I think the most influential factor on whether a dog can earn a UD, UDX, or OTCH is that the dog be physically and mentally healthy. The last two Newfoundlands I trained have had serious health problems, and attempting to earn obedience titles and to overcome the problems has felt like starting with two strikes against us.
My current “problem” is Spirit. He ruptured his cruciate ligament* early in his career due to an abnormally formed knee, and we have been through the surgery, recovery, re-injury, revisits to the vets and surgeons, medications and supplements. I would try almost anything to rehabilitate this dog.
If therapists give people exercises to do to rehabilitate an injury, shouldn't the same apply to dogs? Yet, aside from a gentle walk on a leash, veterinarians I asked could think of no exercises for me to do with Spirit. Just when Spirit was beginning to show signs of recovery, he managed to badly sprain the same knee. Throughout the past year, he became progressively worse. He has his CD, but hopes of ever attempting to earn a CDX looked dim. Though the sprain healed, he habitually threw his weight onto his rear good leg. By August, he not only walked with a “hitch in his git-a-long,” but the muscles in the bad leg were beginning to atrophy. My breeder suggested that I find a chiropractor.
I am skeptical of holistic medicine, but try to keep an open mind. Having tried every supplement and medicine, this was a last resort. I found Dr..... Liz Zabinski. Dr.. Zabinski adjusts humans and animals and is certified in animal chiropractic through the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association. The mission of the AVCA is to advance chiropractic as a health care choice for animals. The goal is to bring relief of pain and suffering for animals and bring the veterinary and chiropractic professions together for a common and higher goal in the health care of animals. Chiropractic care is a holistic approach to many of the health and performance problems of the dog. Chiropractic does not replace traditional veterinary medicine or surgery, but provides an alternative method of care. Chiropractic focuses on the health and proper functioning of the spinal column.
When Dr.. Liz first saw Spirit he was two years post-surgery. Spirit's surgical results were rated good to excellent, but degenerative joint disease of the knee and a chronic sacroiliac misalignment were causing him problems. First Dr.. Liz analyzed his gait. Then did a series of spinal and pelvic adjustments to restore normal motion to the joints.
Dr.. Liz taught me a series of stretching exercises: With Spirit on his side, I would move each leg until he would resist, up, straight forward, then straight back. On the bad leg, I would then flex and bend the knee several times. These exercises are good for all dogs, though it is best to consult with an animal chiropractor or veterinarian to be certain you are doing them properly. Spirit loved the stretching exercises, and soon started helping me when I'd say, "Let's stretch".
The stretching was then alternated with days of accupressure massage. Dr.. Liz gave me a diagram of the accupressure points and taught me how to find and massage them. Spirit and I did these every day. It was especially important to stretch before a conformation show. Due to the seriousness of Spirit's injury, and the fact that it took two years to find therapy, he needed several more adjustments. Since initiating chiropractic, Spirit has taken two more conformation points, began jumping, and actually jumped the required AKC jump height for the first time. My veterinarian and I were extremely impressed with his progress.
If you would like to find an animal chiropractor in your area, or have questions, contact the AVCA at 309-658-2920.
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