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Canine conditions

Most conditions can be manged and improved with the use of physical therapy alongside their veterinary care. Here are some common conditions that affect many dogs. Dont worry if your dogs diagnosed condition isnt on here just drop me a message to find out how I can help your dog!

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Elbow Dysplasia

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Hip Dysplasia 

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Lumbosacral stenosis 

CCL rupture

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Degenerative myelopathy 


Luxating Patella

Elbow Dysplasia

What is Elbow dysplasia? 

Elbow dysplasia is an umbrella term for the abnormal development of the elbow joint. This eventually leads to arthritic changes. The dysplasia and the arthritis can both cause pain. This condition is a genetic condition which involved 3 bones that usually interlink normally. An abnormality in the link creates points of increased pressure causing damage to the cartilage that protects the joints. This can lead to further damage of the underlying bone.

This is a common condition especially in large breeds. 

Symptoms of elbow dysplasia: 

  • Forelimb lameness

  • stiffness after exercise

  • reduced weight bearing on forelimbs

  • paw rotation

  • muscle wastage 

Treatment of elbow dysplasia:

Many cases of elbow dysplasia can be managed conservatively with controlled exercise, weight management, electrophysical agents and physiotherapy. 

Physiotherapy includes massage therapy to manage compensatory pains, electrophysical agents to help with pain and inflammation and physiotherapy techniques such as joint mobilisations. 

Dogs that fail to respond well to conservative management may need surgery. 

There are three key types of surgery:

- Fragment removal

- Incongruency surgery

- Salvage surgery

Outcome of treatment is variable with most dogs living satisfactory lives, the biggest influencing factor is managing weight, exercise and pain levels. As your physiotherapist I can help with weight management - I have scales in the clinic to monitor this. I can help with managing diet and snacks alongside changes to exercise routines and the home environment. 

Hip Dysplasia 

What is hip dysplasia? 

Hip dysplasia is an umbrella term for the abnormal development of the ball and socket joint of the hip. This is a genetic disorder and generally occurs during the first few months of life when the hips are developing. Abnormal forces on the ball and socket joint cause flattening of the ball joint or shallowing of the socket joint and can cause damage of the covering of the bones. The damage to the cartilage causes secondary arthritis.

  • Hind limb lameness

  • Stiffness after exercise

  • Difficulty rising

  • Reluctance to jump or exercise

  • A rolling hind limb motion in young dogs

  • Restlessness

  • Moaning

  • Licking over the hip

Symptoms of hip dysplasia:

  • Post surgery or if painful -  the initial stages (24 hours-2 weeks) physiotherapy is used to address any possible swelling, reduce pain, maintain soft tissue flexibility and muscle mass. Physiotherapy tools might include ice therapy, massage, laser, joint range of motion exercises, stretches and careful limb loading exercises.

  • Following this phase (2 weeks – 6 weeks) more progressive exercises are utilised to enhance gait patterning, balance and coordination and hind limb muscle strengthening. At this stage as well as land-based exercises being progressed.

  • Following a 6-week post-operative assessment by the orthopaedic surgeon, the physiotherapy exercises can again be progressed and more active exercises involving hills and inclines, alternating speeds and change of direction are introduced.

Treatment of hip dysplasia:

IVDD - intervertebral disc disease

What is IVDD

A more common term for Intervertebral disc disease is a ‘slipped disc’ in the back. The discs are the structures between the bones of the spine that act as shock absorbers.

Discs in dogs degenerate as they get older – just like people. This process results in the discs becoming dehydrated and losing their cushioning effect. They may then ‘slip’ in one of two ways:

  1. Hansen Type I - The material in the centre of the disc can come out of the fibrous ring and injure the spinal cord

  2. Hansen Type II - The fibrous ring may thicken and compress the spinal cord

Symptoms of IVDD

  • Sudden inability to walk

  • Back pain

  • Reluctance to jump or climb

  • Tense abdomen

  • Mild weakness or incoordination of the back legs

  • Incontinence

Treatment of IVDD:

Many different physiotherapeutic modalities can be employed when rehabilitating a dog undergoing conservative management of IVDD. Possible options might include – laser, or and cold therapy, massage, range of motion exercises and stretches, muscle stimulation, hydrotherapy, home exercise programme and advice re: injury prevention.

Lumbosacral stenosis 

What is lumbosacral stenosis? 

Lumbosacral stenosis is a spinal condition of dogs that is similar to a ‘slipped disc’ or ‘sciatica’ in people. Many patients with lumbosacral stenosis can be managed successfully with conservative treatment, sometime surgery is necessary to relieve the pressure on trapped nerves.

Lumbosacral stenosis is a neurological condition where nerves at the base of the spine are compressed by a bulging disc or other tissues. Ageing may result in dehydration and degeneration of this disc which may then bulge and compress or ‘trap’ regional nerves. The resultant narrowing of the canal in the spine or the exit holes between the bones is referred to as stenosis

What are the signs? 

  • Back pain

  • Reluctance to jump and climb

  • Difficulty rising

  • Hind limb lameness

  • Incontinence

  • Reduced tail movement

How is it treated? 

This condition generally can be managed conservatively.

Weight management is essential.

Controlled exercise and avoiding activities such as jumping, climbing, twisting and turning. 

Your vet will likely provide painkillers or anti-inflammatories. 

Physiotherapy will help manage compensatory issues, it will also help manage pain and inflammation with the use of massage and electrotherapies. 

Therapeutic exercises can be used to help mobilise the spine to improve range of motion in the spine.

Surgery may be required for more severe cases. 

Cranial cruciate ligament rupture (CCL)

What is a CCL rupture? 

The cranial cruciate ligament is an important ligament inside the knee (stifle joint). It plays an important role in stabilising the stifle during weight bearing. It prevents the shin bone moving forwards relative to the thigh bone. 

This ligament can undergo degenerative changes that can weaken it prior to rupture. The reason for this is not clearly understood. Certain breeds such as Labradors and rottweilers are more commonly affected than others. 

What are the signs? 

  • Sudden or gradual hind limb lamenesss

  • lameness evident after exercise

  • difficulty rising and jumping

  • clicking noises from the joint

How is it treated? 

Some dogs with CCL rupture can be managed satisfactorily without the need for surgery – this is called conservative management. The smaller the dog, the more likely it is that this approach will be successful. Exercise needs to be restricted. Hydrotherapy is often beneficial. Dogs that are overweight benefit from being placed on a diet. 

Many medium, large and giant breed dogs with CCL rupture benefit from surgery. The key types of surgery are:

The outlook or prognosis with CCL rupture is quite variable. Unfortunately all dogs with CCL rupture develop osteoarthritis. This can result in permanent lameness and stiffness in some cases.

Physiotherapy includes massage, range of motion exercises, electrophysical agents, therapeutic exercises and guidance of management of the home environment and exercise regime.

Luxating patella

What is Patella luxation?

The patella is the knee cap of the dog and is a small bone that is positioned between the quadriceps muscle and a tendon that attaches to the shin bone. The patella glides in a groove at the end of the thigh bone as the knee flexes and extends.

Occasionally the patella slips out of the groove which is the luxation part. It commonly luxates towards the inside (medially) of the knee but lateral luxation can also occur. 

The patella luxates because it is not aligned properly with the underlying groove, this results in abnormal tracking or movement of the patella. This can also be worsened with poor function of the quadriceps mechanism and also is associated with a ruptured cranial cruciate ligament. 

What are the signs? 

  • Skipping or hopping action in one or both hind limbs

  • bow legged or knock kneed appearance

  • difficulty walking

  • crouched appearance 

How is it treated? 

Some dogs can be managed conservatively, the smaller the dog and the lower the grade of luxation the more successful this will be. Overweight dogs will need to have their diet managed and weight reduced.

Controlled exercises are used to improve the strength of the muscles around the stifles which can improve the condition. Home environment must be managed with no jumping up or down and slippery surfaces to be covered. This can all be discussed at your appointment. 

Dogs that cannot manage may benefit from surgery. 

The three key surgeries are:

- Quadriceps realignment surgery

- Trochlea groove deepening surgery

- Femoral osteotomy surgery 

Exercise following femoral osteotomy must be restricted until the cut bone has healed. Exercise following surgery must be restricted and increased in a controlled manner. Therapeutic exercises can be prescribed in order to prevent joint disuse and improve function of the limb. 

Degenerative myelopathy

What is degenerative myelopathy? 

Degenerative myelopathy is a chronic progressive degenerative neurological disease that occurs in several breeds.

There is no known cause or treatment but therapies and supportive treatments help prolong lifespan and comfort of the dog. This condition generally isn't associated with pain. 

What are the signs? 

  • - Asymmetric gait

  • - loss of muscle tone

  • - Hindlimb weakness

  • - Hindlimb incoordination 

What are the treatments? 

The only treatment proven to improve quality of life and extend survival time is physiotherapy and supportive care. Animals that can still walk are encourage to perform exercises to reduce the amount of muscle loss and maintain proprioception for a long as possible. Laser therapy may also be used, new research is suggesting laser therapy helps maintain nerve function for longer. Dogs that are becoming immobile are supported with slings and other aids order to keep them comfortable. Maintaining hygiene is paramount and ensuring that they are moved to prevent sores. Physiotherapists are also here to help at end of life management. 

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