Hypermobility in dogs – Part 3

Nicky Grant BSc Hons Physiotherapy, MSc Veterinary Physiotherapy, MCSP, ACPAT A, HCPC, RAMP

Can agility dogs with hypermobility compete in agility? The answer is not always a straightforward one unfortunately. There are lots of dogs competing in agility that are hypermobile and unfortunately there are also dogs that just can’t manage. I think there are a few factors that guide this.
Firstly the severity of the hypermobility. As discussed in the previous blog hypermobility in people is graded using a scoring system out of 9. There is no such system in dogs that I am aware of which makes it much harder to have clear guidelines surrounding severity. In terms of severity I think its reasonably simple, if there are multiple joints involved then it is likely to make it harder for the dog, if the joints involved are much more mobile than normal this will also make it harder for the dog.
The location of the hypermobility is also a consideration. For example severe hypermobility in the carpal joints (the equivalent to our wrist joints) can be difficult because there is so much force going through the front limbs when landing from a jump or coming down off an A-Frame. However mild hypermobility may be manageable, there may need to be some compromises and close management and monitoring would likely be required.
Shoulders are a tricky joint as they are such a complex joint biomechanically. Shoulders rely a lot on muscular support for stability and optimal movement so if there is excess movement at a shoulder joint this can be difficult to manage in agility dogs. If you think about the pressure that a movement like weaving puts on the shoulders this can often be too much for the joints to manage. There may well also be concurrent tissue damage in the shoulder, this is another issue and will not be covered by the scope of this blog.
The long and short of managing hypermobile dogs is that some can be managed in agility, however they need extra input to stay fit, healthy and strong enough to do be ‘agility fit’. They will need to work with a Physiotherapist closely and long term to monitor and manage their needs. There are also many concurrent factors that would need to be considered such as age of the dog, breed, conformation, any previous injuries, grade of competition, long term goals etc. As with all cases, dogs are individuals and need to be managed as such, no two cases are the same, even when the diagnosis or problem is the same.
Thank you for reading this blog, please feel free to comment or share your experiences.

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