Decreased Range of Motion
Range of motion can tell us a lot about our pet’s mobility. If joints are restricted or inflamed, they do not move as well as they should.
This often causes a decreased range of motion in a particular direction in any region of their spine.
Assessing the range of motion in your pet’s neck is both fun and easy. It’s important to remember that all nerve supply to the front legs come from nerves that exit the neck. I often find joint inflammation and restrictions on the same side of the neck as a dog’s front leg limp.
Hold a tasty treat in front of your pet's face. Now slowly move the treat around the side of its body to assess how far it is able to rotate. Repeat on the other side. Are they both full and symmetrical?
Spinal or Limb Hot Spots
Historically dogs frequently had fleas and ticks. They are programmed to nip at and chew on areas that itch, to rid themselves of parasites.
But not all itches are from bugs, some are from irritated spinal nerves, often from spinal problems.
Unfortunately, dogs don't differentiate the itching from a compressed nerve and will chew at the area until it is a raw hot spot.
We have years of experience treating emergency cases.
Often times pets are presented to us with catastrophic hind leg paralysis. In some cases, these pets were referred directly from their veterinarians.
In our experience, we have seen many paralyzed dogs walk again without the need for surgery or extended crate rest.
We do this by co-managing these cases closely with your veterinarian. The medications they prescribe, like steroids and opioids, help to decrease pain and inflammation, while the chiropractic adjustments help to resort proper movement and allow the disc and the surrounding tissues to heal.
To get the best results, typically we suggest 6 - 10 treatments for the course of 4 weeks. In our experience, the earlier a patient is seen the better the prognosis for a positive outcome.
We've seen dozens of miraculous recoveries with chiropractic and veterinary co-management
Yes – dogs have posture too, and many dogs have “bad” posture.
In general, “good” posture means that their back, or ‘top-line’, has a relatively flat appearance from the shoulders to the pelvis.
Dysfunctional top-lines are often described as having a “roach” (German Shepherd) or “sway-back” (Pit-bull) appearance.
These abnormal postures are the result of mechanical and muscular imbalances, which can negatively affect the function of the nervous system
Local heat due to inflammation
When movement between adjacent joints becomes abnormal it can change the way blood circulates in the area. The acute injury causes increased blood flow and inflammation to surround the area whereas chronic injury can actually decrease blood circulation. Acute injury can be felt as increased temperature on the surface of the skin or fur. The warmer, the more inflamed. One of the most common places we detect is a warm area is in the animal’s mid-back, at an area known as the ‘thoracolumbar region’. This area is especially prone to mechanical stress as the [Image] joints surfaces abruptly change direction at this point.
Try it Yourself
A simple method to assess temperature change is to slowly run the back of your hand down your pet’s spine. If you notice an area of increased temperature, this could likely be an area that is stiff and inflamed. What do you feel?
Areas along your pet's spine or in the joints of their limbs that are hotter than normal are signs of inflammation. As we can see here with this infra-red camera.
This horse's thermographic image clearly shows where her problems are.
Animals have nerve endings in their paws that relay information back to the brain about limb position. The sensations picked up by these nerve ending are collectively referred to as “proprioception”.
Improper joint mechanics and inflammation can cause compression to these nerves, which can actually stop this pathway from communicating. When this occurs the animal is not able to sense where their paws are in space and they may actually start to walk on their knuckles instead of the pads of their feet.
Try it yourself
Lift your pet’s paws one at a time and attempt to place their body weight on their knuckles. If your pet allows you to place their paw upside-down without correcting it, it is usually a positive test for advanced proprioception problems.
Watch your pet walk. Does it drag any of its limbs along? Does it knuckle or scrape its nails on the sidewalk? Does it have a hard time finding stability on slippery floors?
Toe-dragging is often the first clinical signs if proprioceptive neuropathy.
Hind Limb Weakness & Paralysis
Dogs are “rear-wheel drive”, so to speak. All of their driving force is meant to come from their lower backs, pelvis and hind legs. What happens all too often in older dogs is this propulsion system begins to shut down.
As dog's age, their joints become stiff and dysfunctional which can cause compression to the nerves that control these hind-end muscles.
Over time this results in progressive weakening of their hind-end which in-turn leads them to compensate by using their front legs as a pulling force. For example, we’ve all seen older dogs struggling to pull themselves up from a seated position, or pulling themselves up the stairs. All too often this presentation is mistakenly ruled as “hip joint arthritis” or “hip dysplasia”.
The cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) is frequently injured, more frequently in large breeds, working hard on uneven ground, especially if unfit. The dog will usually limp in a three-legged gait or just lightly touch down with the toes on the injured side.
This ligament attaches to the caudomedial part of the lateral femoral condyle to the cranial intercondylar area of the tibia. The CCL resists the anterior sliding of the tibia under the femur. The ligament may be fully torn aka ruptured or a third degree sprain, partially torn aka a second degree sprain, or stretched aka a first degree sprain
Manual testing for damage is most frequently done by feeling for joint instability in the anterior drawer test, the tibial compression test, feeling for thickening of the knee (called buttressing) and feeling for swelling, most notably a bogginess and loss of distinct margins by the patella.
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