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Common Orthopaedic and Muscular Issues


A sprain is damage or tearing to one or more ligaments within a joint that is often caused by trauma or because the joint has been taken beyond its range of functional motion. The most common type of sprain affecting dogs is Cranial Cruciate Ligament Rupture (commonly referred to as the footballer’s injury). This ligament is found within the stifle (knee) joint. This requires surgical intervention to resume normal knee function and weight bearing capabilities. Always see your vet if you suspect a sprain, as pain killers and assessment is required.


A strain is an injury to muscular tissue following overstretching. This results in muscle weakness, muscular instability, lameness and pain. The body will work to repair the injury by laying down new scar tissue but this reduces flexibility and range of motion. There are 3 grades of strain and sometimes surgical intervention is required. Always see your vet for assessment and treatment where appropriate if you suspect a strain.


An involuntary muscular contraction that can occur following periods of intense or prolonged activity.

Trigger Points

A hyper irritable taut band found within the muscle. Commonly known as ‘knots’ they cause oxygen and nutrient depletion to the muscle. Symptoms include stiffness especially after rest, fatigue, twitching of skin and muscle, hair flicks.


This is a dense connective tissue made up of tightly packed bundles of collagen fibres. Deep fascia encapsulates muscle, bone, nerves, organs and blood vessels. Its job is to provide proper muscular alignment and increase surface area attachment, thus allowing the muscles to contract for movement without any friction. When a muscle is injured collagen microfibers form in between adjacent layers of fascia binding together to allow healing. Sometimes these areas of injury and healing leave scarring that makes the tissue stiffer, less flexible and painful. If you think that your dog is in any pain or showing uncharacteristic behaviours, please see your vet first for assessment and treatment.


This is also known as DJD (degenerative joint disease). It is defined as the progressive and permanent long term deterioration of the cartilage surrounding synovial joints, such as hips and elbows. It is the most common cause of lameness in dogs affecting up to 1 in 5 dogs. The disease cannot be cured but much can be done to support the body and manage the associated pain and discomfort. DJD can occur because of wear and tear on the joints, repetitive strain on young joints can contribute to the condition. Symptoms include pain, lameness, joint swelling and reduced range of motion (reduced ability of movement in a limb). There may be decreased activity, stiffness and decreased appetite with changes in character and behaviour. Radiographs (x-rays) can assist in the diagnosis of osteoarthritis. Speak to your vet if you suspect this in your dog. Massage can help support dogs with this disease.


Spondylosis Deformans is a degenerative condition that occurs along the spine. Bony spurs grow on the bottom, sides and upper aspect of the vertebrae which then bridge the gap between adjacent vertebrae which then leave the spine unable to move normally. Symptoms include hind limb weakness, difficulty rising, reluctance to sit, knuckling paws and roaching spine. Diagnosis can be made via radiographs (x-rays) with your vet. Massage can support dogs with this disease.

Luxating patella

The patella (knee cap) normally lies in a groove at the end of the femur (thigh bone). The patella is shaped like an almond and its function is to assist the knee in extension. Sometimes it slips out of the groove – this is called luxating patella. This condition occurs most predominantly in small/tiny breeds of dogs and surgical correction is often required. Symptoms include lameness, intermittent ‘skip’ on walks, abnormal sitting posture and pain. Please see your vet if you suspect that your dog is suffering from this condition. Massage can help support dogs with this condition.

Hip Dysplasia

This is malformation of the ball and socket joint that make up the hip joint. This means that instead of ‘sitting’ within the socket and rotating smoothly, the joint rubs and grinds leading to osteoarthritis of the joint sooner than desired. Genetic susceptibility, rapid weight gain and obesity can influence the development and progression of hip dysplasia. Symptoms include joint laxity or looseness, pain, decreased activity, ‘bunny hopping’, loss of muscle mass over thigh muscles. This condition is diagnosed via radiographs (x-rays) and can be managed both conventionally and with supporting therapies such as massage.

Elbow dysplasia

The elbow is a complex joint. Three bones come together to form the elbow joint and if for any reason, they do not grow or are not able to fit perfectly the elbow incurs abnormal weight forces through it when walking or exercising and pain occurs. The reasons why abnormal development of an elbow occurs are varied and complicated but this condition often affects large breed dogs that grow quickly and can be genetically inherited. Diagnosis can be made via radiographs (x-rays) with your vet. Symptoms include pain on extension of forelimb, acute lameness, and decreased range of motion, head bob when walking. Massage can help relieve symptoms of elbow dysplasia.