I was chatting with a friend, after treating her two dogs – Mali (Husky / Malamute cross) who has Reiki because he is on palliative care and Reg (Spaniel) who has Clinical Canine Massage.  Amy is not only a friend but a fellow dog professional and lover and she owns Happy Hounds Towcester. Amy runs a very successful Doggy Daycare, boarding and dog grooming facility and I have been working with Amy and her dogs since I started training to become a Clinical Canine Massage Therapist.  Mali was one of my case studies. I have, over the years, continually discussed with her, indicators of pain and was so proud that she used this knowledge to help one of her clients who was being groomed.  This is how we dog professionals work together as a multidisciplinary team to benefit the health & well-being of our beloved dogs.

So, over the next few weeks, I’m going to talk to you about these subtle indicators of pain or as we (Canine Massage Guild) call them – the ‘5 principles of pain’. These principles are Gait, Posture, Activities of Daily Living, Behaviour and Performance and various subtle indicators fall under each one.  The Guild created these with the view to educate owners that some indicators/observations/signs of pain can be mistaken as simply signs of ageing or something that the dog does.

Let’s focus on Gait this week and there are 10 areas for you to keep an eye out for:

  1. Lameness. This can include limping, not fully weight-bearing or carrying a paw/limb.
  2. Reduced range of movement. Limbs not moving forward/backward as much.
  3. Stiff when moving. Limbs moving awkwardly, no bend in joints, no bounce?
  4. Slowing down on walks. Usually out front? Now at the back or staying close by you?
  5. Abduction/Adduction of leg.  Moving a limb out to the side/away from the body / moving a limb inwards towards the body.
  6. Single tracking. Walking in a straight line – front paws or hind paws – think human model strutting down the catwalk.
  7. Pacing. The front limb and back limb on the same side move forward at the same time.
  8. Hopping/Skipping. Same as for humans but in hind limbs.
  9. Lack of reach/drive. No power coming from the hind limbs? The length of the stride is shorter.
  10. Crabbing. When the dog is moving forward, the hind area of the body is at an angle to the rest of the body and the line of travel the dog is going in.

During a Clinical Canine Massage consultation, we will look at how your dog moves and I’ll watch your dog moving towards you, moving away from you and from both sides. We’ll check different gaits as well – generally walk, trot and gallop – sometimes issues can show in one gait but not another and we will also assess gait transition. How the effect of speeding up or slowing down into the different gaits affects the movement of the limbs/action of the joints. We will also use the information from the above list of the 5 principles to assist us in identifying where potential issues may be occurring in the musculoskeletal system.

Videos also help immensely and are a great tool for not only your Clinical Canine Massage Therapist but also your Vets and other animal health professionals. If you are worried or concerned about your dog’s gait or anything that falls within the above list – take a video!

These indicators act as a guide to help you identify symptoms of musculoskeletal conditions that could be helped by Clinical Canine Massage but it is important to remember that some of these symptoms may cross over with other diseases/issues that are not of musculoskeletal origin. Therefore, it is really important to seek a diagnosis from a vet – as Clinical Canine Massage Therapists do not diagnose.

In summary, changes in gait, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant could be an indicator of pain. Dogs cannot tell us when they are in pain – they can only show us and we must make sure we notice and act upon it.

As always thanks for reading


Lou xx

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