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Clinical Canine Massage Treatment
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Orthopaedic Conditions


Definition of Osteoarthritis:

Osteoarthritis derives from “osteo” (bone), “arthr(o)” (joint/articulation) and “itis” (inflammation).  It is a chronic degenerative disease that produces inflammation and pain in the joints.  It usually affects load bearing joints such as the shoulder, elbow, hip and stifle joints.


Cause of Osteoarthritis:

Primary Osteoarthritis is usually age related, i.e. general wear and tear of the joint or degeneration of the cartilage in the joint which causes friction between the bones of the joint.  Over time, the edges of the joint thicken and cause bony spurs to form.  It is the most common cause of pain, inflammation, stiffness and loss of mobility in elderly dogs.  Osteoarthritis is also common where it occurs as a result of other conditions that place the joints under stress, i.e. obesity, congenital abnormalities/poor bone conformation, orthopaedic conditions, such as hip dysplasia or sustained trauma to a joint i.e. cruciate ligament damage.


Symptoms of Osteoarthritis:

o     Stiffness (especially in the morning)

o     Difficulty in sitting, standing or rising from a lying position

o     Less active or reluctant to exercise

o     Decreased mobility in cold/damp or very humid conditions

o     Reluctance to jump or go up and down stairs

o     Lethargy, depression or anxiety

o     Muscle spasma

o     Inflammation and/or swelling of a joint

o     Pain on palpation or movement of a joint

o     Creaking or grinding of a joint

   Altered gait – lameness or favouring of a limb due to overcompensation


Benefits of Canine Massage – Osteoarthritis

·          Improves circulation and boosts metabolism

·          Increases the suppleness of surrounding muscles

·          Eases pain and reduces inflammation

·          Relieves tension and relaxes stiff muscles

·          Reduces discomfort associated with overcompensation

·          Improves flexibility and mobility

·          Promotes or maintains range of motion of the joint

·          Breaks the pain-tension-pain cycle

·          May assist in the slowing down of the degenerative process



Definition of Spondylosis:

Spondylosis (also known as Ankylosing Spondylitis) is an age related, degenerative disease of the intervertebral discs in which bone spurs (osteophytes) form on the ventral parts of the vertebrae. It is often associated with osteoarthritis.  Spondylosis begins when the fibres making up the outer portion of the intervertebral discs break down causing the inner disk material to protrude, stretching the ligament and promoting the growth of bony spurs. These bony spurs grow, narrowing the space between the vertebrae until a bridge is formed. If many vertebrae are affected several such bridges can form causing the vertebrae to become fused together, resulting in pain, loss of flexibility and possible motor and sensory disturbance. 


Cause of Spondylosis:

Spondylosis is idiopathic (meaning that the exact cause is unknown) but it mainly affects middle aged and older dogs.  It is thought that some factors may cause predisposition to the condition, i.e. genetic predisposition, trauma to the spine, repeated pregnancies and weakening of the surrounding muscle and/or ligaments.


Symptoms of Spondylosis:

In mild cases there may be no clinical signs but as the condition progresses you may see:-

·          Limited flexibility and range of motion

·          Signs of pain when twisting or turning

·          Difficulty walking or lameness

·          Exhibiting areas of tenderness

·          Unwillingness to sit

·          Loss of balance

·          Atrophy of muscles over the affected area

·          Loss of proprioception in the pelvic limb

·          Roaching of the back

·          Protuberances on the spine


Benefits of Massage – Spondylosis

·          Relieves tension and stiffness in the spinal muscles

·          Promotes suppleness of muscles to better support the spine

·          Reduces pain, including referred pain

·          Soothes areas of overcompensation

·          Improves flexibility and mobility




Luxating Patella, which is also known as “trick knee” or “floating kneecap,” is a condition in which the patella dislocates and slides out of its normal position.  The patella should ride smoothly up and down the trochlea groove of the femur. In luxation, the  patella dislocates and moves out of the groove sideways either medially, the most common type and usually found in small breed dogs, or laterally, more unusual and usually found in large breed dogs.  This causes the leg to “lock up” until such time as it pops back into position.  Pain is caused by the patella sliding across the ridges of the trochlea groove.

Cause of Luxating Patella:

·          Genetic predisposition

·          Conformational issues in the rear limbs

·          Developmental malformation of the trochlea of the femur, i.e. the groove is too shallow

·          Incorrect positioning of the patella ligament attachment to the tibia

·          Previous trauma to the knee such as a fall or collision 

Symptoms of Luxating Patella:

o     Hopping and skipping gait

o     Yelping in pain during movement and pulling limb off the ground

o     Possible shaking or extending of limb before regaining full use

o     Carrying a limb before returning to normal activity around 10 minutes later

o     Lack of natural movement in the stifle joint

o     Intermittent lameness which becomes more frequent

o     Popping sound on flexion\extension of stifle joint       


Benefits of Canine Massage -  Luxating Patella:

·          Relieves referred pain caused by overcompensation

·          Reduces compensatory tension and stiffness from the back

·          Lengthens and stretches the muscles that attach or insert around the patella 

·          Promotes mobility

·          Promotes natural healing following surgery



Definition of Hip Dysplasia:

Dysplasia originates from the Greek words “dys” (disordered or abnormal) and “plassein” (to form).  Hip Dysplasia is the term used to describe the abnormal or faulty formation and development of the hip joint or coxofemoral joint.  It is a Degenerative, painful disease in which the ball and socket joint of the hip does not articulate correctly.  The femoral head should sit snugly in the socket but   with Hip Dysplasia, it does not sit as deeply or as tightly as it should, resulting in a poor fit and loose movement.  As a result, the synovial fluid in the joint capsule increases, the supporting ligament is overstretched causing further laxity while the articular cartilage of the joint degenerates.  This causes  pain and inflammation and further destabilises the joint.  Osteoarthritis is almost always inevitable.


Cause of Hip Dysplasia:

Hip Dysplasia is the most commonly inherited orthopaedic disease in dogs but it is also multifactorial, involving other factors such as rapid growth or weight, trauma to the hip joint during growth i.e. excessive exercise, lifestyle factors, i.e. bedding, flooring etc., lack of good musculature around the joint.


Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia:

o     Bunny hopping when walking or running

o     Abnormal wobbly, swaggering gait

o     Aversion to strenuous exercise

o     Reluctance to climb stairs or to jump

o     Stiffness, especially in the morning

o     Difficulty rising from a sitting or prone position

o     Limping or lameness after exercising

o     Yelping in pain

o     Clicking sound when walking

o   “Shuffling” of hind paws along the ground rather than lifting them

o     Underdeveloped muscles in the pelvic area

o     Inflammation of joints

Benefits of Massage - Hip Dysplasia

·          Provides pain relief and reduces inflammation

·          Relieves compensatory muscle tension

·          Strengthens the muscles around the hip joint

·          Alleviates stiffness and improves flexibility

·          Reduces lameness and improves mobility

·          Improves overall disposition and returns dogs enthusiasm for life



Definition of Elbow Dysplasia:

Elbow Dysplasia is a condition in which there are developmental abnormalities of one or more of the bones and cartilage that form the elbow joint.  It is a multifactorial disease in which genetic predisposition is the most common cause.

Elbow Dysplasia mostly affects intermediate and large breeds and normally manifests in puppies aged 4-10 months, although symptoms may not appear until adulthood. 

·     Cause of Elbow Dysplasia

There are 4 developmental causes of Elbow Dysplasia:-

·    Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD) - A defect in the calcification process of growing cartilage causing it to calcify irregularly. 

·    United Anconeal Process (UAP) - In puppies, the anconeal process fails to ossify and fuse with the main body of the ulna but rather it forms a separate bone.

·    Fragmented Coronoid Process (FCP) – One of the two coronoid processes cracks and separates from the ulna, resulting in a floating piece of bone that can irritate and grind away at the cartilage of the humerus.

·     Incongruity of Growth – Unequal growth of the three bones that form the elbow, the humerus, radius and ulna, due to natural formation causes incorrect articulation and abnormal wear and tear on the joint.

·       Other causes/factors:-

·       Genetic Predispoition

·       Rate of growth

·       Poor nutrition

·       Excessive or inappropriate exercise when young, i.e. climbing stairs or jumping

·     Trauma to the joint

·         All forms of elbow dysplasia result in joint instability, restricted range of motion, pain and subsequently, osteoarthritis.


Symptoms of Elbow Dysplasia:

o     Lameness that worsens after exercise

o     Abducted or adducted elbow

o     Paws may rotate outwards

o     Excessive paddling or flipping of front paws

o     Tiredness or laziness

o     Stiffness upon rising

o     Swelling around joints

o     Creaking or grinding of joint

o      Muscle atrophy

o      Benefits of Massage – Elbow Dysplasia:

·          Provides pain relief

·          Reduces inflammation

·          Relieves compensatory muscle tension

·          Strengthens the muscles around the elbow joint

·          Alleviates stiffness and reduces lameness

·          Reduces spasms and trigger points

·          Pre-surgery conditioning and post-operative rehabilitation




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