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Working dogs, Pain, Behaviour and Stem Cells

The NARCH conference was a great day of learning for me and I wanted to share with you some of the major take home points that can help your pets.

First we took a look at Musculoskeletal conditions in working dogs:

The most common conditions seen in working dogs are usually related to their job or their breed.

Job-related injuries are usually fractures to the paws or repetitive strain injuries to muscles and tendons. The most common muscles affected but repetitive strain are those that primarily contract eccentrically, this means that when they are used they lengthen whilst doing their work.

Muscles most commonly affected are the iliopsoas (running from the inside of the groin to the hip), Sartorius (running down the front of the thigh), Gracilis (on the inside of the hindlimbs) and the semitendinosus (on the inside of the hindlimbs).

The tendons and ligaments most affected are in the carpal. So when they become damaged it can lead to a condition known as carpal hyperextension where the carpal joint drops. The other tendon that can lead to trouble for working dogs is the SDFT this is one of the tendons that inserts onto the hock joint and when this is damaged the SDFT slips off the hock. The shoulder stabilisers tendons and ligaments can also become strained leading to instability of the shoulder joint.

After long periods of work, dogs can develop degeneration of structures like the spine or OA.

Some breeds commonly used as working dogs such as spaniels, labs and shepherds are prone to certain musculoskeletal conditions which can reduce their ability to do their jobs, these conditions include: OCD (where a flap of cartilage comes away from the bone), Bicep tendinopathy (inflammation of the bicep tendon), humeral intercondylar fissure (where part of the elbow joint cartilage wears and the bone underneath can fracture), Hip and elbow dysplasia (where the hip and elbow joints don’t form correctly leading to laxity in the joint), CCLR (rupture of one of the 2 ligaments inside the knee joint).

Then we took a look at pain as unfortunately all of these conditions cause pain.

Pain is only recognised as pain once it reaches the brain but to get there first we have nociception (the nerves at the site of injury) these signals are then transducted and transmitteded to the spinal cord and to the brain where they are modulated, projected and perceived.

There are also different types of pain, nociceptive and inflammatory pain encompass things like OA and neuropathic pain is a type of nerve pain such as that which happens with IVDD.

There is also a 3rd type of pain known as central sensitisation or wind up in which the body becomes overwhelmed by pain even without injury or from pressure or touch that would not usually cause pain.

Within pain there are a number of components- Motor (movement), emotional (feeling), sensory (nociception) and cognitive (thinking).

Although pain is often inevitable with some conditions like those mentioned above suffering often refered to as the emotional element of pain does not have to be. Our pets are afraid of pain as unlike us they don’t know that it can end, that they can have pain meds, physio, massage or acupuncture and the pain will go away.

So how can we help our pets? With analgesia, exercise, control and disease management. We can also ensure our pets are on the best diet for them and have a healthy microbiome as the microbiome can produce neurotransmitters effecting how pain signals and carried and perceived.

Then we took a look at animal behviour as this can often change when our pets are in pain.

Broadly as a veterinary physiotherapist I see 4 major groups of difficult behaviours in dogs.

  1. Reactivity to people- meaning dogs don’t like to be handled so we have to make friends by creating positive experiences around people in our centre.

  2. Separation anxiety- meaning that dogs can panic when they believe their owner to be leaving them, so we ensure dogs have constant access to their owners and a place they feel safe.

  3. Resource gaurding- where dogs can guard food or toys from people and/or other dogs.

  4. Noise phobia- where dogs become afraid of loud or unedxpected noise. This is why at Fit-Pet physio we perform all sessions in your dogs own environment minimising the risk of unexpected noise.

If your dog sufferers any of these be sure to seek advice from a qualified dog behaviourist and your vet as these can be triggered by pain and experience.

We then took a look at a new therapies emerging such as stem Cell therapy.

Stem cell therapy for the treatment of OA is still a relatively new therapy in dogs and is often performed with PRP and joint fluid replacement therapies.

These therapies aim to incerease regeneration in the joint, reduce pain and inflammation. Replacing the joint fluid helps to give the joint more lubrication and decreases the concussive forces in the joint. This is useful in very early stage OA as it remains in the joint for a long period of time and can also help manage pain. When stem cells are used they can recruit the bodys own stem cells to prolong the effect they have but in young dogs this therapy may need to be repeated.

Stem cell therapy is most commonly used in low grade CCLR and early stage OA. It ususlly stakes a few days to see the effect of joint fluid replacement and PRP but up to 12 weeks to see any results from stem cell therapy.

I hope you have enjoyed this whistle stop tour of the NARCH seminar and if you would like any more information about NARCH you can find it here

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