Jessica A. Marziani, DMV, CVA, CVC
Jump OverI have a friend who told me that she has a piggy bank where she puts her spare change. This is her dog’s “ ment repair fund,” as she knows that it is inevitable that someday he will tear his cruciate ligament. Having pet insurance or a “pet health care savings fund” is definitely a good idea as we never know when we may need to dip into our savings to treat our pets from illness or injury. Most owners already do preventative medicine for pets such as vaccines and heartworm preventative, but what if we could take steps to try to prevent injuries as well?Canine athletes are at increased risk for both soft tissue and orthopedic injuries if they are not in shape for their particular competitive event. Certain movements or skills utilized by canine athletes employ specific muscles. Standard exercises such as chasing the ball in the backyard or going for a walk may not engage the proper muscles for canine athletes and therefore may put the animal at risk if not trained properly. By understanding what physical demands your dog will be up against, you can properly train their muscles for the stresses they will endure. As an example, strengthening your dog’s core muscles will prepare them to be strong enough to absorb repetitive concussive forces and handle a fall or slip.

Stretching is another way to help reduce Risk of injuries. However, stretching, if done incorrectly, can cause more harm than good. A basic rule to keep in mind when stretching is: it should not cause your pet discomfort. For humans, if you are doing a yoga pose and someone comes along and puts all their weight on your back, you may not be able to stand for a few days. The same thing is true for your dog. Stretching should be done when the muscles are slightly warm, so take your pet for a short walk before you start your pre-competition stretching. Don’t forget to stretch after your competition as well.

Keeping the frame of a car straight and sturdy is extremely important for the integrity of the structure. The sam is true for the skeleton structure of the dog. If the suspension on your car is damaged, your car will be out of alignment, your tires will wear unevenly and damage the rest of the suspension components. If your dog’s spine is not moving normally –is fixated, rotated or subluxated -then your dog’s frame is not correct. This means that your dog cannot biomechanically move the way that it is made to move and may also lead to long-term damage. Chiropractic adjustments are another method to keep your dog preforming at their best and reduce abnormal stresses caused by subluxations. Most chiropractic subluxations occur without any obvious signs as the body, unlike a car, can compensate for irregularities. The compensations that are made by the body to continue moving when there are subluxations present can lead to injury or long-term problems such as arthritis. To ensure that your dog does not have any problems with their structural integrity before they compete, have them examined by a certified animal chiropractor.

Taking these steps to ensure that your canine athlete is at the top of their game are even more important than masterin the skills needed for the various canine competitive events. If they get injured, they will not be able to properly use the skills that took you and your canine athlete so many difficult hours to command. There is nothing worse than preventing a Dog from enjoying their favorite activities. For more information on how to properly do stretches, core exercises and how to preventing injuries to your dog seek the advice of your veterinarian, veterinary chiropractor, professional trainer and/or a canine rehabilitation therapist.

Originally published July 2014.