Should you Stretch your Pets?

As we all know stretching is an important part of our warm-up and cool-down routines as humans to prevent muscle tension known as delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS. However in dogs and horse's we use a slightly different protocol for stretching.

Dogs can be stretched daily as humans are however horse's do not cope well with daily stretching and should be stretched only 3 days a week. Additionally, pets should not be stretched during a warm-up prior to competitions, although stretching can be performed as part of a warm-up routine if the dog/horse is already warm there will be a decrease in power output from the muscles and therefore a reduction in performance. For example, it is not appropriate to stretch a showjumper before competition as although it will reduce injury risk it will lower jumping height. Therefore it is suggested that active stretching exercises such as extending the horse's stride are better suited to the warm-up.

Stretching is beneficial in the cool-down to prevent DOMS. Stretching can also be used therapeutically to increase muscle length and reduce tension and restrictions within muscles leading to greater movement of the associated joints. This leads to an increased flight arc of the foot, stride length and reduced pain.

Just remember that whether your stretching during a warm-up, cool-down or for therapeutic reasons you must warm your pet up first! Warm-up can consist of-

  1. Effleurage massage

  2. Controlled exercise such as walking or lunging in horse's for a minimum of 5 minutes

  3. Their usual exercise

A warm-up helps reduce the viscosity of the muscle meaning its length increases and therefore allows for a deeper more effective stretch.

There are many stretches that can be conducted in both horse's and dogs to elongate their muscles and reduce any areas of pain and/or tension. The stretches used in dogs and horse's differ. In horses-

  1. Neck stretches (dorsally, ventrally and laterally) are used to stretch the muscles of the neck and back

  2. Limb stretches for both the forelimbs or hindlimbs consist of protraction (forwards), retraction (backwards), tricep, quad and abduction (away from the body) and adduction (towards the body) stretches.

In dogs-

  1. Limb stretches for both the forelimbs or hindlimbs consist of protraction (forwards), retraction (backwards), tricep, quad and abduction (away from the body) stretches.

When stretches are conducted they must be held for at least 7 seconds, this allows time for the golgi tendon organ to signal for the muscle to relax preventing any damage occurring to the muscle and also allowing for a deeper more effective stretch.

To find out what stretches would benefit your pet book a vet physiotherapy appointment today! For those of you who are already clients join our member's area to find videos on how to conduct all stretches safely and effectively.

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