We all know that our four-legged friends get a bit
slower and less agile as they get older.
But should this be dismissed as just being "old age"?
Unfortunately, signs of pain and discomfort such as slowing down on walks, struggling to jump into the car or climb stairs, licking at paws or joints, or seeming depressed or unenthusiastic about normally exciting activities, are all too frequently seen as a normal part of aging and "slowing down." The sad truth is that 80% of dogs over 8 years of age suffer from osteoarthritis, an incurable degenerative joint disease that can prove debilitating, severely impacting quality of life and far too often resulting in premature death.
Thankfully, there are many solutions for managing the chronic pain and quality of life challenges associated with osteoarthritis, and bodywork is an important part of the management plan. When a joint is stiff and painful, the surrounding soft tissues tense up in an attempt to support the joint. However, as the arthritis in the joint progresses, the range of motion will become more restricted and use of the joint will become increasingly painful. This will result in the surrounding muscles losing mass and further destabilizing the arthritic joint. In turn, this will cause muscles in other parts of the body to begin compensating, resulting in a vicious cycle of pain and decreased function.
That is where bodywork comes in. By breaking up the continual cycle of muscle tension and pain, bodywork can help to maintain a better range of motion and function, allowing your dog to enjoy a greater quality of life than otherwise possible. Of course, the management of osteoarthritis must be multi-modal in approach to be most effective, led by your veterinarian and incorporating many different modalities, the foremost of which is controlling your pet's chronic pain.
A great resource for more information on canine arthritis and the multitudinous management options available to owners is Canine Arthritis Management, a UK-based, veterinary-led initiative working to raise awareness of the prevalence of osteoarthritis in our canine companions.