By Kayla Du Toit
My Cocker Spaniel started with introduction agility training at 6 months old. at the age of 18 months, she was competition ready and I was super excited to start our agility journey together. We had our ups and downs but she loved every moment of it. At 2 years old, I noticed that she was going down the dog walk in a very funny way; when she hit the down ramp, she suddenly lifted up her right hind limb and carried it for about three strides and then put it down again. This totally baffled me as there were no other lameness signs around the course. She was a happy girl and ran her heart out for me every round.
I decided to get the vet in to have a look at what she did on the field. The vet also had a feel of her and suggested that I take her in for hip radiographs. As a concerned dog mom, this freaked me out. I took her in and afterwards they explained to me that she had hip dysplasia. This was the most dreaded sentence that any agility-dog mom wanted to hear and the fact that we had just started with our agility journey made it all worse.
The radiographs showed that the left hip was slightly worse than the right, but actually not bad at all. She was showing signs of being tight on her iliopsoas (inside flank) muscle and didn’t like it when I extended her hips. Other than that, she was a normal happy young dog. I considered it all and decided that we would continue with agility training and competitions, I just had to commit to managing her extremely well. Lucky for her, she has a vet physio for a mom.
We spent quite some time strengthening her hind limbs and maintaining the full range of her hips, she loved swimming so this was a plus! I also had access to balance equipment (peanut ball, wobble cushion) to strengthen her core and hind limb muscles, and a laser to treat her hips and surrounding muscles when she overdid it a bit. She has done very well and only in the last year (at the age of 5) has she started to battle a bit more after a competition weekend. She now shows more signs of being tight in her hips but don’t get me wrong, on the field you won’t say that anything is wrong! I’m also now lucky enough that I can work her in the underwater treadmill to strengthen her up. She has regular acupuncture sessions to keep her pain free and gets her joint supplements daily.
I have also learnt that a proper warm-up and cool-down after a competition (and practice session!) helps a lot to prevent pain and stiffness afterwards. To be honest, I have also had those lazy days where I feel that the weather is nice and warm, it’s only a practice session so let’s skip the warm-up and cool-down. Trust me on this one, it’s not a good idea! The following day she is more sore and I battle a few days to get rid of the stiffness. So it’s true to say that a little goes a long way!