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Are we giving our dogs a drug habit?

Do you walk your dog near a drug dealer? Yes, you heard that right! What kind of drugs you may ask? Well the kind that comes in small round packages, usually with a yellow or green wrapper, occasionally even with cute paw prints on them to make them even more attractive to our canine friends.

Want to know the name of these drugs! Tennis balls. And the dealer is usually accompanied by their plastic friend ….. known as the ‘chucker’.

These small round packages are highly addictive to our canine friends and once they are hooked, it’s almost impossible for them to give up. Even by going cold turkey, if they are offered a quick fix they won’t be able to resist and will fall off the wagon.

But how bad can it be? Surely dogs and balls go together like cheese and onion or strawberries and cream….?

Traditionally that’s what we have been led to believe, but let’s look at the impact on joints and muscles when chasing that innocent looking ball. We are going to look at some photos taken from a video so you can see the you can see the physical impacts:

Here you can see that the dog is ‘face planting’ when chasing the ball, they have lost balance on their front legs and the weight of the impact is going through their neck and shoulders.

This dog is focused on the ball, but not on it's landing!

It is also the repetitive nature which is so damaging when we encourage our dogs to exercise in this way. Repetitive strain can be insidious. It can cause dogs to suddenly go lame for no apparent reason as the strain and associated compensatory pain just becomes too much for the body's musculoskeletal and myofascial systems and these break down.

As dogs become obsessed with chasing their next ball ‘high’ they become adrenaline junkies, oblivious to any discomfort or pain. You can see how wide this dog's eyes are below and how he appears to be ‘wired’, waiting for his next ‘hit’.

High levels of adrenaline are associated with heightened vigilance, anxiety and can change thought processes in the brain. This means that dogs can be more reactive to stimulation and do not always think before responding, for example, reacting inappropriately to another dog coming to ‘share’ their ball.

We’re definitely not saying guardians shouldn’t have fun with their dogs but if we are going to permit dogs to jump and chase, then we need to treat their bodies like we would athletes. We need to balance this high impact exercise which compresses their body with exercises that elongate their body such as food or ball searching/scenting activities.

To learn more about how common activities can lead to repetitive strain injuries and how you can maintain your dog's health, check out our online course 'Soft Tissue Injury and Repair : Maintaining Your Dog's Health' >

Although we have taken a more light hearted approach to this serious topic, our message remains the same and as always we are passionate about the ongoing musculoskeletal health of our dogs. If you have any concerns about your dog or a dog you are working with, please get in touch>


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