Canine Physiotherapy is an effective method to improve a dogs proprioception
Like many German Shepherds this dog is showing signs of weakness in her hindquarters. She comes to Canine Therapies to swim on a regular basis but we also work with her on various canine physiotherapy exercises to help maintain her awareness of her paws. This awareness is called proprioception.
Using a rocker board (A common canine physiotherapy tool) she has to constantly adjust her balance, which stimulates the nerves and muscles of the hindquarters.
German Shepherds are prone to a disease affecting the spine known as degenerative myelopathy, shortened to DM (it used to be known as CDRM) and many also have painful arthritic conditions which also can be helped by maintaining mobility and strength through canine physiotherapy exercise.
Some of the canine physiotherapy exercises we use at Canine Therapies can easily be repeated at home using everyday items such as the cushions from the settee, or a folded duvet, which can feel unstable to walk on, and really work those muscles and nerve pathways of the hindquarters.
The rocker board can be used either for hind legs or front legs, as shown in the photos, which
can still add to the weight-bearing of the hindquarters.
Many large breeds, such as German Shepherds, have more angulation of the hock and stifle joints than other breeds, and as they become weaker with age, injuries are more common because the muscles and ligaments are less able to support joints firmly enough.
Swimming, and canine physiotherapy exercises designed for either proprioceptive problems or generalised weakness, can delay the onset of some of the age-related problems in German Shepherds and other large breeds.
Testing the reactions of paws “knuckling over” is a good indicator of whether a problem is related to the nerve pathways. By picking up a hind limb and placing the paw down on its knuckles rather than on its pads, the speed at which the dog corrects the position of its paw indicates how well the nerves are responding.
We can show owners of affected dogs suitable exercises to help to slow down the degenerative process and keep them active and mobile for longer.
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