Benefits of Manual Therapy to Sporting Dogs

Being able to practice a sport with your dog is a great way of bonding together and getting enough exercise for him/her. However, just like with any athlete, injuries can happen, and manual therapy can help, even when you think it couldn’t!

From September 2014 to September 2015, Sophie wrote her end of degree dissertation about racing greyhounds, and we have both been lucky enough to meet a trainer and work with those dogs throughout the year. We have also been in contact with Brighton Flyball and had the chance to watch a few of their training sessions and as a result are sharing with you a bit more about how osteopathy can help before, during and after a sporting career.

Preventative techniques

The use of osteopathic techniques should mostly be preventative. Normally when you spot a problem with your dog, the development of that probably actually started a long time ago (unless it’s an acute problem/trauma), and it is only when the body can’t cope anymore that it becomes visual. Therefore, having regular check-up sessions is beneficial and can prevent some of these injuries.

Manual therapy helps the body to rebalance itself after every little trauma. In the specific case of sport, dogs are often asked to do repetitive movements. For example greyhounds always turn on their left side. With time, the repetitive strains will create an imbalance within the muscle masses and a restriction of movement for some joints.

By rebalancing the body, osteopathy can prevent your dog from suffering repetitive strain injuries (RSI). Like with human athletes, sporting dogs would need more therapy sessions than usual family dogs as their body is put under much more strain.

Our knowledge of the anatomy and physiology allows us to give you some advice on warming up and cooling down techniques, among other things. These techniques are important to get the body ready for exercise and to avoid injuries. Some soft tissue techniques applied by the therapist can also help prepare the body to work at full capacity before a competition.

Dealing with injury and scarring

When an injury occurs, osteopathic techniques will help the body to recover faster and to better restore as before. This is done by stimulation of the immune system. We would also make sure that the injured area gets a good blood and nerve supply in order to quicken the recovery time.

Specific scar tissue techniques help the new fibres to realign in the right direction and reduce the density of the scar tissue. The balance of the whole body will also be investigated, we want to find the cause of the problem and also work on the existing compensations. This will allow a quicker and more efficient recovery.

Some of the racing dogs we have been working with showed improved results after receiving a session. The health of the body can really affect the performance of the animal at work and play.

For example in flyball, if your dog has restriction of movement in their back, it can no longer extend and arch to its fullest. This will result in smaller strides and smaller jumps which means worse performance in the sport. If your dog suddenly has a loss of performance or cannot perform actions he used to, something may be wrong within his body and a check-up is probably needed.

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