So both the dogs had an evaluation with a veterinary physical therapy team today. I had a few minor concerns about Squash’s gait, and he had been running a little unenthusiastically lately, and I’d been tossing the idea around lately anyway because I don’t want my inexperience to lead to two broken-down dogs in a couple of years. It was a good visit, and something I’d really encourage for anyone if it’s in your budget. It put my mind at ease about some things and identified some unexpected issues, so I’m glad I went.
Both dogs got a green light to keep mushing at the level we do it. Maisy really has no issues whatsoever and I’m just going to be doing some general exercises at home with her: Using the cavaletti ladder for foot/body awareness, some strength building exercises, and some uphill/downhill work to help with strength building and conditioning.
Squash has some minor structural issues. All of his legs, especially the back, have a slight external rotation. So he tends to swing his legs slightly out to the side instead of moving them straight back and forth at a trot and pace. This can be a sign of hip dysplasia, but since he’s had his hips radiographed and they’re ok, that’s not a problem for him. It’s just the way he’s made. It might be why he has a tendency to frequently use a pacing gait, and it’s why he sometimes looks a little wobbly and chaotic in videos. But it’s not really an indication of some dire underlying problem, although it would benefit him to use his legs more normally to avoid overusing or straining muscles by swinging the legs out the way his does. He also has a little bit of lumbo-sacral (low back) pain, which is apparently common in dogs of his size. It’s not currently causing him any problems, but could in the future.
So Squash will be doing a variety of core building, strengthening, and stretching exercises to help protect his back and prevent problems with it as he ages. He’ll be working with the cavaletti to learn to pick his feet up higher and move them straighter. He’ll also be doing some work on an underwater treadmill once a week for awhile to help condition him and build some muscle mass, lose some fat, and more help to teach him to pick his feet up and move them more straight back and forth. (He had his first session on it today and did great.) He’ll also be getting some acupuncture treatments for his back.
So all in all, time and money well spent. We have some work ahead of us, but we’ll just work it into the routine so we can hopefully keep mushing for years and years to come… sans breakdowns.