Last Updated on July 12, 2022 by Dr. Alisha Barnes

Chiropractic Care for Canine Athletes

Canine athletes have a very large range in how they perform, similar to human athletes. There are numerous sport options available to dogs and their owners. Whether they compete in agility, hunt tests, cani-cross, flyball, lure-coursing, obedience, or any of the many other canine sports, they go into it with their all. As their human teammates, we want them to perform their best in a safe manner and be comfortable doing it.

Dogs who are active in sports increase the physical demand on their body compared to their pet dog counterparts. This increased usage can contribute to injuries sustained in performance. Repetitive movements, such as jumping in dog agility or box turns in flyball, is one common reason why this can occur. The repeated strain on the body of the dog can lead to compensation patterns that affect not only the dog’s ability to perform, but also their comfort in everyday life.

Similar to humans, athletic career longevity for dogs is typically determined by physical condition and injury status. Too often, it is an injury that necessitates retiring a dog from a sport, or sometimes the dog’s body just cannot physically or safely perform in the sport they love.

Chiropractic can help however.

Here are 3 major benefits to chiropractic care for the canine athlete:

Optimal Performance

When the musculoskeletal system is fully functioning in top form, it leads to optimal performance. When there is joint restriction and muscular tension in the mid back, for example, the weave poles become very difficult for an agility dog, and often are performed incompletely or slower than usual. When those joints and muscles are functioning at their best, faster and more efficient performance can be expected.

Injury Prevention

Chiropractic care helps to keep the body in balance and can identify potential problem areas before they become an injury. Unfortunately, it is commonly realized a dog needs chiropractic care once they are already limping, as an example. It may not have been noticed that they were not smoothly performing their box turn at flyball practice because their shoulder was sore, and now there is an injury significant enough it has created a limp. When we are actively working to optimize the body’s functions, subtle changes such as a restriction in shoulder movement or increased tension in the area are noticed. Identifying imbalances in muscles and joint restrictions early leads to less injuries over the course of a career. The best way to treat an injury is to prevent it from happening in the first place.

Faster Recovery

As much as we would love to be able to prevent all injuries for our canine athletes, they can and do still occur. In addition to the injury itself, commonly there is also compensation for the injury throughout the rest of the body until the injury heals. When a lure-coursing dog strains a tendon in its leg resulting in a limp and muscle imbalance in its back, it can be out of the game for quite a while to allow the tendon and muscle to heal. On top of that, it may be out of the game even longer due to the compensations that affected its body while it was healing. When we have the musculoskeletal system already fully functioning and then support the body through the healing process, it allows for not only faster healing of the injured area, but also a faster return to sport as the dog’s system is better able to recover from the compensations affecting it.

Canine athletes are ideal candidates for chiropractic care. By helping their body function at a peak physical level, chiropractic can aid in optimal performance, help prevent injuries and aid faster recovery from injuries when they do occur. For many dogs, the advantage of chiropractic care can add months or even years of longevity to their career in the sport they love with the human partner they adore.

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