Activities for our dogs…. and for us !

Interview with Nathalie Barrière

What is osteopathy?

  • Osteopathy is a manual technique aiming to rebalance the body by removing blockages.
  • An osteopathic injury is a lack of range of motion or fluidity. It is therefore not visible in medical imaging.
  • This restriction of movement can affect a joint, a muscle, a fascia or even an organ.
  • These blockages have a direct impact on the mechanics of the body but also on its organic or visceral functions.

When would you advise consulting an osteopathic doctor for a dog??

  • The animal has a problem: lameness, back pain, etc.
  • Trauma
  • Growing dog, around 5-6 months, to prevent the growth plates from welding together with blockages.
  • Sporting dog: at least once a year as a check-up, as the dog is stimulated very strongly and with a lot of adrenaline dogs can overdo it…
  • An aging animal
  • No apparent problems: it is rare that there is no blockage.

What do you advise in terms of preparation of the dog, before coming to you for an osteopathic consultation? (painkillers, warm-up,…)

No special preparation is required.

If the dog is taking painkillers at the time he is due to come, they should be continued. I don’t need the pain to see where the problems are. If the dog is in a lot of pain, he may hold back in his movements and therefore not let himself go 100%.

What physical injuries and chronic pathologies can be treated with osteopathy?

All blockages will be removed, so if they come in with a limp or pain, this will disappear completely through manipulation and not come back.

For example if the dog has made a false movement which has led to blockages and these blockages themselves have led to compensation.

There are pathologies where there is a morphological change, as in arthrosis, or congenital malformations, such as dislocation of the patella in small dogs. In these cases, osteopathy cannot cure but it will greatly relieve the animal.

It is impossible to draw up an exhaustive list of injuries and pathologies that can be treated with osteopathy…

What physical injuries cannot be treated with osteopathy?

  • Fractures
  • Tumours
  • Infections (bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc.)
  • Autoimmune problems

Here too the list cannot be exhaustive.

In her article “Other indicators of muscle pain” published on 03.12.2014 on the “Dog World” website, Julia Robertson, a myotherapist (muscle system therapist), uses these words about sitting on demand:

So often some major indicators are misconstrued as training issues. How often do you hear someone getting quite animated, asking/telling a dog to sit; you can see it in the dogs face that they would if they could but it may take a while! Sitting is such a difficult action and yet we appear obsessed with asking/telling our dogs to do it! For a dog to sit they have to use their body in a way that requires their muscles to eccentrically contract, in other words, to hold their body against gravity. When I say their body, I mean their neck, shoulders, back, pelvis, fore and hind limbs. This is just sitting, they have to do the reverse standing but this time use strength to heave themselves up, again against gravity but this time using concentric contraction. This is a tough manoeuvre and if your dog is reluctant, just think, it may not be because he is being disobedient, he may just hurt!

What is your opinion on this subject?

I agree that a dog that has difficulty sitting may be in pain and therefore should be checked.

This movement can be compared in humans to when we crouch, we can actually feel that our muscles have to “force”, it is not very natural to do this often.

The position can be interesting to teach a dog, but it should not be abused and asked all the time. It should be avoided in dysplastic dogs and older dogs.

At the osteopathic level, the position will not necessarily lead to blockages if the dog sits upright, except for the sacrum which will be pulled by the tail forced at right angles.

On the other hand, when the dog sits “crooked”, i.e. more on one buttock than on the other, this can lead to a blockage of the pelvis or this blockage may be the cause of it.

If the pelvis becomes blocked, it carries with it a series of compensations, including blockages in the end of the lumbar vertebrae (often L4-L5 and the lumbosacral junction) and the thoracolumbar junction.

Still about Julia Robertson, here is what she says in the article “Scent some time with your dog” published on 26.08.2016 on the Galen Therapy Centre’s website, about scenting activities:

When a dog scents or sniffs they adopt a natural body position that enables good movement patterns. It helps to stretch out their spines and importantly their necks; by employing this body shape that enables their hind quarters to ‘engage’, meaning encouraging the muscles within their hind legs and pelvic region. This in turn helps to develop their ‘drive’ which comes from their hind quarters and this will take the excessive load off their forelimbs and neck that is so common from any weakness within their pelvic region. For this and so many other reasons this type of exercise specifically ideal for puppy’s, rehabilitation and veteran dogs that may be suffering with arthritis and general stiffness.

Do you agree with her?

Yes, I fully agree.

The skeleton of the dog having no clavicle, the shoulder blades are connected to the skull and spine only by muscles and tendons (no bones or joints). How can this feature be disabling / debilitating?

For all “landings”, landing jumps, descending from a certain height (sofas, cars, etc.) these muscular straps will be put under great strain. One can easily get shoulder tendinitis related to this when these movements are repetitive.

You can also get strained or even torn muscles when these movements are done abruptly and while cold.

Absorbing the shock of jumping down can sometimes hurt so much that the dog’s mandible can hit the ground on landing. Neck problems may also occur.

You recommend a warm-up before any physical activity. How to do it and what are the benefits?

I think that’s essential. Would you play a game of squash without warming up? It’s the same for your dog. The risk of injury is incredibly reduced on a warmed-up animal.

Warming up should be done in a progressive way where you intensify the movements. You can therefore start by walking, then trotting and finally galloping. After that, you can start more specific movements depending on the activity you want to do with your dog (for example, small jumps and 8s if you are preparing him for an agility course).

The warm-up should last at least 10 minutes and it would be even better, if possible, to do it for 20 minutes.

You recommend a “cool-down” of the body after any physical activity. How does this work and what are the benefits?

Allowing the dog to walk for 10 minutes after a physical effort is very important to have less lactic acid in the muscles and thus less aches and pains the next day.

What activities do you find dangerous for a dog to engage in??

  • Abrupt changes of direction (fetching, flyball, etc.)
  • Jumps at too great a height (fences, etc.)
  • Abrupt activities on a slippery surface


Once again, the list cannot be exhaustive but I reiterate the fact that the warm-up will allow, under the same constraint, to have fewer or less serious injuries.

What injuries or after-effects have you noticed specifically as a result of a game of fetch (balls, frisbees, sticks,…?

The most common injury is a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the stifle (knee). This tear can be partial or complete. The lower leg remains on the ground while the upper one swivels, creating a twisting of the knee. When the tear is complete, the dog often needs surgery. When it is partial, it depends on many factors but the dog should be rested for at least 2 months.

This injury leads to a cascade of compensations at the osteopathic level: the pelvis tilts to put more weight on one hind leg than the other. This tilting of the pelvis causes a blockage in the 4th or 5th lumbar vertebrae and in the thoracolumbar junction.

The hips will be stimulated during propulsion. If this is done at an angle and/or cold, the dog may feel severe pain. The pelvis will then very quickly become injured as well.

Injuries to the forelimbs are also frequently encountered, especially in the shoulders (most often following a slip) or in the carpus (wrists) (following sudden braking and changes of direction).

Injuries to the back will mainly be located in the high dorsal region (between the shoulder blades), at the thoracolumbar junction and in the lower lumbar region.

The nape of the neck may also be blocked during an abrupt movement. This is one of the most painful areas. Dogs often cry out “as if they were stepped on their tail, even though they are not being touched” throughout the period of inflammation.

The temporo-mandibular joints (jaws), when catching straight “in the mouth” can also become blocked.

Injuries and pain can be marked instantly, sometimes even with a scream, or after cooling down (sometimes even only the next day).

In the most serious but fortunately rarer cases, fractures or tearing of the growth plates can occur. These fractures are difficult to treat because they are often spiral fractures, i.e. linked to a twisting of the long bone at the time of landing. The bone most often affected by this type of fracture is the tibia.

All these problems were “acute” after-effects, but we must not forget the injuries which will be chronic, as a result of repeating the same movements over and over again, we will find arthritis in the joints which are most stressed, i.e.: the knees, hips, vertebrae (dorsal and lumbar), wrists and shoulders.