Non-surgical Therapy

Exercise for old dogs – how much is too much?

Posted on in Geriatric care, Non-surgical Therapy, Prevention, weight control 1 Comment


Exercise for Old Dogs:

The longer they keep moving, the longer they will last


A common question is “How much is too much exercise for an old dog?”  We know that too much exercise has the potential to flare arthritic joints, that older dogs tire sooner, that they are more prone to injury, and all this needs to be respected.

But as much as we don’t want to over exercise an older dog, under exercising them is even worse.  Once a dog becomes inactive, their health and quality of life quickly drops.  Better to have an older dog take anti-inflammatory medication and lead an active life, than have it remain drug free but spend its time sleeping on the couch, too sore to enjoy the simplest outing.

There are many reasons why the health of under exercised patients declines so quickly, too many to cover in one blog, but here is a partial list:

Fiver might not be a geriatric, but she definitely needs regular exercise, not only to keep her sanity but also to keep her gluteals tone (she has had bilateral knee surgery).

Dysafferentation: This will get explained in more detail in a later blog, but the bottom line is that if the brain receives signals about body movement, it becomes less aware of pain.  Active dogs feel less pain.

Muscle mass/tone: Geriatrics tend to lose muscle tone and bulk. Inactive pets also lose muscle tone and bulk. Inactive geriatrics lose muscling the fastest of all. Exercise is the best way to maintain muscle mass (use it or lose it).  Good muscling reduces arthritic pain by providing stability to the joint.

Feeding the Cartilage:  Nutrients are transferred from the blood stream into the joint fluid.  Circulating joint fluid carries these nutrients to the joint cartilage.  Joint fluid is circulated every time the joint bears weight.  Lying around results in reduced nutrition reaching the cartilage, which accelerates cartilage degeneration and secondary arthritic change.

Neurologic benefits:  Again, the notion of “use it or lose it” applies.  Nerves need regular stimulation in order to remain healthy, the sort of stimulation that exercise provides.  Exercise helps maintain co-ordination and strength in the limbs, as well as the mental stimulation needed to combat dementia.

Weight control: As we’ve already seen (click here), increased fat results in increased pain.  The more active a geriatric is, the easier it is to prevent excessive weight gain.

 But how much exercise is too much?


The answer to that question varies from patient to patient but here are a few thumb rules that you can apply:

  • Keep sessions short and frequent – older dogs tire easily.
  • If the exercise session doesn’t contribute to stiffness afterward, then it was good for your dog’s health.
  • If the stiffness gets worse with certain types of exercise, avoid those types of exercise.
  • Casual walk on level or mildly challenging ground are best.  Rough-housing and sudden exertional activities (e.g. jumping down, hard braking etc.) are not as good.
  • Have your pet examined by someone experienced in detecting musculoskeletal pain, and let them help you devise an exercise program.


Again, too little exercise can do as much if not more harm than too much.  Any exercise that doesn’t increase pain and stiffness afterward was a good thing.

Case Report: Dog Hip Dysplasia

Posted on in Case Reports, Dog Hip Dysplasia, Non-surgical Therapy, Veterinary Chiropractic, weight control Comments Off on Case Report: Dog Hip Dysplasia

Dog Hip Dysplasia: Humphrey’s Tale


Normal Dog Hips

This radiographs shows a dog with well formed hips. Notice the deep sockets and a round femoral head. There is no roughening of the bone, or thickening of the femoral neck, or other signs of arthritis.


Dog hip dysplasia is a genetic condition in which the hip joint forms improperly.  Normally the hip joint should consist of a deep pelvic socket (acetabulum) supporting a round ball (femoral head).  If the hip joint develops a shallow acetabulum or flattened femoral head, then there is reduced bony support.  The body must then rely on muscle and connective tissue structures to compensate.  This added strain can trigger pain in other parts of the pelvis.  With time, arthritis inevitably develops.Most cases of dog hip dysplasia can be managed well with non-surgical techniques.  Humphrey is a good example; the level of dysplasia in his hips is considered `severe`, which is the worst rating for dog hip dysplasia that exists.



Dog Hip Dysplasia

In contrast, Humphrey’s hips show poor seating of the ball and socket joint, a thickened femoral neck, roughened bone and calcifications indicative of hip arthritis.


In contrast, Humphrey’s hips show poor seating of the ball and socket joint, a thickened femoral neck, roughened bone and calcifications indicative of hip arthritis.

Despite such appalling hips on x-ray, with a program of nutritional supplements, weight control, massage, and appointments with Dr. Lane every other month, Humphrey enjoys an active pain free life without the need for prescription medication.  He averages two hours of exercise a day and is an accomplished tracker.

For more information about the treatment options available for dog hip dysplasia, or the other causes of hind end pain in dogs, visit


ADDENDUM: Sunday Nov 4, 2012 – Humphrey just earned his CKC TD tracking title.  Congratulations!


Veterinary Chiropractic Treatment for Paralysis in a Cat

Posted on in animal acupuncture, Case Reports, Non-surgical Therapy, veterinary acupuncture, Veterinary Chiropractic 2 Comments
veterinary chiropractor cat back pain

Jackie was once immobilized by severe back pain.

Veterinary Chiropractic Medicine

Case Report: Jackie (the white cat on the left in the picture above)

Presenting Complaint: Jackie experienced sudden onset hind end paralysis following an episode of kicking out his hind legs.  He had been unable to move his hind end for the last 10 days, to the point where he could only lie in his own faeces and urine.  His owner had been diligently cleaning and caring for him, but he had shown no improvement.

Clinical Appearance: Jackie presented in a recumbent position, with a painful hind end.  He was unwilling or unable to stand or walk, and was extremely irritable.

Exam Findings: A neurologic and musculoskeletal exam determined that his spinal cord pathways were in-tact, but that even small movements caused severe pain. Spasming of the lower back musculature had put asymmetric strain on his pelvis and sacrum, causing the two bones to remain fixed in a rotated position.  This in turn put strain on his sciatic nerve which we know in people causes intense shooting pain.  Immobilizing himself was his only way for him to find relief.

Treatment: Veterinary chiropractic techniques were used to relax the surrounding musculature and return symmetric mobility to the pelvis.  Immediately after treatment, for the first time in over a week, Jackie stood and walked about 15 feet before collapsing from exhaustion.

Long Term Outcome: A combination of veterinary chiropractic and acupuncture techniques has Jackie moving better now than he ever did before the accident.

Jackie`s mom wrote the following letter when she submitted his picture:

Our precious kitty, Jack Frost “Jackie” (pictured left), hurt his back and was unable to walk.  He was in tremendous pain and couldn’t even stand, let alone use the litter box by himself.  We consulted 5 veterinarians, the last of which was Dr. Lane.  All said the prognosis was not good, prescribed narcotics for pain and said he should be put to sleep, all except Dr. Lane that is.  After weeks of not walking, Dr. Lane adjusted Jackie and he walked immediately after that!  Now, several years later, Jackie is happy and healthy.  Dr. Lane saved his life and gave us more years to love him.
One of the veterinarians we consulted was my own father who had long been skeptical about chiropractic treatment.  Now he recommends it.

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