Does your dog have recurring cases of diarrhea, or perhaps this has become a more chronic condition? Perhaps you were advised the probable cause was a food intolerance or possibly IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease)?
These conditions are often misdiagnosed by failing to take into account the integrity of the environment surrounding the organs of the digestive system.
What does this mean?
Up to 80% of the dogs I treat for digestive problems all have tight lumbar muscles. The lumbar muscles support the lower spine and sacrum. This is the area from the middle of the spine to the base of the tail. Tight muscles in the lumbar area affect tissue deep within the dogs body.
How does this affect the digestive system?
The lumbar area of the spine is particularly important for nerve function. The spinal cord sends vital nerve signals to the digestive system organs. This includes the stomach, pancreas, large intestine, small intestine and gall bladder. Any tension in the lumbar muscles can pinch and restrict the function of the spinal nerves, which in turn affects the function of the related organs.
You can see from the images below just how close these lumbar and sacral muscles are to the organs of the digestive system. The spinal nerves need to be able to send unrestricted signals to these organs in order for the digestive system to function normally. Remember, the intestines are just one long muscle requiring optimal nerve function!
The nerves themselves project out from between the vertebrae laterally.
What are the signs of lumbar pain/tension?
- You may notice the spinal muscles spasm or flinch as your dog stretches.
- If you run your fingers down either side of the spine you may notice the muscles twitch in areas.
- They may have no ‘wiggle’ or flexion in their hips when they walk and their lumbar area may seem rounded and solid.
- Their lumbar area will also feel really solid with little ‘give’ in the muscles.
- Reduced power through the back legs.
- As you run your hands down your dogs back you may notice areas that are hotter to the touch. This is an indication of inflammation within the muscle.
I have a 16 week old Border Collie puppy who is full of mischief and energy in equal quantities! A few weeks ago he developed diarrhea and this was consistent over approximately five days. At a scheduled vet appointment we discussed the issue, but there were no other symptoms that could explain it and the vet gave him the all clear. He was eating and drinking normally and was as bright as a button. I hadn’t changed his food and he hadn’t been exposed to any toxins etc. Sometimes spotting problems with your own dog is harder than you would expect – especially for an animal therapist!
I took a step back and analysed the situation as if he was one of my clients. I checked his spine as found the muscles were spasming when palpated in his lumbar region. Bingo! I treated him with a combination of gentle bodywork techniques to release the muscles. He passed no further diarrhea and his digestive system returned to normal within a few hours.
Digestive problems are also common when dogs with lumbar tension have been physically exerting themselves in a way that puts additional pressure on their lower back. Examples of this would be jumping for a frisbee or chasing a tennis ball. Agility dogs can sometimes have digestive problems that are misdiagnosed as food intolerances, when in actual fact the root cause is tension in their lower back.
The wholistic approach
Bodywork modalities and kinesiology address the body as a whole and therefore any physical stress will also have an effect at an emotional level. This is due to each organ having a different emotion they resonate with and trigger within the emotional centre of the brain if the organs themselves are not balanced. It is therefore important to consider the emotional symptoms of back pain alongside the physical aspects.
Emotional symptoms of lumbar pain
- Sound sensitivity. You may notice your dog has become more sensitive to loud noises and skulks away to a quiet corner.
- Reactivity to other dogs. This is due to the fear of being hurt by a playful or boisterous dog. Dogs in pain tend to warn other dogs in advance to stay away and are very irritable.
- Increased anxiety levels.
- Reluctance to be touched.
I think this is my dog’s problem, what can I do?
I recommend seeking the help of a qualified practitioner, such as:
- Animal chiropractor
- Animal physiotherapist
- Emmett Technique Practitioner
- Bowen Therapist
- Animal Kinesiologist
- Myofascial Release Practitioner
It may take a few treatments to clear the tension completely, but your dog will thank you for it!