Forget EVERYTHING You Thought You Knew About your Dog.

From Functional Wolves, to Functional Dogs, to Fashionable Dogs.

 

Approximately 15,000 years ago humans and tame wolves communicated for the first time.  I believe that until this point in evolution, humans had not yet acquired the social development for this evolutionary inevitability, where homosapiens and canids realized they were destined to be friends. And as dog-people like myself would agree – best friends.

 

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Fast forward to ancient Mesopotamia (7000-6000 B.C), widely considered the birthplace of civilization, and we see that a new subspecies has evolved – Canis Lupus Familiars, a.k.a the DOG. These breeds consisted mainly of the ancient Greyhounds, Mastiffs and Danes.  They were loved, considered family, and slept indoors.  The  Mesopotamians honoured their dogs in the form of drawings and sculptures, often depicted at the feet of goddesses.

 

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The origin of the word ‘dog’ remains one of the greatest mysteries of English etymology. Some believe the word ‘Dog’ did not evolve organically, but is actually a semi-palindrome of the word ‘God’.

If we fast forward a few more thousand years  –  We find ourselves in England, Circa. 1880. Up to THIS point in history, dog breeding was centred on creating functional dogs. Or dogs bred to perform a job at a level of proficiency that far exceeded human capabilities. This is how all the breeds for hunting, tracking, sledding, pointing, ratting, rescuing, retrieving, guarding, all came to be.

Fundamentally, if a dog is bred to perform a specific task the natural end-result would be a near-perfect dog – with the best combination of biomechanics, strength and natural drive to perform that task extremely well. I believe that since the dog’s natural instincts are being rewarded, it also helps develop the dog’s sense of purpose and value to its owner.

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The onset of the industrial revolution ushered in a whole new era, where the previous 13,000 years of breeding functional dogs went completely off the rails. Function took a backseat to what fashions were trending amongst Victorian middle-class society. Dogs were now considered a fashion statement, in some cases an accessory. They were revered for their physical appearance instead of their natural-born abilities. London was the epicentre for what would eventually become one of the biggest events since homosapiens and canids first befriended. The new hobby known as “Dog Fancy” resulted in an explosion of new dog breeds, as everyone and their uncle was breeding dogs to see what could get the most mass-appeal.

Dog Fashions for 1889

The Victorians also began to re-design many of the pre-existing working breeds to look more ‘aesthetically pleasing’. This of course caused a rapid shift from breeding functional task-oriented dogs to ‘designing’ dysfunctional fashionable dogs. So much attention was given to conformation and proportions, and in some cases – disproportions, that little to no attention was given to the long-term health implications these changes would have. The Dachshund, for example, was modified from its original ‘functional’ proportions to the ‘dysfunctional’ proportions you see below.

 

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The Dog that Changed the Game.

The dachshund, aka ‘weiner-dog’, made its debut in 1600’s Germany. Since this was still in the era of functional dog breeding, the dachshund was selectively bred to have unique proportions and characteristics that enabled it to perform tasks that made life easier for humans. The dachshund was bred for one purpose – Get deep within burrows, drag out a badger, and kill it. Hence the name “Dachshund” (dachs = badger, hund = dog). In order to carry out this daunting, somewhat ruthless, task the dog needed to be relatively cylindrical in dimension, with the strength and audacity required to overthrow and destroy its apposition.

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“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog” – Mark Twain

It may be natural to assume the dachshund’s longer appearance is due to it having a longer spine, but this is simply untrue. In fact, all dog breeds are born with 27 vertebra in their spines (7 Cervical, 13 Thoracic, and 7 Lumbar).

So how else do we explain their weiner-like appearance?

The answer may surprise you…

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Dachshunds are bred with a genetic condition known as Achondroplasia, otherwise known as Dwarfism. There are in fact dozens of dwarf-breeds including the Shih Tzu, Corgi, Pekinese, French bulldog, and Basset hound – to name a fewAs with human-dwarves, dog-dwarves have relatively normal sized spines with disproportionately short and bowed extremities.

 

The indisputable Poster-child for Animal Chiropractic. 

 

 

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The Dachshund’s tiny extremities significantly impacts the way forces are distributed throughout their bodies. Dogs with normal sized extremities, such as those that resemble their wolf ancestors, are able to absorb much of the biomechanical forces of movement in the joints of their front and rear legs. These natural shock absorbers act to significantly decrease the force transmitted throughout the spine and intervertebral discs. Unfortunately for the Dachshund and other dwarf breeds, their disproportionally short extremities are unable to sustainably absorb enough of these biomechanical forces. This is precisely why Dachshunds rank #1 amongst all breeds for disc-related injuries, such as  Disc herniations and Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD). Not surprisingly, dachshunds are also the most common breed to undergo invasive spinal surgery.

Approximately 85% of canine disc herniations occur at the mid-back in an area known as the Thoraco-lumbar region. As you’ll soon learn, this area is prone to chronic injury in all dog breeds but is especially pathological in dachshunds and other dwarf-dogs.

dachsThe Thoraco-lumbar area is a transitional region of the spine, meaning it’s where the Thoracic-spine transitions into the Lumbar-spine. The same is true for the Cervico-thoracic and Lumbo-sacral transitions. Transitional areas are unique because they experience more Shear Force than other areas of the spine.

Shear Force: Unaligned forces pushing one part of a body in one direction, and another part of the body in the opposite direction.

 

The Thoraco-lumbar transition is special because this is where the spinal joint angles abruptly change, from the more horizontal plane of the thoracic joints to the more vertical plane of the lumbar joints. As a consequence, this region experiences contant shear force as it does its best to accommodate the difference movement patterns. The shear force energy is inevitably absorbed by the surrounding joints and soft tissues which causes the area to become stiff and dysfunctional.

 

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This dysfunctional spinal motion can be thought as the X-factor behind disc injuries. Simply put, in order for a disc to remain optimally healthy it requires the vertebra above and below to move properly. Since the disc has a relatively poor blood supply, it relies on this proper movement for the diffusion of nutrients and waste materials in and out of the disc. Dysfunctional spinal movement acts to inhibit this diffusion system, which can result in chronic disc aggravation causing  inflammation, herniation, dehydration, and calcification.

 

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It’s important to understand that conditions like Disc herniation and IVDD are progressive disorders, meaning they occur as the result of chronic dysfunctional joint mobility. A dog will NEVER herniate a healthy disc. In most severe disc cases, in fact, the dog has been treated with NSAIDs or steroids on several occasions before the disc inevitably herniates.

 

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I hope this has opened your eyes to the important role dogs have played in our civilization, and how we did not merely domesticate the dog – we domesticated with dogs. We also need to appreciate that some of the most recent changes we’ve made to dogs has negatively impacted their long-term health, which makes it our responsibility to ensure they live the healthiest and most sustainable life possible. More importantly, I hope it’s inspired you to become more informed of the underlying causes of injury and chronic disease in your pets and explore natural alternatives to optimize their health. So let’s strive to understand what makes our dogs happy and gives them purpose. Let’s bring function back into our dogs lives.

 

For more information about how animal chiropractic can help improve the quality of life of your pet. Visit us at:

thedogjointchiro.com

The Stockyard Chiropractors | The Dog Joint

2567 St Clair West, Toronto ON (Dundas and Runnymede)

info@thedogjointchiro.com         @thedogjointchiro

416-604-2555

 

 

 

6 BEST Ways To Assess Your Pet’s Physical Health!

Dr. Craig Landry, DC, CAC

Certified Animal Chiropractor

 

This guide is to help the average dog-owner better understand their animal’s health as it relates to their mobility. Since many of the conditions that affect our pets are related to the health of their spine and nervous system, it’s important that we all learn the necessary skills to become better informed, empowered, and responsible dog-owners.

Of the thousands of animals my associates and I have treated in practice, I’ve compiled a list of simple and fun methods you can perform at home to help appreciate the importance proper mobility has on your pet’s overall health.

Posture

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Yes – dogs have posture too, and many dogs have “bad” posture. In general, “good” posture means that their back, or ‘top-line’, has a relatively flat appearance from the shoulders to the pelvis. Dysfunctional top-lines are often described as having a “roach” (German Shepherd) or “sway-back” (Pit-bull) appearance. These abnormal postures are the result of mechanical and muscular imbalances, which can negatively affect the function of the nervous system

Roach posture

Sway-back postureAssess your dog’s posture. How does it look?


Stretching

imagesAll dogs and cats have a stretch routine that they instinctually perform daily. This is quite amazing as humans do not have this instinct. These “upward dog” and “downward dog” stretches are extremely important for animals to maintain balance between their ventral and dorsal (front and back) musculature, as well as to maintain proper mobility in their low back and pelvis. Animals that have stopped stretching often do so because of joint stiffness, pain, and muscle spasm. One of my biggest goals when treating senior dogs and cats is to get them to start stretching again.Unknown

Pay close attention to how your pet stretches. Does it do both upward AND downward dog? Is the depth of the stretch equal on both sides?


Shaking-Off

Dogs-Shake-Water-Off-1Our dogs are smarter than we think. We often see dogs shake-off after they wake up from a sleep, or just after they do their ‘stretches’. The purpose of this “dry” shake-off is to mobilize their spines after a period of rest. This rapid rotational movement stimulates their joint capsules to produce synovial fluid, which lubricate joints. Dogs may stop shaking-off for a few different reasons. If they have sustained an acute injury to one or more joints they may stop shaking-off all-of-a-sudden, whereas senior dogs will progressively decrease the frequency and quality of shake-offs due to stiffness and arthritis.

How often does your dog shake-off? Is it a full body shake or is it just the neck and upper body?


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Range of motion can tell us a lot about our pet’s mobility. If joints are restricted or inflamed, they do not move as well as they should. This often causes a decreased range of motion in a particular direction in any region of their spine. Assessing the range of motion in your pet’s neck is both fun and easy. It’s important to remember that all nerve supply to the front legs come from nerves that exit the neck. I often find joint inflammation and restrictions on the same side of the neck as a dog’s front leg limp.

Hold a tasty treat in front of your pets face. Now slowly move the treat around the side of its body to assess how far it is able to rotate. Repeat on the other side. Are they both full and symmetrical?


Temperature

When movement between adjacent joints becomes abnormal it can change the way blood circulates in the area. Acute injury causes increased blood flow and inflammation to surround the area whereas chronic injury can actually decrease blood circulation. Acute injury can be felt as increased temperature on the surface of the skin, or fur. The warmer, the more inflamed. One of the most common places I detect a warm area is in the animal’s mid-back, at an area known as the ‘thoracolumbar region’. This area is especially prone to mechanical stress as the Imagejoints surfaces abruptly change direction at this point.

A simple method to assess temperature change is to slowly run the back of your hand down your pet’s spine. If you notice an area of increased temperature, this could likely be an area that is stiff and inflamed. What do you feel?


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Dogs are “rear-wheel drive”, so to speak. All of their driving force is meant to come from their lower backs, pelvis and hind legs. What happens all too often in older dogs is this propulsion system begins to shut down. As dogs age their joints become stiff and dysfunctional which can cause compression to the nerves that control these hind-end muscles. Over time this results in progressive weakening of their hind-end which in-turn leads them to compensate by using their front legs as a pulling force. For example, we’ve all seen older dogs struggling to pull themselves up from a seated position, or pulling themselves up the stairs. All too often this presentation is ruled as “hip joint arthritis” or “hip dysplasia”.

Watch your pet move around the house. Does it have trouble getting up from lying down? Does it hesitate before jumping or ascending stairs?


Reflex testing

DCIM100SPORTAnimals have nerve endings in their paws that relay information back to the brain about limb position. The sensations picked up by these nerve ending are collectively referred to as “proprioception”. Improper joint mechanics and inflammation can cause compression to these nerves, which can actually stop this pathway from communicating. When this occurs the animal is not able to sense where their paws are in space and they may actually start to walk on their knuckles instead of the pads of their feet.

photo1-1Lift your pet’s paws one at a time and attempt to place their body weight on their knuckles. If your pet allows you to place their paw upside-down without correcting it, it is usually a positive test for advanced proprioception problems. Watch your pet walk. Does it drag any of its limbs along? Does it knuckle or scrape its nails on the sidewalk? Does it have a hard time finding stability on slippery floors.

 

 

For more information about how animal chiropractic can help improve the quality of life of your pet. Visit us at:

thedogjointchiro.com

The Stockyard Chiropractors | The Dog Joint

2567 St Clair West, Toronto ON (Dundas and Runnymede)

info@thedogjointchiro.com         @thedogjointchiro

416-604-2555