I have clients of all ages and recently started working with a two month old collie. Often canine massage is considered for senior dogs or athletes, but massage is beneficial to dogs at all stages of their lives. Puppy massage can be very helpful.
Massage gets puppies used to positive human touch and being handled, and is a great way to socialize them. Puppies spend a good deal of time running, playing hard, and doing puppy zoomies. Puppy massage can help prevent strains and sprains by lengthening and toning muscles, tendons and ligaments. Growing pains is also a condition that can be helped with massage.
In a developing young dog, bones grow at the ends near the joints and those can get achy. Dogs having ‘growing pains’ are most likely experiencing a specific, medical condition called panosteitis. This is a recognized, orthopedic disorder that can cause significant pain and lameness in young dogs.
Puppy Massage and Panosteitis
Panosteitis mostly occurs in young, rapidly growing, larger breed dogs, especially in German Shepherds. Panosteitis occurs also in Dobermans, Great Danes, Golden Retrievers, Rottweilers and Basset Hounds,but has also been documented in smaller dogs as well. The first symptoms usually occur between 5 and 14 months old, but may occur as late as 18 months old. Both sexes can be affected; however, males are more likely to develop panosteitis. Affected dogs often have recurrent episodes until they reach 2 years of age, at which time it will spontaneously resolve as this condition is self-limiting. Puppy massage can help a younger dog with pain due to panosteitis.
Puppy Massage and Panosteitis Symptoms
Symptoms of panosteitis can be a very painful, for example, shifting leg lameness lasting days to weeks with no apparent inciting cause. Panosteitis usually affects the long bones of the legs and seldom involves more than one leg at the same time. Once a particular bone has been affected, it will probably not reappear in that same bone again. Between episodes your dog may be perfectly sound until he or she becomes sore and lame in another leg. The cyclic nature of panosteitis presents itself with periods of worsening symptoms followed by periods of improvement. Each episode of lameness may last for a few days to a few weeks, and the period between episodes is often about a month, but may vary. Further symptoms include weakness, fever, depression, pain on palpation of the legs, reluctance to rise, reluctance to engage in normal activities, exercise intolerance, whimpering or other vocalization when rising, reluctance to move, or discomfort when being touched. Puppy massage can help reduce all of these symptoms.
Puppy Massage and Panosteitis Pain
The pain associated with panosteitis is likely caused by increased pressure within the bone, and/or by stimulation of pain receptors in the outer, soft tissue lining of the bone. While the underlying cause of panosteitis is unknown, stress, an infectious agent, metabolism, and an autoimmune component are all considered potential causes. Since German Shepherds seem to be particularly predisposed to panosteitis, there may be a genetic component to the disease, at least in this breed. It has also been suggested that rapid growth and high-protein, high-calcium diets may predispose some dogs to this condition. Consult your veterinarian for diet advice.
Although this condition is self-limiting, and will spontaneously resolve, during episodes of lameness it is very painful. During these times, supportive treatment can help your young dog feel more comfortable. Your veterinarian may recommend using analgesics (pain medications) and/or anti-inflammatory drugs. Also, therapeutic massage can ease general tenseness and around the joints can help ease the discomfort. It is in this way that puppy massage can be very beneficial.
During episodes of lameness it is also suggested that exercise should be restricted. Between episodes only light to moderate exercise should be encouraged, but vigorous exercise and very long walks should be avoided.
Some dogs with panosteitis have a poor appetite; in these cases it is important to ensure that they are given a properly balanced and palatable diet. In some cases, supplements such as nutraceuticals, omega fatty acids, or antioxidants such as Vitamin C may be helpful.
Although not a serious disease, and a common cause of lameness, other more serious bone diseases can cause lameness in young dogs. To be sure that a sudden onset of lameness is not caused by one of these more serious bone diseases, it is important to have your young dog examined by a veterinarian and have radiographs taken. If the radiographs show the typical lesions of panosteitis, then you can rest assured that your dog will eventually outgrow the problem.
Since panosteitis can be very painful, puppy massage can be very advantageous in caring for your young dog. While puppy massage can relieve pain, this is not a substitute for veterinarian care. Please seek the advice of a veterinarian if your puppy continues to exhibit any of the symptoms listed above. For more information on puppy massage, please contact Mari Vogel at 919-452-3467.