Orthopaedic and Neurological Conditions in Dogs

Canine Massage Therapy can help to support many orthopaedic and neurological conditions.

These conditions can put additional stress on other parts of the dog’s body not directly affected by the condition. This can manifest as areas of over-compensation, hypertonicity, muscle atrophy, strains, trigger points and hyper-irritable myofascial pain to name but a few.

Canine Massage Therapy can help relieve these issues, improving the overall condition and well-being of your dog.

Please don’t hesitate to contact K9 Massage Clinic to find out how Canine Massage Therapy might help your dog to better cope with the condition that they suffer from.

For more information on orthopaedic and neurological conditions and how they can be improved by Canine Massage Therapy, please see below:

"Canine Massage has worked wonders on my Brodie. She has torn her cruciate. Before the massage she was old and grumpy and now she is loving and keen to go for a walk again."


Anthony Jervis, Edinburgh

"Fly’s life is so much better since starting her massage therapy. She is much happier and able to enjoy her walks again as well as jumping up onto the sofa (and occasionally the bed). After her first treatment she became much more cuddly and playful again.”


Katherine Thomas, Brechin


"Biff, our Cairn Terrier, is a nervous little dog who has had TPLO surgery for torn cruciates on both her knees. She enjoyed her massage and afterwards she moved and sat better; and it was as if she was back to her old self, with a bounce in her step. It is lovely to see."


Kirsty Hall, Stirling

"Suilven has Elbow Dysplasia which throws out his elbow and affects his movement, he’s quite old and has had it since he was a pup. Catriona was able to improve his overall movement."


Joyce Searle, Dundee

Osteoarthritis – commonly known as Arthritis

Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease mostly affects older dogs. In a healthy dog, the connecting surfaces of a joint are protected by a coating of cartilage. This allows the bones to move smoothly over one another reducing friction. When arthritis is present the cartilage around the joint is often damaged. This creates friction as bones make contact with each other, leading to inflammation and further soft tissue damage.

The constant rubbing of the bones can cause bony spurs to develop around the affected bone surfaces causing further pain, inflammation and reduced mobility. Reduced mobility can lead to loss of strength in supporting muscles and ligaments becoming slack. Reduced mobility can also cause dogs to put weight on increasing the stress placed on the joint.

I often see dogs with painful areas of overcompensation as a result of reduced joint function. Muscles have to overwork to make up for the loss of movement in the joint, this results in painful trigger points and myofascial pain in the affected muscles. When these muscles are too painful and constricted your dogs mobility will be greatly compromised, they will be feeling very sore and depressed. You may feel you are nearing the end. Massage can help to restore the muscle function and reduce the pain giving your dog their smile back.

Massage can help by:
Massage has been shown to help improve this condition. The increased lymphatic function generated during a massage improves the transfer of nutrients to, and removal of toxins from congested muscles and joints. This reduces inflammation and its associated pain. Massage can also help osteoarthritis by:

  • Relieving congested muscles
  • Releasing areas of overcompensation
  • Increasing circulation
  • Increasing flexibility
  • Decreasing inflammation
  • Lowering pain
  • Reducing joint stiffness
  • Improved range of motion

Hip Dysplasia

The hip joint is formed of a ball and socket. The ball at the end of the thigh bone should fit snuggly into a socket on the pelvis. In the case of Hip Dysplasia the hip socket has not developed properly and formed more of a shallow hollow into which the ball of thigh bone fits rather loosely.

The muscles and tendons that hold the joint in place are also poorly developed causing the ball to move around in the joint as it bears weight. This causes abnormal wear and tear to the hip joint causing further degradation until the joint no longer functions properly.

Arthritic changes begin to appear. These include signs of wear to the femoral head, a rough appearance to the joint surfaces, and the growth of arthritic bone spurs. The development of lameness appears unpredictable, some dogs may go most of their lives without lameness while others become lame as puppies.

Hip dysplasia mostly occurs in large breeds and can only be diagnosed by a Vet using an x-ray. If your dog has been diagnosed or if you suspect that it may be present Canine Massage Therapy can help to support this orthopaedic condition. Your dog will want to shift its weight forward, placing additional stress on the shoulders and front limbs, while increasing tension in the hind limbs in an attempt to stabilise the joint.

Massage can help to:

  • Release endorphins which assist in pain relief, improving quality of life
  • Relieve tension build up and significantly relieve soreness
  • Help strengthen muscles and improve flexibility
  • Help the compensating limb tension and corrects muscle balance
  • Assist in mobility and enable the dog to enjoy normal exercise
  • Help improve the dogs disposition
  • Lymphatic drainage helps reduce inflammation around the coxofemoral joint

Elbow Dysplasia

‘Dysplasia’ means the abnormal development of tissue. In this case, it is the abnormal development of the the elbow joint. This is where the humerus, radius and ulna all meet, and should meet perfectly. If this is not the case then the abnormal pressures exerted on the joint can give rise to four different manifestations of the condition. The dog may have elbow dysplasia which consists of one or more of these states.

  • Fragmented medial coronoid process (FCP)
    In this case the coronoid process breaks away from the ulna. It then irritates to the cartilage causing it wear. Large breeds are prone to this. Keyhole surgery is recommended to remove any bone fragments.
  • Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD)
    The condition is caused by an abnormal growth of cartilage around the humeral condyle, which can become detatched but continue to grow causing pain and inflammation in the joint. Surgical removal of the loose cartilage improves the lameness but the cartilage will not grow back and arthritis will eventually set in.
  • Ununited anconeal process (UAP)
    In young dogs the growth plate of the anconeal process is separate from the rest of the ulna and in some cases rather than join up it forms a separate bone. Surgery can pin the bone into place.
  • Medial compartment disease
    This condition occurs when the bones of the joint do not fit well causing abnormal wear and tear on the cartilage of the bone surfaces. This leads to inflammation and arthritis.

There is also a condition called Shoulder Dysplasia. When this occurs it is most often associated with the Osteochondritis dissecans state that occurs around the the elbow.

Massage can help to:

  • Improve overall condition pre-surgery
  • Post-operative rehabilitation
  • Support the areas where the body is overcompensating (for instance if your dogs front right elbow is causing pain they will often refer asymmetrically to their back left leg; you may see signs of lameness on the overcompensating leg which massage can help to either support or eradicate depending on the length of time held and the trauma caused to the back leg)
  • Soothe areas of pain
  • Reduce soreness and tension throughout the whole body
  • Remove spasms/trigger points which are usually associated with Elbow Dysplasia in the lower neck and behind the shoulder

Luxating Patella

Luxating Patella literally means ‘out of place knee cap’. The knee cap, or patella, is held in place by ligaments that lie in a groove at the base of the thigh bone that operates in a similar way to a pulley system.

In some dogs this groove is too shallow causing the patella to slip out of its alignment and flip to the inner or outer side of the leg. This is called a luxation and is very painful when it happens. The dog is unlikely to put weight on the affected leg and will display a hopping movement. Some dogs will learn to kick the leg backward to relocate the patella. This repetitive and unnatural movement will eventually lead to arthritis in the joint.

As your dog attempts to prevent it’s patella from popping out of place they will often adopt a stiff legged walk putting extra strain on the back and muscles on the hind legs.

Massage can help by:

  • Minimising areas of overcompensation and pain referral
  • Helping your dog to stay ‘balanced’ and use both legs equally, reducing the risk of the condition developing in the other leg
  • Relieving the tension that develops along the back and improving your dog’s comfort
  • Massage can be used to lengthen the muscles which attach, or insert, around the stifle area. So, if your dog’s muscles are particularly tight on the inside and outside of their leg this increase in tension can cause the kneecap to slip or pop out of alignment more often
  • Keeping your dog mobile and active
  • Reducing soreness and stiffness
  • Minimising pain

Cruciate Ligament Damage and TPLO Surgery

The knee joint, or stifle, is supported by ligaments all around the exterior and within the joint itself. The cruciate ligaments can be found within the joint capsule, holding the thigh bone and the shin bone together where they meet. There are two cruciate ligaments that cross each other to form a ‘cross’, the anterior (cranial) and posterior (caudal). The anterior cruciate ligament prevents the lower part of the hind leg from slipping out from under the thigh. This is the most common ligament of the two that tends to rupture.

The main cause of a cruciate ligament rupture appears to be due to a repetitive micro-injury, whereby the dog is repeating an action that causes a stretch to the ligament which alters the ligament’s structure until eventually it tears. This could be due to agility, jumping badly or a previous knee injury like a luxating patella.

It could also be caused by:

  • Sudden twisting of the knee when braking or chasing a ball
  • Slipping on surfaces with little grip like ice or laminate floors
  • Obesity, an overweight dog puts more stress on the ligaments
  • General wear and tear over time
  • Sudden dip in ground level, like stepping down a hole
  • Structural abnormality eg. bow legged
  • Genetically weak ligaments

Massage can help by:

  • Improving pain by reducing swelling and releasing endorphins
  • Minimising areas of overcompensation, dogs will transfer their weight forward creating problems for their neck and shoulders
  • Encourages your dog to use all of their legs equally and weight bear more comfortably
  • Improves the muscle tone and strength of the affected limb

TPLO Surgery

Surgery is usually recommended for a ruptured cruciate ligament injury. The area where tibia meets the femur is called the tibial plateau, in humans this area is flat. The femur sits directly onto the tibia and does not actually need cruciate ligaments to hold the joint in place.

In dogs the tibial plateau is slanted forward. The femur is held in position by the cruciate ligaments. When a dog has ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament the femur is able to slide forward and the joint is no longer able to support the weight of the dog.

The objective of TPLO (Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy) surgery is to alter the angle of the tibial plateau to be similar to that of the human. This removes the need for a working cruciate ligament in order for the knee joint to function. The operation will involve cutting through the bone, rotating the head of the tibia and plating it in place.

Post-operative massage therapy should be introduced 2-3 weeks after surgery to help:

  • Prevent oedemas, inflammation and muscle wastage in the convalescing dog
  • Improve the supply of nutrients to muscles and stimulate the lymphatic system
  • Mimic exercise by moving nutrient-rich blood and lymph around the body while flushing metabolic waste and toxins (including anesthetic) from the body
  • Making your dog more comfortable while they recover
  • Getting your dog back on their feet and improving their mobility
  • Help to lower pain levels by increasing endorphins (the body’s natural pain killers)
  • Passive movements to encourage normal range of motion activity
  • Speed the recovery process
  • Loosen tense muscles and stuck muscle fascia (from inactivity)

Chronic Degenerative Radiculo Myelopathy (CDRM)

This is not a painful condition but is a progressively disabling condition which affects the spine. The degeneration occurs in the white matter of the spinal cord, and in the dorsal spinal roots which supply sensory information. The cause is not known but it appears to be an autoimmune-type disease, and depressed cell-mediated immunity may be present.

The disease cannot be cured but it can be managed. The rate of progression varies greatly from one dog to another but keeping the dog active has been shown to slow deterioration. Dogs which develop symptoms later in life can often live on to a ‘normal’ lifespan maintaining their mobility. It is important to try to keep the dog as active as possible and avoid weight gain.

Exercises involving walking over objects on the ground and over different surfaces forces the dog to think more about what their feet are doing, and helps stimulate the nerves and brain. Once they are unable to get up care of large dogs can become a problem for many owners. A canine cart can help provide mobility to immobile patients and fortunately, dogs with CDRM rarely develop incontinence so dogs can carry on for several years with this condition.

Symptoms of CDRM include:

  • Affected dogs gradually lose the use of their hindlegs with ataxia, this is a lack of coordination and a loss of proprioception, the sense of where our body is in space and relation to the environment.
  • Dogs criss-cross their hind legs and may trip themselves up when turning.
  • They wear down the top of their nails and scuff the tops of their toes.
  • They sit down suddenly when they’ve lost their balance.
  • In its extreme stages, the dog can eventually lose use of their hind legs and, if allowed to continue, the front legs will eventually be affected.

Massage can help by:

  • Dogs with CDRM can have very tight muscles at their front end: neck, shoulders and thoracic spine. These muscles have to work harder to compensate for the loss of power at the back end. Myofascial Release can give dogs back the spring in their step and improve energy levels in general.
  • Massage techniques can maximise the remaining ability and neurological function.

Contact details

Tel: +44 7715 818194

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