending on what the individual dog is like. Severe pulling on the lead may be more detrimental.

Keep the dog warm and dry after exercise. Going for a walk and getting wet before sitting in a car for the ride home can cause stiffness to occur. Dry the dog with a towel and if it is cold they may need to wear a coat.

Keeping your dog to a healthy weight is important. Being underweight is just as much a problem as being overweight. A lack of nutrition will not provide the muscles with sufficient strength thus making your dog more prone to injury. An overweight dog will have more strain put on joints and organs and so is just as damaging. Joint supplements can be used for prevention as well as rehabilitation.

Aftercare

After treatment your dog may drink more water as it tries to flush any toxins such as lactic acid that have been released out of the body.

Restricted exercise is usually required after treatment. This may be on a lead or just being let in the garden rather than taken for a long walk. As with the horse this allows for an optimal environment for changes within the body to take place. After all the tissues will be changing and so the body can initially be weaker than when it has adjusted fully. Exercise is gradually increased each day but a return to full exercise depends on the severity of the injury. This is usually possible within a week.

It is important to avoid sharp turns and sudden increases in speed so no chasing of cats, bunnies or birds are to be encouraged. Slippery surfaces in the house can also cause problems so be aware of the likelihood of slipping if you have wooden or tiled floors. 

Jumping on to furniture, into cars or climbing stairs all put strain on the pelvis so if this area has been treated are to be discouraged. The dog may need lifting in and out of vehicles (depending on their size) and it may be wise to block off access to stairs or steps.

If your dog lives with other canine friends it may be necessary to separate them initially so the other dogs do not start a game of rough and tumble or tug and cause another injury.