EMHD Episode 1: Reduce Canine Mobility Problems

Aug 02, 2022

Do you have a senior dog? Or, do you want to reduce your young dog’s risk of injury? In any case, I’m sure you want to keep your dog active and happy for as long as possible.

If you’d like to learn simple steps to reduce your dog’s chances of having a mobility problem, then this week’s episode of Easier Movement, Happier Dogs is for you.

It's never too late - or too early - to start safeguarding your dog’s health and well-being.

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Hello, and welcome to Easier Movement, Happier Dogs. I'm Mary Debono, and I'm so glad you're here because today we're going to talk about how you could learn some simple skills that can help prevent minor issues with your dog from becoming serious problems. Okay. So this is super important and I found that the best way to do this is to first identify what kind of dog person you happen to be.

Because I've discovered there's about probably about four types that I see across the board. And the first one is the type of dog person who just says, everything's going to be fine. Right. Everything's fine. They don't really look at what's in front of them. Maybe a little bit of denial, maybe a little bit of disinterest. I don't know, but they don't take action until it's an emergency until the dog is really limping badly or, you know, swollen a lot or is crying in pain or something pretty darn obvious.

Okay. But they choose to ignore the more subtle signs kind of like subclinical things. And they wait until it's really an emergency for, they take their dog to the vet, for example, or address a behavioral problem or whatever it happens to be. Right. They just choose even unconsciously. They're choosing to ignore things.

Okay. So again, that's like, you, you hear people like this saying, oh, he's fine, he's fine. Or, you know, she's always moved that way. You know, I'm not going to worry about it or, oh, he's super active. He probably just pulled a muscle, even though like the dog has been limping for a week, stuff like that.

So I'm guessing you don't fall into that category. Right. Okay. Then the second category is someone who just, you know, loves their dog. They want to do right by their dog, but they completely hand over all responsibility to someone else. Okay. They, they just think, you know, okay, you're the expert or you're the family member that takes care of that.

Whatever the case may be. And they don't care at all to educate themselves to be a participant in their dog's health and wellbeing. So they don't think about it, they could possibly be doing things to number one, prevent problems from happening and or help their dog recover more fully and more quickly, if a problem does happen. Okay. So they just choose to, oh, so-and-so tells me to do this.

That's what I'm doing. And they just hand it all over again. I'm guessing you don't fall into that category. Cause you're here. You're, you're listening to this. Now the third category is the person who they're just like really scattered with their attention. They really care. And they try all the things.

Okay. Maybe they go to a number of different vets. They try all kinds of different modalities. They read a lot of different things, but they don't give anything a real good shot at helping their dog. Right. They might go to an expert once or twice. They may read one or two blog posts about a certain thing or watch a couple of videos or read chapter two in a book.

But they don't take the time to really focus and learn something and actually put it into action, actually apply it. So they never give anything a chance. And then they say, oh, see that didn't work either. And they're onto the next thing. And what I've seen is there are some people like that, that, that feeds a need. They have, right?

It's sort of like an addictive quality. Like just keep trying new things, trying new things, trying new things. It keeps him in this perpetual emotional state. And really what ends up happening is their dog suffers because the dog never gets the benefit of lots of good information out there. Lots of good modalities that maybe could help their dog.

So they just go from, they bounce from one thing to another, maybe something that's trendy at the moment with dogs or whatever. And they never give anything a real shot at working. Okay. I'm hoping you're not in that camp either. The fourth camp is what I'm thinking you fall into. And this is the person who is a proactive participant in their dog's health and wellbeing.

So they take the time to learn, educate themselves, to gain skills. They learn about dog movement, dog behavior, you know, dog health. And they put it all together so that they can help their dog live the longest happiest, healthiest life possible for that dog. Okay. And depending on, I mean, it doesn't matter what age the dog is when they start this, but that's the journey they want to be on with their dog.

They want to be a partner with their dog. They want to be their dog's advocate. You want to help their dog. So how would you then, for example, go about doing this? Well, one way I find is that starting to notice things with your dog is really, really crucial.

Okay. It's something I teach. All of my students in my programs right away how to notice things. And you can start with number one, noticing how you feel. I know that sounds funny, but what is your gut telling you? So let's start with that. Trust your gut. If you think, should we just have a gut feeling or you feel like something about your dog is a little off, pursue it, pursue it.

Talk to your vet about it, take your dog in, and have it checked out. I'll give you an example from my own life. A number of years ago, my dog Ruby started becoming incontinent. She started just peeing inappropriately. You know, she'd be sleeping or whatever, and she'd pee or lay in her bed. She'd pee.

And she was also drinking more water than normal. So I immediately took her to the vet, my regular vet wasn't in town. So I saw an associate vet and who was a fully qualified vet, but just wasn't, wasn't the normal vet that I use for Ruby. And this vet did a smart thing. She did a urinalysis and it came back that Ruby did not have a UTI is what the vet said.

And so she just insisted to me kind of rudely. I might add that she's an old spayed female. So she's incontinent. Ruby was only 12. And I say only 12 because she lived to be over 17. Never had this problem again, but anyway, getting ahead of myself and what happened was the vet is saying this to me that, you know, she's an old spayed female.

This is what happens. She's and she dismissed the abundant water drinking, you know, she drinking more water. She said, no, it's summer, she's hot, whatever. I'm like, no, I know my dog. Well, she wanted her to be on this medication to address the incontinence.

And I didn't want to put her on that because I knew in my gut that wasn't it, that wasn't it. Luckily our regular vet was coming right back into town another day or so. So we, we, I took Ruby to see him and he agreed with me. He's no, this, this isn't that this isn't that. And turns out she had a kidney infection, which we treated her for and she was fine.

And so she didn't have any episodes of incontinent after that never went on that incontinence prescription. And she lived to be over 17. It was happy, healthy, and active till the end. Again, she was still a quote unquote, old spayed female, but you know, she was fine. So this is where I tell people, you know, your dog the best.

So you, you know, your dog the most, if something isn't sitting right with you either press it a little more with your VAT. Maybe encourage a little more diagnostics or take a little more time, or simply go to another, another expert. I've counseled clients in this situation quite a bit. There was one dog.

I remember he was a Basset hound. And the first time I saw him, I knew immediately he had osteosarcoma. He had bone cancer. I just, I just knew it. I, and I, I felt this and I had never met the dog before, but the minute I put my hands on him, I'm like, oh, this is not right.

This is not right. And I did not, I'm not a vet, so I don't diagnose dogs or any other animals. And instead I encourage the dog person to take the dog to a vet. The dog was limping, right. She had already taken the dog to a vet. And the vet had said that he thought that the dog got stepped on by a horse.

Cause she had horses, which she knew the dog didn't, but he's like, oh, it was just something, something got strained or pulled or whatever, or stepped on, you know, he'll be fine. So then at my urging, she took the dog to another vet and the vet said that he thought the dog had a stroke. Okay. And so then she tells me this and I'm like...

Again, I don't want to say what I think it is, but I encourage her to go to yet another vet. And this time I said, put their hands right here. And like, and I showed her exactly where I was touching on the dog that I felt one of the problem was. So she did that. And unfortunately the dog had bone cancer.

And I actually, this has happened to me a number of times where I felt things and ended up being problematic that other people didn't feel. Okay. So again, I would encourage you, if you think something isn't right with your dog and that's not to alarm you. Okay. Or get you into like a hypochondriac-type mode. Cause most of the time the dog is fine.

But again, if you have a gut feeling that something should be checked out more, certainly pursue that with a veterinarian. Okay. So again, trust your gut important. Okay. Now the second one is we're using our eyes now. So we went from gut to eyes, watch how your dog walks. And you're like, well, my dog is walking now.

Obviously, if your dog is limping, you'll notice that right away. But what we're looking for here is we're looking for small things that could potentially become serious problems. So if your dog suddenly changes how they walk, that could indicate one of the things that could indicate is that maybe there's back stiffness. Maybe, maybe the spine is getting a little bit arthritic.

These are things that can be addressed at an early stage. Okay. So let me explain this. Typically dogs walk with a four-beat gate. Okay. What that means is that for example, say the left hind leg starts with the left front leg, then the right hind, and then the right front. And then back to the left hind again and on and on that's four distinct beats.

And that's how many, many dogs walk. Okay. Not all dogs though. There are some breeds of dogs where it's more normal for them to do what they call a pacing gate where the legs on the same side move at the same time or an amble, which is similar to a pace except the hind foot goes down a fraction of a second before the front foot.

But again, it's that idea that there's, you know, the one side is, looks like it's moving at the same time, the legs on one side. Okay. So both left legs, both right. Legs will move at the same time. Okay. In a pace. And again, an is slightly different but looks similar to the untrained eye.

So you have to find out what's normal for your dog. Now dogs with long legs and short backs, for example, will often pace just to avoid stepping on their front feet. Okay. Kind of like the front feet can't get out of the way fast enough. And that's okay. That's just normal for them. So again, certain types of dogs and certain breeds will be normal.

The important thing is to notice how your dog walks when your dog is healthy and see if that changes over time. You may also notice that the dog, your dog only paces when she's tired or when he's going over uneven terrain and has to work differently to get over it. Okay. So start to pay attention to that because that could signal that your dog maybe is getting a little back stiffness things that we can address.

Okay. I worked with many, many dogs and help them reverse that. And of course, work with your veterinarian as well. So maybe even a video, your dog walking video from the side, play it back in, slow motion. Now, what if you say, well, Mary, my dog's already pacing? My dog is already in her golden years and is pacing.

Well, still notice how she's doing it. Okay. Maybe take some videos, and keep some records of it. And there are still lots of things you can do to help the dog restore a sense of flexibility and suppleness to her body. Okay. She may or may not go back to walking with the four B gait. I've seen it happen many times, but sometimes it doesn't.

But they still have a lot more mobility and a lot more comfort. And you stop that vicious cycle of, you know, arthritis that can often develop. They often get into this downward cycle where things get kind of stiffer and stiffer more and more restricted and problems develop in other areas. Okay. So again, we're what we're doing is we want to be aware.

We want to be observant and start to notice when things change. So now let's talk about the difference between trotting and pacing. Trotting is a two-beat gate. So what that means is that in the case of trotting, the diagonal pair of legs will move at the same time. So in other words, right, hind left, front left, tined right front.

And it's a really efficient, like fuel-efficient kind of pace. Excuse me, gate. For most canines, you see coyotes covering a lot of ground trotting, right? So that's different than the pace. The pace is more of the speed of a walk and it's the legs on the same side moving together. Okay. So definitely different. Again, video your dog, and play it back in slow motion.

It's a great way to train your eye. Also notice if your dog suddenly starts bunny hopping when they're running or anything like that, that's different. Okay. Important to notice these things now and also notice changes in behavior that might come about from changes in how your dog feels physically. So for example, maybe your dog used to always jump on the couch or the bed or in the car and suddenly is no longer doing that.

Okay. So these are things to notice, or maybe your dog isn't doing the zoomies anymore or isn't bringing you his favorite ball or toy that he always did or stops tugging like that the activity involved in tugging could be uncomfortable for your dog suddenly. So these are things that definitely are worth, noticing and worth discussing with your veterinarian.

Okay. Another one is to notice how your dog sits. Now, you may think, well, what do you mean notice? Well, okay, many dogs, most dogs, most adult mature dogs will sit where their hind legs are tucked under them. The back is kind of more or less straight and the hind legs are very tucked. Okay. If you're now puppies often don't sit that way.

Puppies often have like one or, you know, a hind leg kind of cocked out to the side, what they call a puppy to sit or a sloppy sit. So don't worry about that. If your dog, if your puppy is sitting that way, usually isn't a problem. Usually, again, discuss with your vet. But if your mature dog suddenly starts cocking a leg or both legs out to the side or sits with the back really rounded, or maybe has always sat like that, but they're a mature dog.

That's definitely worth discussing with your vet which can indicate a problem with a knee. The hip, the back a number of things could, could be a problem there. Okay. But usually involves that like the dog is unable to fully flex the joints of the hind legs while keeping the back, you know, more or less straight.

So I've seen some dogs I've worked with that have always been that way. And there were definitely issues with the back and the hind legs and the person, you know, the owner says, oh, she's always been that way since, you know, she never stopped doing the puppy sit. And so, but again, that may indicate a problem and is definitely worth discussing with your vet.

And certainly, if you suddenly start to see your dog always sitting in a sloppy set, that's definitely worth a talk with the veterinarian as well. Okay. So now another one to look at is how does your dog stand? How does your dog place its feet under its body?

How was his tail held? How was his head held? Sometimes you'll see dogs suddenly start to lower their head and walk with their head in a very unusual way. And sometimes it's just a little change. So it's not a huge change that the person becomes, you know, notices it. So again, this is where starting to pay attention to these things is really important.

This is how you're proactive. This is how you're going to find things before they become major problems for you and your dog. Okay. Again, taking videos and keeping them in a special folder, either on your phone or on your computer, can be really, really helpful because then you could really look at them. You can look at it in slow motion and stuff as well.

Also, when you're thinking about like how your dog is standing, pay attention to the shape of your dog's back, because what happens is over time, the shape of the back can really change. And it could indicate that again, maybe there's some stiffness, maybe some arthritis is developing. Maybe your dog has to use the back in a different way because there are problems elsewhere, maybe problems in the legs.

Even though I've seen problems in the neck and chest that will cause the dog to stand with the back rounded, the rounding can be in the middle of the back or the lower back. So pay attention to that pay start to really on a very regular basis, at least weekly, I would say, really run your hands over your dog's back, feeling the shape of the spine, feeling the ribs, feeling the bones of the legs and you know, the S, the cervical vertebra that the spine of the neck, right?

You want to feel all these things in a very gentle, again, just a relaxing way. Don't get worked up over this, but just in a way that you're just like, you want to really know your dog's skeleton. You want to know the shape of your dog, feel the muscles are evenly developed on the legs and in the back and around the shoulders, and start to pay attention to these things.

It's really, really important because then you'll know like, oh, this doesn't feel right. Or you'll notice why is my dog using this hind leg a lot more than the other one that could give you your first clue that maybe there's a strain in a knee ligament or some other part, and you can address it before it becomes a major problem to really pay attention to these things, any kind of muscly symmetry, you know, again, how your dog is standing, walking, trotting, running, how they're using themselves really, really important.

Okay. What we want to do is interrupt, you know, any kind of downward spiral that may be developing, because that's what can lead to those major problems where suddenly it becomes a big injury or a more advanced state of arthritis or whatnot. So again, really important to work in combination with your veterinarian, but really start to take a proactive approach to your dog's health and wellbeing and get in there and use your hands, use your eyes, use your gut, and, you know, have fun with this.

This is about also like doing it in a very relaxed way that you're just noticing it's a bonding experience when you're running your hands down over your dog, you know, it's not anything to be alarmed about. It's like, wow, this is interesting. You can think of yourself as like you're a sculptor and you want to sculpt a statue of your dog and you want to get the shape.

Exactly, right? So do it in that spirit where you're Curious, you're not overly concerned. Like you're not alarmed in any way. You're just curious what I like to call compassionate curiosity, which means that you're, you're not judging it, right?

You're just like, oh, this is interesting. Okay. This is how you know, her back feels, right? This is how his, the leg muscles feel the hind leg muscles or the front shoulder, you know, the shoulders, or what have you, again, just compassionate curiosity, make sure you're breathing easily, make it fun for you and your dog.

Okay. Well, I want to thank you so much for being here. I really, really appreciate that you're listening to this and that you want to be a proactive participant in your dog's life. Okay. Well, I'll talk to you very soon. Thanks so much. Bye for now.