How to Stretch a Dog

Safely and effectively stretch your dog

 Five basic guidelines to follow:

The following is an excerpt from Chapter Two, on Holistic Dog Care, from my e-book, “The Ultimate Rehabilitation & Physiotherapy Guide for Dogs”

• “The muscles should be warm. By increasing the blood flow to the muscles, the tissues get heated up. This in turn lubricates the joints and prevents injuries. It also provides the best stretch and increased range of motion. Warming up the muscle can be done by exercising for a short period first. Over time the joint integrity decreases and so this is very important for older dogs. An excellent exercise for this is swimming, but if that is not possible a short ten minute walk outside or on a treadmill will do.

• The muscles should be completely relaxed. The muscle will not stretch properly unless it is completely relaxed. Make sure you are relaxed and calm when you begin, because if you are stressed or pressed for time the dog will feel it. Place your hands on the dog and stroke her/him while taking some deep breaths. The only way to get an effective stretch is to have the dog lying down. Also recognize that some of the body positions can be intimidating or threatening to certain dogs. If your dog is rigid, excessively panting, shaking, pawing, kicking, yawning, showing the whites of their eyes, licking their nose or squirming, your dog is telling you that they are either stressed, in pain or scared. Stop and give it a break. If your dog growls at you it is advised to see a veterinarian to make sure everything is medically okay.

• The joint needs to be stabilized. If the bones are held properly, it sends a message to the brain that the joint is secure and the muscles can now relax. To achieve this you have to hold the bones above and below the joint confidently and steadily.

• Stretch the limbs using a straight plain movement. This is achieved by holding the long bones of the limbs in alignment with the joint. By stretching in this fashion we prevent injuring the dog by stretching something we never intended to, like the medial ligaments of the stifle. This is very important for the stifle joint and the hip joint. With the frequency of hip dysplasia, patellar luxation and cruciate ligament tears, it places both of these joints at a risk for injury. If your dog has underlying conditions do not stretch them until you have gained clearance from your veterinarian.

• The stretch of the muscle needs to be held for at least 30 seconds. By holding it this long it reaches both the elastic and non-elastic fibers of the muscle. After the 30 seconds of stretching, the fibers will return to their natural state and the integrity of the joint and the muscles surrounding it will be improved.

The following are maintenance stretching routines for a healthy dog…”

You can read more on stretching your dog, along with pictures demonstrating how, in my e-book ,  “The Ultimate Rehabilitation & Physiotherapy Guide for Dogs

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