Watch the Ice!! (Especially with Your Senior Dogs!)
12 Mar 2018
By Sue Van Evra, BSc, MSc, BHScPT, Dipl. Canine Rehab.
It’s that time of year again - there is ice almost everywhere you want to walk your dog! The ice poses the risk of slipping and falling for any dog – but especially for our senior dogs.
When dogs slip on the ice and their limbs ‘splay’ whether they fall right down or not, they usually get a quick ‘stretch’ of the soft tissue in the limb. If it is enough of a stretch, it is possible to end up with a sprain (ligament injury) or strain (tendon or muscle injury).
Senior dogs can be at increased risk of injury for a few reasons:
- Decreased flexibility – as dogs age, their soft tissue is typically not as flexible and the joints are not as mobile as in younger dogs – therefore it takes less of a quick stretch to cause an injury.
- Decreased reflexes in the limbs – the older your dog gets, the slower their reflexes become. Proprioception is the body’s sense of position – and awareness of where all of the limbs are all of the time. Normally, when a paw starts to slide on the ice, there are reflexes that signal the muscles in the limb to stop the paw from sliding so that the dog doesn’t fall. When older dogs have decreased proprioception, their muscles are slower to react to a paw that is sliding – so it is easier to incur a sprain or strain.
- Vision changes – it might be more difficult for your senior pup to see the ice patches if their vision is starting to deteriorate.
- Decreased strength – with age, our seniors lose some muscle mass – particularly in the hind end. If they start to slide on ice, even if they have crisp reflexes, they may not have enough strength to ‘correct’ the paw that is sliding.
- Arthritis – your senior dog may be developing some arthritis in his/her joints. If it is painful or there is stiffness in certain joints, they may not be distributing weight equally between the hind limbs or front limbs. This makes the dog less stable when walking (even when there is no ice!)
There are ways to minimize injuries with your senior dog! :
- Consult a Physiotherapist with Certification in Canine Rehabilitation to learn how to improve your dog’s flexibility, strength and reflexes! A Physiotherapist can also assess and treat any areas of pain.
- Regular check – ups with your Veterinarian – to test vision and to offer any medical pain management if needed.
- Joint Health Supplements – there are several supplements available that support joint health. Our favourite is Cetyl M (Cetyl Myristoleate) which decreases joint stiffness, increased range of motion, reduces joint swelling, and reduces pain.
- No-slip products – non- slip outdoor boots can really help. Toe grips are tiny rubber rings that are fitted onto each of your dog’s nails – they provide grip both indoors and outdoors. If your senior dog is slipping inside on the hardwood floor, there are also indoor non-slip socks available.
- Register for the Canine Fitness Centre Senior Dog Class! – this class teaches owners how to prevent injury, increase strength, flexibility, and proprioception/balance. http://caninefitness.com/index.php?pid=66
Be careful out there! We want you to have an injury free season!!