Things People Don’t Know About Canine Fitness Part 4

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Today is the fourth part of a five-part series on things people don’t know about canine fitness.  You can read the first three installments part 1, part 2, and part 3.


Injured dogs require rehab and retraining

Because of their seemingly boundless enthusiasm, and their inability to speak, dogs appear to be up to virtually any physical challenge they encounter.  This is especially true when it comes to exercise and even more so, exercise after an injury.  In fact, an injured dog’s path back to activity should mimic the path that an injured human athlete takes post injury.

Canine Fitness Part 4

Canine injuries can happen acutely during an activity as evidenced by the dog pulling up lame.  Probably more common is the insidious form of injury that just kind of creeps up with no specific acute episode to point to as the cause.  The dog just starts limping out of the blue.  In either case, the injury should be treated similarly to the way a human athlete would treat their injury: diagnose, treat symptoms, address and treat cause, and, finally, a progressive return to activity.  Unfortunately, many pet parents skip these steps and assume that the dog will be fine with a few days of rest. Each of these steps is important to the overall recovery of the dog:


Diagnose– obviously, without a diagnosis of the problem, there is no way to target the treatment.  A regular vet might be able to accurately diagnose the problem and if not, there are specialty, orthopedic vets who can refine the diagnosis.


Treat symptoms– with a diagnosis in hand, treatment can begin to eliminate the symptoms of the problem.  For example, pain and swelling reduction via medication, cryotherapy, or other modalities.  Symptom treatment is not meant to fix the problem, but rather calm down the symptoms so rehab can begin.


Treat the cause– this is an often overlooked step in the rehab process.  There Is often a fundamental issue with the dog’s body mechanics that, over time, can cause the injury to occur.  Unbalanced strength in the hind legs to fore legs, a weak core, or lack of flexibility/mobility are examples of problems that can result in injuries throughout the body.  A canine rehabilitation specialist or experienced canine fitness trainer can help determine the weak areas and create a rehab program to eliminate the problem.


Return to activity– when the injury symptoms are gone and the rehab program is complete, the dog will be ready to return to their previous activities.  However, depending on the length of time of the rehab process, the dog should be slowly progressed back to their prior levels.  For each week the dog has been unable to perform an activity, a minimum of one week of buildup should be planned.  Here again, a canine rehab or fitness professional can help plan a safe program that will allow the dog to return to normal.


Body type matters when it comes to activity of choice

Much like with humans, a dog’s body composition and overall body type should influence the types of activities that the dog specializes in.  In the case of humans, people who specialize in basketball are likely not candidates to be jockeys (and vice versa).  Stocky people might not be well suited for distance or agility types of sports, yet might excel in the weight room, for example.


In the case of dogs, body type also matters.  The dogs weight to height ratio is one indicator of a dog’s frame.  Dogs with higher weight to height ratios are not as well suited for activities requiring agility and lots of starting and stopping.  Dogs that are overweight are more at risk to an injury when performing virtually any activity (except perhaps, eating) so it is recommended that a dog is put on a progressive conditioning program before beginning any intense or skills based activity.


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  1. Great post! This is so important! We definitely had to do some slower retraining after Zoe hurt herself! It’s really important!

  2. These days we have a lot of dog friends doing dog sports, many doing agility. It seems those dogs are always getting injured. One of our good friends had to wear a leg brace for the past few months for an injury. Just as with people, you have to treat injuries correctly. Luckily, nose work is a pretty safe sport.
    Emma recently posted…Dog Fun With 54 Plastic Easter EggsMy Profile

  3. Grrrreat post!
    When my AED (anti seizure drug) phenobarbital dosage was higher ( weaning off while introducing a new AED) my balance & hind end strength was very poor. Needless to say, injuries were common. Nothing drastic but my huMom would need to ice or massage the injured part(s) & of course, physically activities were restricted.
    It’s true, us dogs don’t like to complain except when dinner is late 😉
    So, i do rely on my huMom to be my voice of reason when it comes to injuries & my health.
    CEO Olivia
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  4. Hey Slim!
    I hope you don’t mind but I was inspired by your post to write about how we have recently rehabbed Ziva from a shoulder injury. 🙂 I included some link backs to your post here.
    DZ Dogs recently posted…Doggy RehabMy Profile

  5. Thanks for more fitness information. I know many dogs that suffer from torn ACL and injuries that we associate as more human in nature. We take it slow and steady around here.
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…Senior Wellness Check-Ups for DogsMy Profile

  6. Excellent advice! I think because they don’t ever complain, we think they are fully healed if they no longer limp or whimper. Thanks for a timely reminder. 🙂

  7. Such great information for dogs with a injury. If you don’t follow these steps you just go backwards and it takes longer for the injury to heal.
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  8. Treating the actual cause is sooo important rather than just feeding the pup pain meds to lessen the symptoms!! Great article!
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  9. We’re working on the “return to activity” phase now with Haley being three weeks post CCL knee surgery. She’s got a lot of rehab ahead, but she’s doing so well and making great progress every day. Our biggest issue now is trying to keep her calm enough so she doesn’t overdo physical activity until she’s completely healed.
    Elaine recently posted…Leading Your Dog by the NoseMy Profile

  10. Great post. Always informative and a good help to me. Thanks.
    Darrin recently posted…Pills, Thrills and BellyachesMy Profile

  11. I always wanted a dog who would run with me and am so happy that Daisy and Cocoa love running!!
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