Category Archives: K9 P.E.

DON’T NEGLECT CARDIO

The craze of dog fitness is often accompanied by images of tremendous feats of dogs on bizarre workout equipment or working in the living room on Fitpaws equipment. And, while yes, strength training is important (especially so for the aging dog and the performance athletes), you can not meet a dog’s cardio needs inside the house.

Ok, there are the few exceptions, like the people with a dogtread (don’t think you can put a medium (or bigger) sized dog on a human treadmill…it’s too short) or who live in some indoor field. But, for the normal people out there, you are going to have to get your dog out somewhere where they can run AND get yourself a set of wheels.

True cardio involves getting that heart-rate up and keeping it up. What my dogs do on the hike is intense intervals. Run around and play then mellow out with some trotting and sniffing. Sprint then lay down and stare at the toy, sprint then sniff.  Another might track and chase and track and chase…with check ins and engagement time. I had a hiking business and took my dogs (along with client dogs) out religiously so when I was training for my CCAS I was resistant to the idea that this was not cardio. What caused me to appreciate the difference between high intensity intermittent exercise and a cardio workout? Seeing how demanding cardio was for them. Trotting non-stop could workout these dogs that normally ran many miles with high intensity intervals and what seemed to me to be “non-stop running” while hiking. There’s a difference big difference when you eliminate the recovery period (where the dogs sniff and catch their breath). There’s also a notable difference in mechanics when a dog is trotting vs bounding at higher speed gaits. A dog’s pelvis swings in a different way and the whole movement is symmetrical.

I’m not saying that you should cancel your hikes or other interval training…but you most certainly should add regular cardio to your routine. This means you, too, are going to have to get moving (and, for that matter, your conditioning coach should be in reasonable shape, too). For most dogs in their prime (not  the dogs that can’t keep up on a walk and not the dogs that are too young (which for some big breed dogs might mean well over 2 years!)), you’re going to need a set of wheels to keep up with your dog. There are those few athletic humans who like to run (not jog, but RUN) who may provide a smaller dog adequate exercise without wheels. But, for us regular folk, we are going to need wheels. A bike, something electric like a golf cart, whatever you can operate that works.

Aside from starting very slow (like 1mi and increasing only 10% at a time) and making this a consistent thing (which we humans are miserable at) and getting out there rain or shine, you’re going to need an amount of training on your dog to be able to pull this off. I see so many people who struggle trying to get their dogs passed other dogs or to heed a recall or otherwise pay attention to them who would be in trouble if they were no longer standing on the ground and instead were trying to steer a bicycle while handling their dog.

Playing fetch is a sprinting game that is haunted by sudden accelerations, decels, and changes of direction that will damage important parts of your dog’s anatomy (even if you never see signs of an injury…there are dogs competing at the top levels of performance sports and winning that, when examined (usually only brought in because something was “off”), sometimes have unbelievable (and often bilateral) ligament damage). Trust me, it is our responsibility to get out there and get the dogs some cardio. Cardio is low impact (read: good exercise without the risk of the dog pulling something), has most of the great health benefits that come to mind when you think about how good exercise is, and offers BIOLOGICAL FULFILLMENT…a key component to a rich and functional life with and for your dog.

Need help training your dog? Most people do. Let us help you train for the real world using positive strategies.

UPDATE: YOU MAY NOT NEED SURGERY

In my post about my dogs’ mystery injury, I explain that 1 of my dogs had a subtle and hard to diagnose knee ligament injury and that after a lot of hunting around for information, I opted to have surgically “repaired”. At the time, it was presented to me by all authorities that ligaments cannot heal properly. Recently though, I attended a seminar where Canapp presented his successes healing dogs with 50% or less damage of ligament injuries. (You can hunt them down at VOSM). According to Sherman, they arrived at the 50% severity cutoff in order to have enough successful cases in their first studies. However, there is quite possibly hope for even greater damage to be healed.

The regenerative techniques involve a multi-pronged approach. They are able to go in arthroscopically and, if I remember correctly, treat the area with a laser and get the tissue to tighten up. In conjunction, they are using PRP as a scaffold for the BMC (bone marrow stem cells) with the result of successfully activating this area that normally does not have adequate bloodflow and supply of nutrients to repair itself. There’s a lot more to it than I can do justice. My priority with putting this post out is to make sure that anyone looking for this information knows there’s not only hope, but that regenerative medicine has advanced to a degree that it is likely the superior course of action at this time.

I’m really upset that I have a dog with altered angles to her knees. I can see how it has changed her structure. As a rule, I try not to disturb Nature. Nature knows more than we can with our reductionist techniques and it is lamentable how many surgeries are performed in society today which fail to heal the patient’s problematic causes while saddling them with side effects. So often people do not have the best information and the operating doctor/vet is trusted implicitly as an authority, though too many are not practicing functional medicine.

Now I struggle with fallout from that operation in spite of the fact that I had the best surgeon I could find and the surgery went very well. I tried to make the best decision for her and in spite of my reluctance to opt for surgery. There are times when surgery is the best option…I’m afraid this may not have been one of them.

MYSTERY INJURY

My Border Collie Irie had the most subtle indication of lameness before she even finished growing. She would limp for the blink of an eye and then walk and move perfectly normal. There were times that I wondered if I imagined it.

This was my 2nd dog with a mysterious ailment. Another BC had some sort of shoulder thing that his adrenaline would mask so well that I was convinced he was sound after studying him like a hawk before deciding to let him exercise. Neither dog had been properly diagnosed (not for lack of trying) and I would give up and just try and rest Irie, put her agility training on hold, and whenever she looked sound for a while, I’d try again. This went on for 5 years of her life until she got up with a more pronounced lameness (walking on 3 legs upon waking (which she walked off!)). It was then that I renewed my efforts to figure out what was going on.

In an attempt to locate exactly where she was hurting, I thought, maybe if I practice lots of different conditioning exercises I can pinpoint where the weakness is. I scoured the internet, so hungry for information. I took different courses, including a detailed certification program, and still couldn’t find all the answers I wanted. There isn’t a lot of good research on dogs (with most of it geared towards sleddogs or racing hounds). But, I did learn a lot. While this didn’t solve my dog’s mystery injury, it did giving me a deep comprehension of physical fitness…a real asset to myself and my students!

Meanwhile, thanks to the gifted Dr Patti Schaeffer, I heard of a very experienced vet, who, and it kills me to say this, told me that it was so clearly a CCL insufficiency that even his intern could have diagnosed it. What the hell?! Anyway, without going into why did the other professionals fail to help, I was relieved to finally know what was wrong, though bummed to find out that my best friend needed SERIOUS knee surgery.

For those of you who are in such a position, let me say that I had gone back and forth on getting imaging done (with varying opinions and being discouraged by some) and was about to spend a fortune on the wrong kind of imaging when Scott Gustafson informed me that the most certain way to look at those ligaments is arthroscopically. So, Irie went in to get scoped and, if it proved to be a CCL problem, she’d get the surgery then and there.

I’ve done so much homework on this injury and know that a lot of dogs blow out their other side, and wondered if it made sense to scope the opposite side while she was under…unless it was too invasive. He said he’d only scope it if I would proceed with surgery for that knee, as well. My mind was blown. I stood in the locker room of the community pool with my toddler laying on the changing table, holding the phone and trying to ask all the right questions before deciding to go ahead with TPLO surgery on both knees at the same time!! I had tried to take my kid swimming to take my mind off of my best friend going under the knife. I was such a wreck, forgetting my zip code while trying to fill gas the morning and totally stressed out.

Long story short (I may post some writing about how the the surgery and post-op went down), the vet was very skilled at what he did. Irie has excellent ROM and tucks her rear very neatly under. We also injected PRP to assist with the repair. I think doing both knees at the same time was definitely the way to go for me and this dog. Although, it made me a total mess as I fretted over every little thing because, by gosh, she had her leg bones sawed and bolted back together!!!

I’m normally not a fan of surgery. But, the mechanics of a dog’s knee are such that this surgery makes sense. Also, ligaments cannot heal properly but bone can.

I was totally freaked out about doing this surgery, because it sounds like a cruel and crazy thing to do. But, Irie is definitely better than she was or would have ever been. Part of my resistance to the surgery was due to the fact that if you saw my dog move prior to the surgery, you would NOT be able to tell that she had any problem. She moved better than a lot of dogs do on their best day. But, a few months after the surgery and studying how she moves I can see a difference and going back in time I could have recognized that she wasn’t doing as well as it seemed. Because I have an eye for quadruped movement (over 10,000 hours) and knowing this dog so well, I can see a pronounced difference in how well she moves in her low back now. She’s very lithe and that area has so much more movement while before she held that area tight to compensate for the insufficient support through the knees. Read an update about how you may not need surgery here. 

I have to end with a little public service announcement about NOT letting your dog blow out her knees. No more chuck it! Stop letting your dog slip (on stairs, where you could have runners, etc). You can’t prevent all slips, but you definitely can stop a lot of them). Teach your dog to run around something so you can send your dog to run out and circle back and run TO you to get the reward. Not only can you present the toy at a safe location (up rather than on the ground, etc), you are building value for running back to you. It takes some training but you’ll be able to get your dog excited about running out to go around a tree (or whatever) with a whole cascade of endorphins without risking the crazy pursuit of the ball (which is so tantalizing when it bounces off erratically that it absolutely causes a lot of dogs to strain, tear and/ rupture the fibers of their body). If you have a high energy dog that wants to chase, you are almost guaranteed that dog will injure himself chasing things. Learn how to play smart and take care with your best friend. I used to think, “They’re dogs…they’ll be fine.” But, they are only human (or whatever the dog equivalent to that saying is;). They are not invincible and despite the fact that these athletes rip around like nuts and seem OK, the truth is that dogs have lots of undiagnosed and underdiagnosed injuries. Scar tissue builds up with repeated injuries and the area gets more and more compromised. The more you know, the more you need to make the appropriate adjustments…and get your dog in top condition!