Canine sports medicine is a new speciality in the veterinary field. There are a vast array of 'canine athletes', from the more obvious flyball and agility dogs, to the rather more subtle therapy dogs, search and rescue dogs, and the wonderful family pets who spend many an hour chasing balls or catching frisbees for example! Dogs place heavy demands on their bodies on a daily basis, and just as we (and professional athletes even more so) visit a variety of professionals to maintain our bodies - be these osteopaths, chiropracters, physiotherapists - so should our pets. Rehabilitation goes hand in hand with sports medicine, as the latter includes conditioning, regaining and maintaining fitness.
Canine sports medicine and rehabilitation is pivotal in helping a canine athlete, or working dog, to recover from illness or injury. In addition, we also aim to prevent re-injury whilst moving the patient back to a level of fitness that is hopefully as good as, if not better, than prior to the injury or illness.
Some of the dogs that can benefit from sports medicine and rehabilitation assessment include:
- Competition dogs - for example, flyball or agility participants, canicross. When competitions are won and lost by fractions of a second, tiny improvements in movement can have a big impact on performance and results.
- Conformation, or show dogs - good movement and condition can have a big impact on the dog's success in the ring.
- Working dogs - including therapy dogs, search and rescue, police dogs, gun dogs. These dogs often have to perform quickly and with little notice, which can place big strains on their bodies.
- Family pets - these dogs may not perform to high levels in competitions, but chasing balls, catching frisbees or running along the beach can place big demands on musculoskeletal systems, especially if theses activities are intermittent in nature.