That WONDERFUL "e" word, right?
Dogs put the majority of their body's weight on their "hands" or front legs. They tend to be more "front loaded" or "front wheel drive" as we've discussed before and in our exercise e-book.
The majority of their activities ALSO encourage this "front" posturing (similar to what we do at our desks, computer, watching TV, driving) so they end up with stronger muscles than in their back legs.
Problem is, most of the debilitating and costly injuries (in terms of pain and finances) tend to be in the back -think hips and knees.
A carefully curated program of exercises will help tremendously much like the elevated standing exercise he's doing in the above pic.
Always use a chest harness
Use pieces of their regular food instead of treats or cookies
Little things go a long way!
Here's a little re-cap of the Instagram post:
* Elbows are the most under-diagnosed joints with arthritis (in pets, not people)
* Pets are living longer!
* Their aging process is accelerated (i.e., 1 human year = 7 dog years)
* They WILL experience arthritis (degenerative joint disease) as a process of...LIVING
* Most pets (dogs AND cats) are overweight
* They put most of their bodyweight unto their front limbs (i.e., they are front wheel drive, or front loaded)
Therefore if you go back and look at this picture above, it makes sense!
We "animals" have VERY similar MUSCULOSKELETAL SYSTEMS.
These are TWO areas in which we differ: 1) Rate of aging and 2) They walk on their "Hands", hence all the elbow issues.
The elbow is a hinge joint and made to bend and flex with a little bit of rotating happening at the forearm bones below. Think of your door hinge. Or your knee.
So, like that!
Knowing these #facts posted above, you may find it interesting to know that in a recent study (Dempsey et al, 2019) there was no long-term difference in success between arthroscopic surgery and conservative management.
Here's the key: MANAGEMENT
Your pet will have degenerative wear and tear of their joints if they're lucky to live a nice long life.
But WE can make the difference in their health and quality of life by doing a few simple things to "manage" them.
It's entirely up to us- not them.
What are YOU doing to help your pet's health?
I would love to hear what you have found to be helpful or even not helpful.
And of course, you know where to find me if you're not sure and maybe want to learn a few things to incorporate in their program.
Since I recently shared on social media that I was aware of a new meta-analysis on pulsed electromagnetic therapy, I thought I'd provide the link to last year's (brief, easy read) post for quick access.
READ about PEMF here!
Actually, it's not really controversial because it's not my opinion; it's sharing science and facts.
But just in case... HERE'S A PICTURE OF A CUTE PUPPY!
Recently I came across a case study in a veterinary publication that described a treatment plan for an older, obese pet.
The main issues were the overweight status (Duh! & if you're not sure on the impact of this "disability", take a look around my Instagram account as well as this website), decreased muscle and decreased endurance - my summation from what I read.
Basically, he was fat and out of shape. This caused him to fatigue on his walks, which were only tolerated for less than 5 minutes.
The author went on to describe the recommended food intake, body conditioning scoring and several GREAT things.
Here's where it fell short and why I though it IMPORTANT to write a blog post:
In regards to the mentioned "limited mobility", in rehabilitation-speak this means a limitation in movement. And limitations in movements are addressed through PROM (= passive range of motion), which the author recommended be done at the clinic and taught to the owners to do for him at home.
Follow me so far?
Only...this pet didn't have a significant "limitation in mobility" from the notes that I read.
He had decreased endurance on his walks.
He was fat and hadn't been exercising much so he didn't have much muscle.
There wasn't any pain detected nor was there any abnormalities like lameness.
PROM is a passive activity done by a person to another being on an area of the body, usually a joint of an extremity or in some cases, moving the entire extremity (i.e., "bicycle" exercises). It is passive. Therefore, the muscles are not contracting. No work is being done by the client/patient/pet. Therefore, if there is no limitation in available motion/mobility/movement, I would not be doing PROM to a pet (or person) that has a muscle loss and is overweight.
They need to move more.
People are busy and in general, compliance (the "stick-to-it") for home programs is HARD, y'all!
Your time is valuable!
If someone has extra time and wants to do PROM? GREAT! Do it. You will not create or cause a problem.
But you will not be strengthening or causing weight loss either.
- Another recommendation was for the pet parents to walk the dog 5x a day for 2 minutes. But t doesn't say how often they were walking their pet before (when he was tiring for less than 5 minutes). Chances are it wasn't 5x a day. Maybe twice - a.m. and p.m.
Sometimes, shocking I know, pet parents don't have a chance to take their dogs on a walk every day.
You need to find out what the baseline is and adapt to that with realistic benchmarks.
The recommendation was to increase it by a minute the next week. That's a 50% increase in work from one week to the next. And that now makes the total time 15 minutes up from 10mins the week before. (Are you still with me?)
That's a lot.
- In addition to PROM, it was recommended that "balance exercises" be done the clinic. I love me some balance exercises! They're great because they engage the whole body (pets' and humans') but it didn't describe him having a balance problem. So let's just call it good ol' therapeutic exercise instead. (Balance exercises ARE therapeutic exercise but not all therapeutic exercises are balance exercises.)
PROM is a great activity but I see it recommended all the time for diagnoses and issues in which OTHER activities would be far more appropriate, efficient and effective.
Diet is key and the recommendations for food intake that the author described in detail are spot-on because you MUST address this.
If obesity and muscle atrophy/weakness/loss is an issue, the best activity at the clinic to do would be the underwater treadmill. Two sessions a week for a month (even ONE session) has been proved in the research to result in a significant weight loss with a combined nutritional plan and supplemental walks at home. The underwater treadmill is a serious physical activity (swimming is NOT the same---I'll save that for another post). In the absence of an underwater treadmill, easy therapeutic exercises and a controlled, progressive walking program are best.
Your time is valuable! And I appreciate you reading this post and would appreciate your thoughts as well.
Now, I think you know the answer!