Are working dogs the ‘Forgotten Athletes?’

Are working dogs the ‘Forgotten Athletes?’

The biggest dog show in the world has just come to a close and whilst i was watching it on television it got me thinking…. How many of those high level agility/flyball/show dogs work even though they are in some level of discomfort?

Many people would think that they must all be pain free to be able to carry out the work load expected of them,  unfortunately this is not always the case, in my experience dogs are very lucky if their musculoskeletal well-being is considered by their owner…. so is the owner on the wrong? or just not educated?

Often I hear comments like ‘he can’t be in pain look at him run’ or ‘he can’t be in pain he is happy to work’ or even ‘he looks happy in himself he can’t be in pain’ – these are reasonable comments if dogs could actually communicate with us but they can’t!  Dogs will run through their pain and try to hide it, they find ways to compensate way before any issue becomes obvious to owner or handler!

In my equine work horse owners are so clued up and educated (in the most part) to realising if their horse’s performance has decreased or they are showing signs of lameness or pain, I get lots of calls to assess horses that just ‘aren’t quite right’ these problems are usually easily remedied by Physiotherapy treatment and ongoing exercise programmes.

So would it surprise you to hear some of the sorest dogs are I see are the high level working dogs?  Why is this? Well let me try to explain…

  1. It takes time to reach the highest grades, so dogs are often middle aged with years of experience.
  2. Dogs are often started with training at early ages before they reach maturity.
  3. In order to improve you need to train your dog regularly – repeated stress on joints and muscles.
  4. The agility courses are more difficult and this can lead to slips, trips and falls.
  5. Often dogs are not warmed up or cooled down effectively, time spent queuing can cause your dog’s muscles to cool down which can increase injury risk.
  6. The frequency in which these dogs compete – higher frequency = higher injury risk.

So although your dog is not crying, can still fly around a course and jump on the bed does not men that that canine athlete is not in pain.

So how do owners get better at recognising pain?  Get into the habit of having a good feel of your dog all over regularly, but the easiest way is ask a professional!  If we find a problem we can treat accordingly, refer back to your vet or if you are lucky we can tell you that everything is fine (that’s always my favourite comment!).

To try and highlight the importance of pain recognition in canine athletes through April we are offering a full musculoskeletal MOT for all working dogs for £40 (within Wirral), let make sure your whole team is functioning at the best of your ability!!

A bit about me…..

A bit about me…..


I seem to have been getting a lot of messages asking how I went about becoming a Vet Physio!

So to save individual replies I thought I’d tell you all!
In 2003 I qualified as a Chartered Physiotherapist (human) I worked NHS, in private practice and in sport for many years.
During this time I learnt how to ‘be a physiotherapist’ sounds ridiculous but coming out of uni you realise very quickly how much you do NOT know!

 You need to learn to ‘Feel’
 You need to learn to ‘listen’
 You need to learn to ‘Clinically reason’
 You need to learn to ‘set achievable short term and long term goals’
◼️  You need to learn how to ‘treat’

One of the best parts of being human trained is that people can talk! Over the years through In Service Training and treating people the amount of feedback I received changed my practice!
From Maitland Mobilisations to trigger point release having the ability of someone telling you how it feels, whether you are on the right spot, right pressure, correct technique really does improving be your technique!

Post graduate human training has involved Acupuncture, Mulligan, Cyriax, Myofascial Release, Trigger Point Release, Respiratory, Equipilates, Kinesiology Taping and many more sport related courses!

I then went on to study Veterinary Physiotherapy at Hartpury (UWE) for 2 years, this took a lot of time, money and dedication!
The course allowed me to take my Physiotherapy knowledge from my human work and translate it to the animal work!
It may surprise you to know that I use many of the same treatment techniques on animals which I use on humans!

The learning never stops, from reviewing latest research, to external courses (too many to list!), peer review with colleagues, the more I learn the more my practice changes.

But fundamentally Physio is Physio, whether your patient has 2 or 4 legs!

I can only advise on the route that I took to achieve my dream job! There are many other routes out there, but one of the most important things is that you even if you only choose to treat animals you will still by default deal with humans!

One of the things I pride myself in is the ability to treat both horse and rider!

I still work part time in the NHS along side my Vet Physio business!

Unfortunately I am unable to take work experience students due to insurance so please don’t be offended if I decline requests.

#ACPAT #Charteredphysio #equinephysio #caninephysio #riderphysio#wirralvetphysio

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