How to help a knee with Shasta the doggie!
She’s an 8 year old full blood rescue Akita. Sweet and happy, and likes to play with her best friend Sasquatch. One day while playing with my lab Nova at the park, I noticed her owner carrying her along the sidewalk. I jokingly said, “Does she not want to leave the park and you have to carry her home?” Her owner replied, “No, her back leg collapsed and she can’t walk. I have a bad feeling she just blew her other ACL.”
What?? I felt horrible. Poor sweet Shasta.
Weeks later, she magically re-appeared at the park with some new scars but seemed as good as new. Indeed she had blown her ACL- anterior cruciate ligament in her knee- and had it repaired.
However, when I watched her walk, I was concerned. Here’s what she looked like from the back (sort of) holding still.
See how her feet point outwards? This happens in humans too, for instance with my client Michelle:
Michele has no cartilage left in her right knee and although it isn’t painful we have been working on it to stabilize it. You can see the knee angle in (called a valgus stress on the knee) just like Shasta, and her feet turn out a bit also. Humans and doggies face similar challenges when it comes to joints, and when my Akita Nutmeg had a hip problem years ago the vet told me we could take baby aspirin every day, replace the hip, or do nothing. That’s basically what my humans are told, too!
Watch Shasta walk in the video below and then I tacked on a film of Nova walking. What major muscle seems to be missing with Shasta? (Hint: on the back of her legs)
When I pointed out this big deficit to her owner, he said, “Well, what do I do for her? I can’t make her do exercises like you do with humans!”
I had a similar experience with my Nutmeg- although in her case it was her hips rather than her knees that were bugging her. Her feet started turning out and her hamstrings basically disappeared. By the way- this happens with humans all the time too!
What is the solution?
I walked Nutmeg up long, steep hills very slowly. That promotes leg and hip extension and helps the hamstrings engage in both doggies and humans. I have clients try and use hills to take pressure off low backs, knees, and calves.
Walk up a steep hill and see what happens!
Let me know in the comments below, and take a good look at your doggie, too!