The Fat, the Black, the Old, & the Hairy!

14 Jun 2017

Old Black Fat Dog

By Laurie Edge-Hughes, BScPT, MAnimSt (Animal Physio), CAFCI, CCRT


This blog has been inspired by a few different experiences I’ve had lately: Three client stories, and one personal experience.  Basically, we four dog owners are concerned about the health of our dogs.  Our dogs don’t want to walk.  Our dogs are lethargic.  Something must be wrong!!!  (And since I started writing this, I’ve had this conversation with at least half a dozen more clients who are having similar concerns about their dogs.)   


I’ll start with the story of my dog.  It’s my rescue Borzoi, Syri.  She’s about ten years old, mostly black, and carries a bit of extra ‘padding’ as well.  She’s also is a bit of a ‘head case’.  She can be weird for all sorts of reasons!  Well, one day I decided to take all 4 of my dogs for a walk.  It was 9 am, there was a bit of a breeze and it was about 17 degrees C.  Perfect, I thought!  I could get all of my white dogs enthused about going, but not the black dog.  I did manage to get her out of the house, and down to the end of the drive way, but no further. There was no way she was going into the field.   I even tried pushing her for a bit!  She was standing there shaking like a leaf (and I felt like an ogre)!  I gave up and walked her back to the house and the white dogs and I went for a walk.  I’ve been noticing that she is a bit more lethargic than normal.   She’s fussy about going outside.  However, if I wait until 8:30 or 9pm, then she’s like a puppy!  Happy, bouncy, yeah-I’ll-go-for-a-walk fool! But during the day, she’s a pancake!


The first of my canine patients is fuzzy, black, well padded, senior dog.  Her owner has been noticing that she doesn’t want to walk and isn’t as enthusiastic about eating either.  The third dog is a densely-coated (not-black, she’s tan) dog and the owners are noticing she’s not so interested in going for walks.  On questioning, the 4pm walk in particular.  And the last dog was a small senior dog, and the owners have been finding him to simply be more lethargic than usual and he pants more too.


Naturally, we’re all freaking out a little bit!  Our brains go to the worst-case scenario right off the bat.  What if it C…?  And while that is always a possibility, perhaps we should think about all of the factors.  Slow down a bit, and just be rational. 


1. My black dog heats up like a frying pan when she’s out in full sun!  She will ‘hold her urine’ ALL DAY and not go outside other than first thing in the morning and then right after dinner in the evening in the Spring / Summer.  When she does go out into full sun, it takes just a few minutes before her hair coat is hot.  Not just warm, but hot!  Conversely, even if the temperature is in the 20’s but overcast or late enough in the day that the angle of the sun is different, then she’s fine with going outside!

2.Dogs (and people) that carry extra weight tend to be warmer, especially in warmer weather.  Fat = insulation, and too much insulation on a hot day is like wearing your snowsuit to the beach!  Dogs likely have it worse than people, because they don’t sweat.  They have to pant to cool down.

3.A thick coat of hair may then have the same impact as excess weight.  It may act as an insulator for some dogs, making them heat up faster and then have difficulties dispersing the heat.

4.Lastly, age can play a factor.  There are some reports in human literature that humans (45 +) may suffer more physiological strain during heat acclimatization than younger individuals.  This may be related to aerobic fitness, levels of dehydration in the older individuals, and environmental humidity.


So, what should we take from this?  There are a few things you could try.  Firstly, try going for your daily walk(s) either early or late in the day, when the sun is low.  Secondly, you may need to reduce your dog’s body weight (and we can help with our Fluffy to Fit program).  Thirdly, keep your dog well brushed out to remove dead hair, contemplate a ‘summer haircut / trim’, use a ‘cooling jacket’ (they are wetted and have gel beads that can keep the dog cool when it’s on), or spritz your dog with cold water (the ‘mist setting’ on your garden nozzle) before heading out to walk might combat the heat issues.  Fourthly, the age of your dog may be a factor, so perhaps you could do some indoor exercises with your dog in your basement instead, or bring him / her in for an underwater treadmill session as a different means of exercise.   And I’m going to add in a fifth thought as my finale, maybe you need to encourage your pooch to drink a bit more fluids.  Low sodium (or home-made) broth could be provided or added to food to increase water / fluid consumption.  


You likely want to try a combination of these suggestions and see how your dog responds. And naturally, if you still have concerns or see other unusual or troubling signs in your pet, it’s best to book an appointment with your vet!



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What the heck is Manual Therapy as part of Rehab? …And how can it help my dog??

10 May 2017

    By Sue Van Evra, BScPT, MSc, BHScPT, Dipl Canine Rehab


If you’ve ever been treated by a physiotherapist for an injury, rehab after surgery, or a problem area in your body…chances are you’ve had some Manual Therapy! 

What do physiotherapists mean when they talk about Manual Therapy? Well, the definition is: 

‘skilled, specific research-based hands-on techniques, including but not limited to manipulation/mobilization of joints and soft tissue’…

Ok, but what is ‘mobilization’? and ‘manipulation’?

All joints in the body (ie ankle, shoulder, and joints between the vertebrae, or in the jaw) have different shapes. Mobilization is a treatment that involves moving joints in specific directions (depending on the shape of the joint), sometimes slowly, and sometimes very fast (which is then a ‘manipulation’). 

Human Shld








These movements have many benefits: help to loosen a stiff joint, increase range-of-motion, decrease swelling, decrease pain, and relax muscles. 

Aside from mobilization, Manual Therapy also includes passive stretching, massage, myofascial work (hands on release of tight tissues ) and passive range-of-motion of any affected area.

So how does this apply to dogs??


Other than a few extra vertebrae, a few different muscles, and no collar bone, dogs have very similar anatomy to humans! Dogs can have stiff joints, pain, tight muscles, swollen joints, etc. just like people! Manual Therapy treatment can improve how a dog can move and how it can function! (ie make it easier to get up from lying, to go up stairs, play at the dog park or to navigate weave poles in agility!)…So Manual Therapy is an important part of Rehab for both dogs and humans!


Dog Stretch  Dog Shoulder


There are lots of new fitness and exercise trends for dogs! There are lots of pieces of exercise equipment that help to improve strength, balance, agility, etc. 

Dog Balance   Dog Ball


These are fantastic tools to help target specific areas! But these exercises are not enough on their own! Manual Therapy is a must to ensure that the joints and soft tissues are moving normally to maximize the benefit of the exercise program…otherwise, it is easy to develop compensating patterns of movement, and secondary problems!

A recent study ( Celenay et al, 2016) showed that Manual Therapy AND a muscle stabilization exercise program is more effective than exercise alone for decreasing pain and disability and increasing range-of-motion and quality of life in patients with neck pain! 

Finally, it is important to seek help from Physiotherapists who specialize in Canine Rehabilitation, who are SKILLED at Manual Therapy and who have very detailed understanding of anatomy, joint movement, and rehabilitation. There are 5 very skilled Physiotherapists at the Canine Fitness Centre that can help!

Please call with any questions or to book an appointment for your dog! We would be happy to answer any questions or give further information!


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Tissue Healing

27 Mar 2017

Margaret Kraeling, DPT, CCRT

There has been a lot of interest in regenerative therapy in recent years. This is a very exciting field which could certainly have many implications in our approach to treatment of musculoskeletal injuries both in people and in our canine clients.

Most commonly we are hearing about some very exciting results from the use of stem cells and PRP injections.

PRP (platelet-rich plasma) has a platelet concentration that is 3-8 times higher than in blood which provides an increased availability of growth factors that stimulate the healing process. It will promote stem cell recruitment and directly stimulates collagen production.


The use of stem cell therapy in orthopaedic conditions such as ligament and tendon injuries as well as degenerative joint conditions have shown good results for tissue healing and pain relief. Some studies are showing on MRI, an increase in articular cartilage and meniscus volume. 

The patient’s own stem cells are harvested usually from abdominal fat tissue and occasionally from bone marrow. These are then injected into the area of damage. This is often accompanied by an injection of PRP to further promote growth and differentiation of these cells.

It is exciting to see where these techniques might be in 10 – 20 years!  For now, research is still rather new.


However, those of us in the profession of physiotherapy have been using several approaches to tissue healing for many years. These techniques are well substantiated in the literature.

Laser in particular is extremely beneficial for tissue healing as the results of numerous studies have shown. In addition to providing pain relief, laser can encourage collagen synthesis (a building block of all tissues), improve the strength of ligaments, improve blood supply to healing structures, prevent scar tissue formation at the site of injury, as well as stimulate nerve tissue healing such as following peripheral nerve reconstruction.

There is one very interesting study in which embryonic cells were implanted into a completely severed spinal cord in rats. The area was then irradiated over the skin with laser daily for 14 days postoperatively. The 3-6 month follow up demonstrated a much-improved function as well as histologically showing that the anatomical connection of the previously transected cord was re-created.


Another modality that we frequently use is pulsed electromagnetic field. A variety of studies show that it can benefit many musculoskeletal disorders. Among those are non-union of fractures, tendinopathies, nerve regeneration, osteoporosis, as well as a wide variety of joint disorders.


Shock Wave is one of the newer modalities being used in physiotherapy. It has shown some excellent results in healing of soft tissue as well as stimulating bone cell proliferation. Success rates are reported at 61 – 80% improved function and quality of life following treatment with shock wave on conditions such as rotator cuff, plantar fasciitis and tennis elbow.


In addition to the variety of modalities utilized for tissue healing, there is another very important approach which is the very basis of physical therapy, and that is exercise. Studies on the effect of exercise on connective tissue date back many decades and clearly show that exercise increases the maximum strength of tendons and ligaments and demonstrates an increase in total collagen content. Various types of exercise have been studied including sprint training, endurance work, heavy weight training and eccentric muscle training. In addition, it is important to recognize the importance of the ability of the nervous system to fully activate the muscle – in other words neuromuscular control of functional activity.

Combining therapeutic exercises with some of the modalities discussed above can produce even better results.

The variety of exercise possibilities is limited only by the imagination of the person designing the program! However an exercise program must be designed with specific goals in mind depending on the stage of recovery as well as the long term expectations of functional activity.

My favourite exercises (including for myself personally at the gym!!!!) include a large component of balance or proprioceptive work. We are able to recruit many muscles at the same time as well as work on timing of muscle recruitment and motor control which is important in all functional activities going forward. In the gym we see people working on wobble boards and BOSU ‘balls’. Exactly the same type of equipment is used for the dogs as well as several pieces that are designed for dogs specifically. I like to have the dog place their front feet on one piece of equipment (ie. A BOSU) and their hind feet on another – perhaps a wobble board or an air cushion. From this position, there are many possibilities from simple weight shifting to a diagonal-leg stand where one front leg and the opposite hind leg are lifted and the dog balances on the remaining two. This is rather like the human “superman” exercise but done on an unstable surface. Try it out to see how much of a workout it can be. Add it to your “core strengthening” routine!

3-Leg Wobbly

So, although the idea of regenerative treatments is very exciting, the amount of long term research has still not caught up to the push to provide these procedures. Are we focusing on the right thing?  Or should we be relooking at existing strong and plentiful research that demonstrates tissue healing, and is readily available? There are still many proven approaches to improve tissue healing that we can rely on while these new therapies are being studied.



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