Updated: Jan 4, 2022
One of the discussions we often have with my clients when they come to the Win Clinic is about their dog’s coat. Questions like “has it always been like this, has it changed?” We are often asked why this is important so for this reason I thought I would write a quick blog on it to hopefully share the information far and wide.
Coat changes can often signify an underlying source of dysfunction, either with the muscle and other soft tissues or the joint, or both. Often sore spots in the muscles, called trigger points can cause areas of coat changes or coat kicks, either over the area or close by. The coat can look like it's not lying completely flat, it can look curly, it can stand up, it can have a kick, or in some cases it can be unusually flat.
There are many different presentations, the important thing is whether it is normal for your dog. The changes can be local to a small area on the back or they can present as an entire rough coat along the back. These more global changes are I think often more tricky to spot as they look very much like they are part of the normal coat, especially if your dog has a wavy coat. They also often change slowly over time so they become hard to spot.
There is to my knowledge no published evidence on coat changes, this is something we are hoping to change so this really is just my opinion and experience. Please comment and discuss if you disagree or have other ideas.
There are a number of reasons that I think the coat can change. Firstly, the hair follicles communicate very closely with the fascia that sits underneath the skin, therefore if the fascia is being pulled, is sore or dysfunctional, then the overlying hair will be affected. Fascia is a type of connective tissue, made up primarily of collagen. It sits beneath the skin and it attaches, stabilises, encloses and separates muscles and other internal organs. It is vital to normal movement as it allows glide and ease of movement through out the body. It is an incredibly important tissue within the body and is something as a physiotherapists we assess and treat routinely.
Secondly, when muscles, fascia and joints become stiff or sore your dog will adapt how it moves. This may mean that one side of the back might be kept rigid, or doesn’t bend as much as the other side. This then creates further dysfunction of the underlying structures that then creates the changes mentioned in the previous paragraph.
Below is an example of a dog that we saw in clinic. The picture on the left is at the initial assessment, the picture on the right is after the first treatment. Look at the difference in how the coat is lying, especially at the bottom of the back. (Note: in the first picture the dog is standing in a side flexed position, this is just the picture, it was able to stand straight). There was still bit to treat here but even after one treatment there was a clear difference.
Here are a few more examples. The example below is a very unusual coat change and one that I have only ever seen in this case. Can you see the area of dark flat coat half way down the back on the right hand side? The underlying pathology here was from a disc injury and a floating rib dysfunction.
Here is an another example below. This is the same dog a couple of months apart. The pictures are not very easy to compare as they aren’t the same position and the coat is black which makes it more difficult to see. In the picture on the left, look at the ridge running down the left side of the back, from behind the left shoulders to the left pelvis. The coat is quite raised through out the whole back area, the coat is also dull and a little dry. In the right hand picture, there is still a ridge behind the left shoulder but the rest of the coat is lying flat, is much shinier and in better condition. This was achieved through a combination of manual therapy, electrotherapy and therapeutic exercise and we hope that the small flick that remains will disappear.
Now it was easy for the owner of this dog to see the change after the treatment, but it wasn’t easy for them to see the changes that happened to the coat over time that led to this coat pattern.
What we suggest at the Win Clinic is to take monthly pictures of your dog’s back, this way it is easy to spot any changes. Also, I know I sound like a broken record, but I believe in this so passionately, get your dog checked routinely and regularly by a professional. This way, they can pick up any issues and sort them early.
If you are training and or competing at agility then you absolutely must be having your dogs assessed regularly, there is no excuses and in not having your dogs checked you are potentially missing crucial changes that can be effecting your dog’s health, wellbeing and performance.
However, pain and dysfunction effects dogs of all ages, jobs and breeds so pet dogs can be equally as effected by this so I hope that some pet dog owners may be reading this and thinking about their dog’s musculo-skeletal health and may consider booking in for a general health check with a physiotherapist.
At the Win Clinic we carry out musculo-skeletal health checks for all kinds of dogs, give us a call 01823 426490 or drop us an email through our website www.winclinic.co.uk to find out more.
If you are not local to us and would like to find a physio in your area please check out www.acpat.org to find a physio close to you, alternatively check out www.rampregister.org to find physiotherapists, chiropractors and osteopaths in your area.
To conclude, get your camera out, start snapping and start monitoring! Please comment and share any experiences you may have… Thanks for reading