Cirnechi Chat Dec 2009 Reprint
Lure coursing season is upon us and with it comes a change in activity for our little athletes. Although lure coursing injuries are infrequent, they do occur. There are several proactive measures we can take to minimize the risk of injury.
1. Regular exercise and conditioning Just as human athletes train and prepare for sporting events, our canine athletes need adequate conditioning prior to competition. Although many of us do not have regular access to lure courses, dog parks provide opportunity for off-leash exercise including running, cutting, and responding to the environment and other dogs. Cross-training opportunities include jogging, biking (be sure to use appropriate equipment for safety), play in the back yard, even swimming (yes, my Cirneco has learned this skill!). Additional components of a well-rounded exercise program include strengthening for power, proprioceptive and coordination training, and stretches.
2. Regular exams and inspection for injuries Regular examinations of your dog will allow you to detect changes and potential injuries in the early phases. At a time when your dog is relaxed, gently flex and extend all joints throughout their full range of motion, looking for any restrictions or signs of discomfort (e.g. your Cirneco pulls away from you, vocalizes, exhibits a change in breathing, swings around to look at you). Gently rub your hands over the muscles on each side of your dog’s spine, feeling for any areas that are tender and watching for any consistent flicking of his or her skin over a small discrete area (which may indicate pain). Rub your hands down both arms and both legs at the same time, feeling for any asymmetry in size, temperature, or muscle tension. If changes or asymmetry are noted in any areas, assessment by your Veterinarian is indicated.
3. Maintenance of appropriate body condition We are fortunate that our Cirnechi are not prone to obesity. Maintenance of a lean body condition is associated with longevity, decreased development of osteoarthritis, and a lower incidence of medical problems, such as diabetes and cancer. Three factors indicate ideal body condition: when viewed from the side the abdomen tucks up, when viewed overhead the waist has an hourglass shape, and upon palpation ribs are easily felt without an overlying layer of fat. The feeding recommendations provided by dog food manufacturers are typically for active, intact (e.g. not spayed or neutered), young dogs. Dogs that do not fall in those categories need to be fed at least 30% less than the recommended amount to avoid unwanted weight gain.
4. Importance of a warm up Attend any sporting event and you will see the same action prior to the start of the game: athletes completing a warm-up routine. Human athletes aren’t expected to roll out of bed and run onto the playing field, neither should we expect this of our dogs. Taking our Cirnechi from the crate directly to the lure course predisposes them to injury. A warm up walk or jog of 10-15 minutes prior to a run increases blood flow to the muscles and tissues, increasing flexibility and readying the body for the rigors of lure coursing. Including turns, figure-of- 8s, or zig-zags will further prepare your Cirneco’s body. Similarly, after completing a run, these athlete should be given a cool-down period of walking until breathing has returned to normal resting rate and intensity before returning to the crate.