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A 11 Step Guide to the Physical Wellness of your Canine Companion!

Updated: Sep 18, 2023

If you are a passionate dog lover, pet parent or a canine enthusiast who is seeking advice, tips and valuable information on how to optimise your beloved four-legged friend’s overall physical wellness and longevity, then please read on!

What is Canine Wellness?

Canine Wellness refers to the overall health and optimised state of your canine companion. It is the difference between surviving and thriving! Wellness focuses on various aspects of the canine to prevent injury, reduce pain and improve longevity and happiness.

There are two elements to wellness!

Emotional Wellness:

Emotional Wellness refers to your dog’s emotional state, their ability to cope with stress, and their overall mental health. I could talk for hours about the nervous system and how stress, fear, anxiety and trauma physically impacts the body, However … I am not a dog trainer or a dog behaviourist! These professionals are much better equipped at supporting you and advising you when it comes to your dog’s emotional wellness. Despite this it is a key element of your dog's overall wellness and should not be over looked.

Physical Wellness:

Physical Wellness refers to your dog’s physical health, fitness, overall body function and mobility. Just as we pay attention to our own physical health, it's crucial to prioritise the physical wellness of your dog/s if we want to prevent injury, reduce pain and promote longevity.

In the 1970’s the average life expectancy for a medium-sized dog was 17 years old. Today it is 10!

This is staggering especially when we have specialist vets in every field of veterinary medicine and advances in medicine have come on so much in the last 40 years.

So why is this? Well in order to optimise your dog’s physical wellness there are 11 areas you may wish to consider. This blog gives you a very brief overview of each area with links to click on to find out more information.

Jump to a section by clicking on an area listed below.

1. Silent Pain

Dr Edward – The healing Vet (2021) stated:

“Up to 53% of pets have silent pain that is invisible to their humans”

This is because:

  • Silent pain builds up slowly

  • Soft tissue pain usually manifests all over the body

  • Dogs don’t always vocalise pain

  • Dogs have an innate survival instinct to mask pain

  • Silent pain is invisible on X-rays, MRI, ultrasounds etc

  • Increased arousal increases pain tolerance

If you would like to read more about what silent pain is and why is goes undetected read my blog 'Silent pain in dogs - the harsh reality.'

What you can do!

Hands on assessment – feel all over your dog to check for any lumps & bumps, sensitive or uncomfortable areas.

Hands off assessment – Monitor your dog closely to pick up subtle changes in appearance, posture, movement and behaviour. Read my blog 'Silent pain in dogs - spot the signs' to find out more.

2. Exercise

Regular exercise is important for dogs to maintain a healthy weight, cardiovascular fitness, and muscular strength. It also provides enrichment. However, I feel it is important to stress that walks are not the only form of exercise and that there are many physiological and psychological effects too much exercise can have on your dog’s overall wellness.

Did you realise that there is a risk of over exercising your dog or giving your dog the wrong type of exercise? As it puts your dog at a greater risk of developing soft tissue issues, joint issues and behavioural issues?

Niki French – Puptalk wrote the best-selling book 'Stop walking your dog!' - The notion of having to walk your dog daily is a human invention and is a very outdated practice

She talks about when you might not want to walk your dog from a phycological perspective.

My blog '9 reasons NOT to walk your dog' talks about reasons for not walking your dog from a physiological perspective.

What you can do!

The type and amount of exercise required can vary depending on your dog's breed, age, and overall health. This needs careful consideration especially with puppies and senior dogs. When you next take your dog on a walk, consider the following:

  • Time

  • Distance

  • Duration

  • Terrain

  • Intensity

  • Activities

3. Rest & Sleep

Dogs need between 12 – 14 hours of sleep per day. Unlike us humans who should average about 7- 8 hours per day. Sufficient rest and quality of sleep are important for your dog's physical wellness. When your dog is resting it allows their body to regenerate and self-heal. This is important especially if they have had a busy weekend, exerted themselves doing a sport, had a hard training session or a stressful event.

Without creating the right balance between activity and rest, your dog could be more at risk of injury.

What you can do!

Ensure your dog gets the rest that they need by creating a calm, quite, comfortable and safe space in the home away from distraction, noise and activity.

4. Canine Conditioning & Fitness

This is more than just exercise. This is specific exercises designed to improve mobility, reduce the risk of injury and enhance performance.

The Canine Conditioning Academy offers a range of science-based programmes in conditioning and fitness for your dogs. Their unique programmes are designed to develop your dog's strength from the inside out. Foundation Conditioning is the key to a fit, healthy, flexible, balanced dog helping them to get the best out of life and reach their full athletic potential in whatever they do. I highly recommend you check out their website!

5. Hazardous Homes

There are many hazards in the home that can be detrimental to your dog’s musculoskeletal health. This includes;

  • Slippery floors

  • Up and down Stairs/ steps

  • Jumping on/off furniture

  • Bedding – don’t forget bedding in crates/ vans

  • Feeding height

What you can do!

  • Put rugs down on slippery floors and high traffic areas

  • Reduce assess to stairs

  • Limit times your dog jumps up/off furniture

  • Ensure bedding is supportive and allows your dog enough space to fully stretch out and move around

  • Find a comfortable feeding height for your dog

6. Harmful Habits

Allowing your dog to get into bad habits can also be detrimental to your dog’s musculoskeletal health. This includes;

  • Jumping up

  • Chase games - such as ball chasing

  • Repetitive activities - for example spinning on the soot

  • Jumping in/out of the car

  • Pulling on lead and the use of incorrectly fitted harness, collars and haltis

  • Rough play

  • 0-60 - for example shooting out of the house/car from rest

What you can do!

  • Use positive training methods to encourage your dog not to jump up. This includes people, gates, fencing, doors etc.

  • Limit the amount of times your dog is allowed to chase a ball. Play alternative games with the ball such as hiding it.

  • Consider the repetitive activities your dog is allowed to do and limit the amount of repetitions in training sessions.

  • If you have a dog that pulls on lead ensure you have a well-fitted harness.

  • Minimise rough play especially shoulder barding and rough and tumble

  • Warm up and cool down your dog 10 minutes before and after exercise

7. Alternative Therapies

I am a huge advocate for canine massage therapy, especially as clinical trials with Winchester University have proven that...

Canine massage significantly reduces pain severity in 95% of dogs!

However I do acknowledge, that all dogs are different and have individual needs. What works for one dog won’t always work for another.

What you can do!

There are so many alternative therapies to choose from including, hydrotherapy, chiropractor, physiotherapy, acupuncture and so on. It is about choosing the right therapy or combination of therapies that’s right for your dog and building a mutil model approach to support your dog's overall physical wellness.

8. Weight Management

Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for your dog's overall physical wellness, as obesity can lead to various health problems, including joint issues, heart disease, and diabetes.

The recently published PDSA Animal Wellbeing Report stated that:

81% of owners perceive their dog to be an ideal weight. However, veterinary professionals estimate that 46% of dogs are overweight or obese.

Did you know that it is actually healthier for your dog to be lean then slightly over weight?

In a 14-year study, Purina scientists were the first to prove the importance of keeping dogs in lean body condition from puppyhood and throughout their lives.

Find out why by clicking here!

What you can do

  • Find out what your dog's ideal weight should be

  • Weigh your dog once a month at the vets or at home

  • Weigh your food and ensure you are feeding to your dog’s ideal weight not the weight they are currently

  • Limit treats and tip bits and ensure you deduct this from their daily allowance

  • Use this handy guide to find out your dog's body condition score.

9. Nutrition

Providing a well-balanced and appropriate diet is crucial for your dog's physical wellness. A nutritious diet should meet their specific nutritional needs, including proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals. The quality and quantity of food should be tailored to your dog’s age, size, breed, and any specific health considerations.

What you can do!

Now I don’t want to get into a raw vs dry food debate as everyone will have there own preference and choices, but there is a great website called all about dog food where you can find a wealth of information.

10. Supplements

Supplements can be very powerful tools when used properly. There are a range of products on the market to support your dog’s;

  • Joints and mobility

  • Digestion and gut health

  • Coat and skin

  • Comfort levels

  • Arousal & anxiety

What you can do!

There are a range of different supplements and products on the market and I encourage you to do your own research. The dogs naturally magazine website is one place to start.

Please note: If your dog has a diagnosed medical condition, takes medication, is in sever pain or is scheduled for surgery consult with your vet before starting a new supplement.

11. Preventive Healthcare

People sound very proud when they haven’t taken their dog to the vet for ages.

Don’t under value the importance of regular veterinary check-ups. Routine examinations can detect potential health issues early and ensure appropriate preventive measures, are in place.

Just because your dog looks fit and healthy on the outside does not mean you know what is going on, inside.

What you can do!

  • Ensure you have regular veterinary check-ups

  • Carry a canine first aid kit - have one in the house and your car

  • Regular hands on and hands off assessments

  • Regular grooming sessions - check for seeds and foreign bodies

  • Nail care - keep length of nails short and trim hairs between their pads.

  • Titre testing vs vaccinations

  • Free muscular health check - a hands on assessment with a canine massage therapist from the canine massage guild will be able to detect subtle abnormalities to your dog's soft tissue. To find a therapist in your area click here

If you would like more advice, tips and valuable information on how to optimise your beloved four-legged friend’s overall physical wellness and longevity, join our FREE, support facebook community today.

This is a supportive community where members can connect with like-minded people, share experiences, seek advice, offer support, ask questions, and find inspiration. You have the power to become your dog’s advocate by making simple, yet effective LIFESTYLE CHANGES. Small changes for a brighter future! Together, let’s create a community focused on maximising our dog’s physical wellness and help them live their best life!

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