Posture is external appearance of how your pet resists gravity in the stand, sit and drop position.
It reflects the muscles they habitually use to maintain their body and can hint at muscular strengths and weaknesses.
Functional tests are activities that we ask your pet to perform to assess how they are using their body. The most common tests we use at Primal Paws are
Sitting- how do they move in and out of the sit. Are they comfortable in this position.
Laying down- do they lay down via sitting first or do they put their elbows down then lower their bottom. Will they easily assume the sphinx position with both legs tucked up or do they roll onto one hip. How easily do they push out of the drop.
Walking over an obstacle- How do they swing their leg forward, straight or circular. Can they actually clear the obstacle, which foot do they tap the obstacle with.
The balance within a living organism is called homeostasis. It is best understood if we think about maintaining hydration.
The body, specifically cells within the body, have an optimum water content and regulates the sensation of thirst and the production of urine to ensure that the balance between water in and water out is maintained. In situations where we can not take in water (stuck in the middle of the Sahara Desert for example) the body will begin moving molecules in and out of cells to maintain the required amount of water within each cell. It does this to achieve balance (aka homeostasis) within the cell to allow it to function.
Companion animals and humans strive for this in physical movement as well. They must balance forces to maintain physical fitness and health. To achieve this they must have the nutrients necessary and understand the movements to balance their body effectively.
This piece of jargon is used a lot in Medicine. It is where we can not cure a disease completely and so we use our skills to actively manage symptoms and maintain homeostasis or balance within the body.
Therapeutic exercise can assist medical management in some chronic diseases such as chronic kidney disease, heart disease and diabetes. Physical exercises can help control your pets blood values and keep them in a better range, it can stimulate appetite, help control weight and also have a positive mental impact on both your lives.
More commonly we are contacted about medical management where surgery is either not appropriate or there factors preventing surgery.
- For example a dog who tears their Cranial cruciate ligament but is unable to go under anaesthesia due to other medical problems. In these cases we can offer treatments to control the signs of this problem and assist you in caring for your pet.
- Another example is a dog who has been paralysed due to a disc herniation, had surgery but has not regained full neurologic function. They can have great quality of life with active management and potentially assist devices including wheelchairs.
Physical conditioning is a process where there is improvement in your pets physical health through exercise.
It is achieved by systematically targeting different tissues and areas of your pets body to place it under stress. This low level targeted stress results in the body adapting to manage these challenges.
This will reduce your pets risk of injury and improve their performance. We can strengthen muscles, improve cardiovascular fitness, build bone and improve cartilage health. This is a valuable process for all pets throughout all life stages. The best methods involve many different types of tasks to keep you and your pet having fun and challenge the body in many different manners creating a well rounded program.
Performed incorrectly these same exercises may cause injury by stressing the system more than it can handle and adapt too.
It is important to ensure your pet is not masking an injury prior to beginning a conditioning program.
Muscle Strength is the ability of a muscle to generate force during one contraction.
Muscles are required to resist forces (like gravity) or create forces (like a dog taking off on a jump).
We can change muscular strength through targeted exercise and resolving underlying pathology that may be inhibiting muscle activation.
A pretty awesome sport that involves a human handler who guides a dog around a set course. The aim for the dog to not make any mistakes, like knocking a bar down or doing the wrong obstacle, as quickly as possible.
It is very challenging and requires a high level of fitness and good relationship between dog and handler.
Obstacles that are used in Australian Agility include
Jumps- set to specific heights based on how tall the dog is at the top of the shoulder blades
Tyre- set to specific heights based on how tall the dog is at the top of the shoulder blades
Long Jump- set to specific height and distance based on how tall the dog is at the top of the shoulder blades
Spread hurdle - set to specific height and distance based on how tall the dog is at the top of the shoulder blades
Proprioception is knowing where your body is in space and what your body is doing to keep it there. This needs to be achieved without conscious thought and processing of the information. This is just as important for your pet as it is for you. You need proprioception in everyday life to walk down the street or throw and catch a ball. The same way your pet does to go for a walk or chase a ball. It is even more important when performing more extreme activities like taking off and landing when your dog or cat jumps.
When you step off the curb without realising that there is going to be a drop, it is proprioception that stops people from face planting and allows them to recover their balance and posture. I know my proprioception is quite average because there have been a number of occasions that I have failed to adapt to the incoming information regarding my leg and bodies location.
We can use a variety of methods and exercises to challenge your pets proprioceptive awareness. This training will assist the brain to react quickly to sudden changes and maintain normal movement. Proprioception is something that can be improved through training, just like heel work.
The ability to know in minute detail where their paw is in space is impaired when there is an injury, or even small amounts of pain. The information pathway has been disrupted and can even send the wrong information to the brain. This can mean that your pet does not ‘trust’ the limb any more. It may also mean that they can have an accident that will lead to further injury.
Puppies are another example where proprioception is less than perfect. Growing bodies, bones and muscles changing from day to day is difficult to adapt to. Starting to challenge this ability at a young age will help protect growing bones and joints and help your puppy to start to learn the skills to better adapt so changes in their body in the future.
What is it
Contraindications are things that don’t go together, or cause problems together. If a particular therapy would make your pet sick because of a condition they have, or a treatment they are already on, we say that the therapy is contraindicated.
To me the perfect example is chocolate. I would quite happily eat chocolate every day of the week. But unfortunately for those who are lactose intolerant or celiac, if they eat regular Cadbury Dairy Milk they will end up feeling sick. So for them this delicious chocolate is not a good idea. Dairy Milk is contraindicated for those who are lactose intolerant or coeliac.
What it means
Lots of therapies we uses, like some medications, massage and rehab have contraindications. That’s why it is important we get a full history from you and know what medications your pet is already on and any treatments they have had before we start treating.
For instance, if your pet is already on steroids they can not have non-steroidals because it will make them sick. Giving non-sterodials is contraindicated for an animal on steroids.
Contraindications for massage include cancer and infection.
Certain conditions such as arthritis, heart disease or kidney disease all have contraindications for certain modalities and therapies.
What we do about it
When you first visit us, we will ask you a lot of questions about your pet’s history, the conditions they have and the treatments they are on or have received. We will also undertake a through assessment of your pet. This is so we can structure our treatment plan to avoid any contraindications that may make your pet sick or cause other issues.
What is it
Atrophy is a decrease in muscle mass. It may be due to a disuse, reduced nervous input or simply not using those muscles as much.
What it means
This is often seen in cases where the animal decides to avoid using certain muscles due to injury or pain or when there is a problem with the nervous system. When an animal compensates for an injury by adjusting how they move, they neglect certain muscles, or groups of muscles, and this can lead them to atrophy.
Atrophy of a muscle makes it weaker, which tends to create a cycle, the other muscles take over the job and the atrophied muscles then atrophy more.
What we do about it
Tackling atrophy requires targeted therapy. The muscles that are atrophied don’t want to work, and there is a tendency for stronger muscles to take over the job. The dogs still want to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible so they just go with the muscles that are currently working. We need to create exercise and therapies that don’t let the dog use the wrong muscles, and bias them to use the muscles that have atrophied so thy grow strong again.