Last May I completed a 50k running challenge. I walk lots of miles but very rarely run so, this was a challenge for me. During this month my left calf would become very tight and quite painful when I was running. However, I didn’t really worry about it, and just had a few days rest and got back to running again to complete the challenge. Over the next few months when I did a longer walk, my calf would again feel tight and slightly uncomfortable, but wouldn’t stop me enjoying my walk with my dogs.
Fast forward another few months and my back has started to hurt. Not enough to stop me doing anything, but definitely getting uncomfortable especially at night-time. Now I really like my sleep, so this was my trigger to go and get a sports massage to get some help.
So yesterday I had my first sports massage and you guessed it – it was my calves that were still very tight, and this was causing me to overcompensate and therefore my back was now taking all the strain. From something that started May last year, I am now in a worse position because I ignored it.
Why am I talking about my back? Well, it really got me thinking about dogs and pain. For those that work with me, you know I talk about pain often as a major cause of a change of behaviour in your dog. I was watching my dogs run around on our morning walk. They run fast, spin, twist, jump and sometimes slip (in all this lovely mud!). So why wouldn’t they pick up sprains and tweaks such like us? They certainly don’t slow down and rest. They are nearly always ready for the next walk, ball game or training session. Dogs are masters of hiding pain – why would they show it? Doesn’t make sense from an evolutionary viewpoint.
We therefore need to look out for other signs that might show pain as a possibility. Any change of behaviour requires a vet check. Anything such as becoming less tolerant of other dogs approaching them, become fearful over sudden noises or being ‘grumpy’ in the evening or not wanting to move from their resting spot. All these issues signal you should get help from a professional. It doesn’t matter what age your dog is, don’t think ‘oh they are just getting stiff in their old age’. Your vet can refer you to physiotherapist or canine massage therapist where they can do a full 'mot' and give them a thorough check up.
My dogs have regular physio and massage because I want them to be 100% fit and well if I am going to ask them to compete. However, I would love to see all dog owners think that having your dog checked as part of something they do regularly just like using flea/worm treatments and boosters.
I’m going to need another treatment to get me sound again, so just think about how active your dog is and that they might need some extra support too.
PS Did you know ball chasing is a huge no no when it comes to exercising your dog? Sprinting and stopping repetitively is so harmful for your dogs’ hips and joints. I wish I didn’t see all these dogs walkers with their ball chuckers – it really does make me sad as I know how damaging it can be.