Orthopaedic and Neurological Conditions

Canine Massage can assist in supporting many orthopaedic and neurological conditions.

  • Increasing circulation
  • Decreasing inflammation
  • Through passive stretches improve range of movement
  • Release endorphins which assist in natural pain relief 
  • Help strengthen muscles and improve flexibility
  • Help the compensating limb tension and corrects muscle/body balance
  • Help improve the dogs disposition
  • Post-operative rehabilitation
  • Support the areas where the body is overcompensating (for instance if your dogs front right elbow is causing pain they will often refer asymmetrically to their back left leg; you may see signs of lameness on the overcompensating leg which massage can help to support depending on the length of time held)
  • Soothe nerves in areas of pain
  • Reduce soreness and tension throughout the whole body
  • Remove spasms/trigger points 
  • Encourages your dog to use all of their legs equally and weight bear more comfortably
  • Improves the muscle tone and strength of the affected limb

For information on orthopaedic and neurological conditions please see below:

  • Cruciate Ligament Damage 
  • Chronic Degenerative Radiculo Myelopathy (CDRM)


Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease mostly affects older dogs. In a healthy dog, the connecting surfaces of a joint are protected by a coating of cartilage. This allows the bones to move smoothly over one another reducing friction. When osteoarthritis is present the cartilage around the joint is often damaged. This creates friction as bones make contact with each other, leading to inflammation and further soft tissue damage.

The constant rubbing of the bones can cause bony spurs to develop around the affected bone surfaces causing further pain, inflammation and reduced mobility. Reduced mobility can lead to loss of strength in supporting muscles and ligaments becoming slack. Reduced mobility can also cause dogs to put weight on increasing the stress placed on the joint.

Hip Dysplasia 

The hip joint is formed of a ball and socket. The ball at the end of the thigh bone should fit snuggly into a socket on the pelvis. In the case of Hip Dysplasia the hip socket has not developed properly and formed more of a shallow hollow into which the ball of thigh bone fits rather loosely.

The muscles and tendons that hold the joint in place are also poorly developed causing the ball to move around in the joint as it bears weight. This causes abnormal wear and tear to the hip joint causing further degradation until the joint no longer functions properly.

Arthritic changes begin to appear. These include signs of wear to the femoral head, a rough appearance to the joint surfaces, and the growth of arthritic bone spurs. The development of lameness appears unpredictable, some dogs may go most of their lives without lameness while others become lame as puppies.

Hip dysplasia mostly occurs in large breeds and can only be diagnosed by a Vet using an x-ray. If your dog has been diagnosed or if you suspect that it may be present Canine Massage Therapy can help to support this orthopaedic condition. Your dog will want to shift its weight forward, placing additional stress on the shoulders and front limbs, while increasing tension in the hind limbs in an attempt to stabilise the joint.

Elbow Dysplasia

‘Dysplasia’ means the abnormal development of tissue. In this case, it is the abnormal development of the the elbow joint. This is where the humerus, radius and ulna all meet, and should meet perfectly. If this is not the case then the abnormal pressures exerted on the joint can give rise to four different manifestations of the condition. The dog may have elbow dysplasia which consists of one or more of these states.

  • Fragmented medial coronoid process (FCP)
    In this case the coronoid process breaks away from the ulna. It then irritates to the cartilage causing it wear. Large breeds are prone to this. Keyhole surgery is recommended to remove any bone fragments.
  • Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD)
    The condition is caused by an abnormal growth of cartilage around the humeral condyle, which can become detatched but continue to grow causing pain and inflammation in the joint. Surgical removal of the loose cartilage improves the lameness but the cartilage will not grow back and arthritis will eventually set in.
  • Ununited anconeal process (UAP)
    In young dogs the growth plate of the anconeal process is separate from the rest of the ulna and in some cases rather than join up it forms a separate bone. Surgery can pin the bone into place.
  • Medial compartment disease
    This condition occurs when the bones of the joint do not fit well causing abnormal wear and tear on the cartilage of the bone surfaces. This leads to inflammation and arthritis.

Luxating Patella

Luxating Patella literally means ‘out of place knee cap’. The knee cap, or patella, is held in place by ligaments that lie in a groove at the base of the thigh bone that operates in a similar way to a pulley system.

In some dogs this groove is too shallow causing the patella to slip out of its alignment and flip to the inner or outer side of the leg. This is called a luxation and is very painful when it happens. The dog is unlikely to put weight on the affected leg and will display a hopping movement. Some dogs will learn to kick the leg backward to relocate the patella. This repetitive and unnatural movement will eventually lead to arthritis in the joint.

As your dog attempts to prevent it’s patella from popping out of place they will often adopt a stiff legged walk putting extra strain on the back and muscles on the hind legs.

Cruciate Ligament Damage

The knee joint, or stifle, is supported by ligaments all around the exterior and within the joint itself. The cruciate ligaments can be found within the joint capsule, holding the thigh bone and the shin bone together where they meet. There are two cruciate ligaments that cross each other to form a ‘cross’, the anterior (cranial) and posterior (caudal). The anterior cruciate ligament prevents the lower part of the hind leg from slipping out from under the thigh. This is the most common ligament of the two that tends to rupture.

The main cause of a cruciate ligament rupture appears to be due to a repetitive micro-injury, whereby the dog is repeating an action that causes a stretch to the ligament which alters the ligament’s structure until eventually it tears. This could be due to agility, jumping badly or a previous knee injury like a luxating patella.

 Chronic Degenerative Radiculo Myelopathy (CDRM)

This is not a painful condition but is a progressively disabling condition which affects the spine. The degeneration occurs in the white matter of the spinal cord, and in the dorsal spinal roots which supply sensory information. The cause is not known but it appears to be an autoimmune-type disease and certain breeds have a disposition towards it.  

The disease cannot be cured but it can be managed. The rate of progression varies greatly from one dog to another but keeping the dog active has been shown to slow deterioration. Dogs which develop symptoms later in life can often live on to a ‘normal’ lifespan maintaining their mobility. It is important to try to keep the dog as active as possible and avoid weight gain.