“My dog doesn’t like being touched”.
I’ve heard this time again and its definitely the biggest challenge when treating dogs! But it’s also one of the reasons I absolutely love treating dogs. A human can tell me where it sore, and if I need to touch a sore area I can explain why or they instinctively understand. They come to me knowing that I’m going to touch them and that it may be sore.
A dog didn’t chose to book an appointment and they can’t tell me where it’s sore. They can give me clues, but in order to treat a dog I’ve got to get them to let me touch them. I’ve got to gain their permission.
Before I even try to gain their permission to touch them, I observe them and talk to the owner to gather as much information as possible about their injury, lameness, stiffness, posture… I can then use these clues to know where they are likely to be most sore and therefore least likely to want me touching. I usually start at a distant body part and preferably somewhere they enjoy being touched.
If I’ve never met the dog before then I can start by simply seeing if the dog will let me near them or come to me, just for a scratch. The owner can be helpful here letting me know where the dog likes scratches or how they like being approached. The owner will also be right their comforting their dog, letting them know its okay. We may even use treats. This may only take a few seconds or it may take a while, but while we’re having scratchies I’m still taking in information and watching how they use their body.
As the dog becomes more comfortable with my presence its time to move from scratchies to assessment. I try to assess their whole body to get a picture of their general musculoskeletal health. How do the non sore areas move, is there any restriction, what is the balance like, are the muscles tight? As I get closer to the sorer area I may simply lightly touch it first. I need the dog to relax as much as possible and know that they will be okay. I need them to trust me. I will then see if they will let me move it and if so, how much? How is the joint moving? Is it really stiff, lax, tight, loose? How does it compare to the other side? How do the muscles feel? This part is not too dissimilar to assessing a human.
If a dog doesn’t want me to move a joint a certain way, I won’t. I gain nothing from forcing something to move and if I’m at concerned that the dog has a serious injury that requires veterinary assessment, I will refer them back to their Vet immediately.
Based on the information I’ve gathered I’ll have a good idea of the dogs musculoskeletal health, why they are sore, and what needs to be improved. I’ll discuss this with the owner and then start treating from there.