BSc(Hons) ARCS Dip MCAM(OCEPT) AMCST
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Why do animals suffer from back problems?
Whilst horses are strong and capable of carrying us, they have to contend with us being at a 90 degree angle on top of them. We then ask them to jump for us, run races, work in collection and dance to music. Ill-fitting saddlery, injury through trauma, stress and over-exertion through performance, digestive upset, illness, joint problems, disease, bad shoeing and dentistry are also some other examples that can lead to back problems. The wearing of head collars can often cause neck injuries, especially if the head collar doesn't break (nylon) in a panic situation.
Perhaps those more commonly affected are performance dogs e.g., dogs taking part in agility tests, racing or country sports. Wearing collars is a common factor in creating problems - intense pulling, getting the collar caught etc can cause misalignments of the neck vertebrae. If your dog is over-weight or unfit, he is also more likely to suffer from back problems, as his lack of muscle tone and skeletal frame will have the extra burden of weight to carry. Older dogs may suffer from arthritis for example, leading to gait abnormalities, which can eventually lead to a bad back. Dogs can also lie on bedding, which doesn't provide them with enough support whilst sleeping.
Cats have very flexible spines and can jump and climb effectively. Like dogs, some cats wear collars, which, if getting caught up in fencing etc, can cause injuries. Getting involved in frequent fights can cause injury. The most common cause of structural/neurological problems is a vehicle accident. Also obesity, stress, illness and old age are other examples, which may lead to back and joint problems.
How do I know if my animal has a back problem?
Animals can regularly exhibit the following behaviours or problems as a result of experiencing back pain:
HorsesIntermittent lameness.Jumping fast and flat over fences instead of basculing properly, or uncharacteristically starting to refuse altogether.Unwillingness to work on the bit, or on a circle and hollowing the back.Reluctance or inability to stike off on the correct leading leg in canter.
Reduced impulsion from behind, sometimes dragging the toes.
Becoming aggressive e.g., bucking, rearing, kicking or biting in order to avoid being ridden.
Showing reluctance or sensitivity to being saddled and/or bridled, and not wanting to stand still whilst being mounted.
Displaying signs of misery and/or depression and a general overall reduction in performance.
Dogs and CatsLimping or lameness.
Not wishing to evenly distribute weight on all 4 limbs.
Difficulty jumping/getting up or down.
Difficulty climbing (Cats).
Not being able to run fast.
Displaying signs of aggression, pain, reluctance to play or unhappiness.
Lack of performance (dogs - agility training, greyhound racing etc).
Whilst all of these symptoms can be indicative of a back problem, they can also occur as a result of other underlying causes. It is therefore important that your veterinarian is consulted first to rule out any other such causes, before consulting a Spinal Therapist.
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