Saturday afternoon I attended a two-hour seminar at Masterpeace called Heal Faster……Move Better. Marjorie McMillan, DVM, DACVR, CCRP and Cathy Symons, CVT, CCRP were the presenters. Dr. McMillan has been a vet for 36 years and was in the first class that graduated from the University of Tennessee’s Canine Rehabilitation program 10 years ago. She is both Bug’s primary vet and a rehab specialist – hence also his rehab vet. Cathy is Bug’s well-loved physical therapist.
Dr. M started the presentation by discussing the astounding lack of studies regarding injuries and dogs in performance sports. She said the only comprehensive study she could find was a study Clean Run published in 2007 and re-published in April 2009.
From that study, the areas most commonly injured – comprising 50% of the injuries - were:
Shoulders 20 %
Back 18 %
Stifle 12 %
Hip 6 %
The obstacles most commonly involved in injuries were:
Bar jump 16%
The majority of the injuries were contusions, sprains, and strains.
Dr M feels there are many factors that contribute to injury, some of which you can affect (poor flexibility, muscle weakness, and muscle imbalance) and some of which you have no control over (conformation and inherited disorders). The typical causes of injury are hyperextension, hyperflexion, rotation or pivot (here’s where your acl injuries happen), blunt trauma, and chronic repetitive trauma.
The types of injuries tend to fall into the following categories:
Muscle injuries (Dr. M and Cathy feel that muscle injuries are much more common than reported because they do not show up on x-ray.)
Dr. M feels that a handler has the opportunity to have the most impact on an injury immediately following its occurrence. Humans have the PRICE principle for treating injuries (P - protect from further injury, R - restrict activity, I - apply ice, C - apply compression, E - elevate the injured area) and canines now have PRICK.
P – Protection from further injury
R – Relative rest (Dr. M does not believe crate rest is always ideal and might in fact slow down healing)
I – Ice
C – Compression
K – Kind and Gentle Handling
In terms of Relative Rest the underwater treadmill is ideal because the water is warm, it takes pressure off the joint and allows muscles to continue to have “normal pull” which results in less scarring.
Cryotherapy or Ice Therapy
Pain and the histamine response
You should ice every 2 hours after acute injuries; depending on severity ice for 24 – 72 hours. Use common sense 10 – 20 minutes depending upon the size of your dog, its coat, etc. I can safely ice Bug for 15 – 20 minutes at a time, but he has a heavy coat.
At this point Cathy spoke about warm up routines. She said the best way to prevent injuries is to PREPARE your dog!! At a trial be sure to walk briskly with your dog and jog a bit before doing stretches. She has a lovely Lab demo dog named Trout whom she used to illustrate stretches. Cathy strongly recommended the book The Healthy Way to Stretch Your Dog by Sasha Foster and Ashley Foster.
What Cathy likes about this book is it has chapters on stretch suggestions based on performance sport choices. For example, if you have a dog that has trouble weaving at times it would be wise to be sure and do adduction and abduction stretches of the shoulders & hips. Adduction is when you carefully bring the limb in toward the midline of the body. Abduction is when you stretch the limb away from the midline.
After demo-ing stretches Dr. M talked some more about physical therapy and why it’s worth it.
20% of dogs over 1 year have arthritis
90% of dogs 9 – 10 years old have arthritis
Dr. M considers the following injuries to be the problematic:
Cranial cruciate rupture
She had slides illustrating where the injuries occur and discussed the likely causes.
Without physical therapy after an injury, there is:
Significant loss of muscle mass and strength
1 – 1.5% per day; 10 – 20% per week
Large muscles atrophy twice as fast as smaller muscles
Fiber atrophy begins within one day
Bone resorption within 30 hours
Most startling in my mind:
Recovery without PT takes 2 – 3x the period of immobilization
Dr. M said, “The most important predictor of future injury is past injury.”
Then we discussed treatment options:
Phytomedicines (Dr. M recommended we check out Dr. Susan Wynn as an authority on, and author of, Veterinary Herbal Medicine)
Nutraceuticals (Dr. M also said the joint supplements are best absorbed as either a liquid or powder)
To prevent injuries Dr. M said:
Look for conformation – know your dog’s weak points physically so you can train to hopefully balance them
Train for balance
Massage (it helps move toxins from the body in addition to providing a huge benefit to muscles)
I am sure I have missed something. It was a lot of information for two hours, so this is to the best of my ability.
Oh, and if anyone is looking for an awesome ice/heat pack, I have a personal endorsement. Sterling carries the Thermal-Aid ice packs. They stay cold for SO long and when heated they retain heat really well, too. We have two - one for the freezer and one for the microwave. With dh's knee injury he and Bug have been fighting over the single freezer pack. I might have to buy a third! DH also likes the weight of the pack.
5 days ago