Owning a dog comes with great responsibility and ensuring they live happy, healthy, long lives under our care, is all we can hope for. As we discussed In a previous blog post, the risk of an acute injury occurring is always present and can’t be completely eradicated. But, there are many things you, as an owner, can do to minimise the risk as much as possible.
Of course, certain breeds have higher risks for certain pathologies. For example, chondrodystrophic breeds (think little legs), such as the French bulldog and Dachshund have an incredibly high risk of suffering from an acute disc protrusion or IVDD. Whereas, toy breeds (which make up a huge proportion of the Hong Kong dog population) such as mini poodles and Maltese have a high chance of struggling with the effects of luxating patella.
This post aims to give dog owners some general advice on what they can do at home, during playtime and during feeding time to try to minimise injury risk.
The vast majority of homes in Hong Kong are apartments and have either wooden or tiled flooring. Great for keeping cool in the heat, but not so great for fluffy little paws trying to get a good grip!
Putting down rugs, runners, and non-slip matting in high-traffic areas, especially areas where dogs might jump on or off furniture is a great way to reduce injuries from slipping and is especially important for post-operative dogs returning home after surgery.
Off-furniture rules can seem mean, especially if you have an affectionate dog that loves a cuddle. But jumping on and off furniture can cause unnecessary pressure and load on joints, especially for toy breeds who are jumping around 4-5x their body height. If you have a toy breed or a small dog, I would try to teach them to stay off furniture in general and only allow them on if they are picked up. If this doesn’t work then try getting a ramp or mini set of stairs for them to climb on safely.
Ball throwing, stick throwing, Frisbee throwing. Please stop repeatedly throwing things for your dog. There is a huge amount of joint torque, excessive load and spinal rotation involved with chasing a ball or catching a frisbee in the air. Whilst this may seem beneficial in terms of burning energy, mental stimulation, and your dog living their best life, it can result in issues like repetitive strain injuries, acute spinal injuries and acute ligament ruptures.
Safer ways to mentally stimulate your dog and burn some energy include: allowing your dog to sniff more on leashed walks, hiding their ball, toy or treats and making them ‘go seek’ on off-leash walks, making them sit, stay and come to you from a distance, brain games and puzzles at home!
Diet & Weight
Keeping your dog at a healthy weight for their breed is my number one top tip for dog owners. Being overweight can increase their risk for medical issues, like some cancers, diabetes and cardio-respiratory disease but obesity can also negatively affect the musculoskeletal system too. Weight gain can exacerbate osteoarthritic joints leading to pain and reluctance to move, creating a vicious cycle leading to more weight gain. If your dog is overweight then speak to your vet or a canine nutritionist on how to alter their diet to aid weight loss. Being an ideal weight makes an incredible difference to their quality of life and overall health!
This advice is aimed at the general canine population. If your dog has a specific issue you would like more advice on then please feel free to get in touch.
Also, keep an eye on our Instagram page as we post educational posts and reels from time to time!
Joint Dynamics is Hong Kong's leading physiotherapy and healthcare clinic, now offering canine and equine physiotherapy. Charlotte is an experienced, UK qualified human physiotherapist with a MSc in veterinary physiotherapy, and sees patients from the SPCA Wan Chai centre for 45-minute physiotherapy appointments or 30-minutes treadmill-only appointments.