Full Title: Hamstring Muscles of agility and flyball dogs
Author: Ilaria D'Alessio
Date of Publication: October 21, 2016
Research Paper Text:
Although dogs run and play daily, flyball and agility are much more intense exercise placing greater stress on the body and increasing the risk of a potential muscular injury. Most injuries seen in flyball and agility dogs are repetitive stress injuries and not the result of an acute event.
The hamstring group
The dog’s hamstring group consists of the femoral biceps, semitendinous and semimembranous muscles. These are the superficial muscles of the hip and thigh and attach proximal and distal to the stifle joint. They are made up of striated or voluntary muscle fibers. Their main responsibility is the extension of the hip, hock and stifle which generate much of the dogs forward thrust. They are also an important muscle group which executes the jumping action.
Biceps femoris: is a large and long muscle that lies on the lateral part of the buttock and thigh, extending from the area of the ischial tuberosity over the middle of the tibia to the point of the hock. Its tendon attachment helps form a part of the calcanean or Achilles tendon. This muscle has several different actions including hip, stifle and tarsal joint excursion. The tendon of the biceps femoris is palpable in the standing dog at the lateral border of the caudal surface of the stifle region.
Semitendinous: is a thick muscle found on the caudal part of the thigh, extending in an arc from the ischial tuberosity and forming a large part of the caudal contour of the thigh. It travels down the hind leg and its tendons attache to the medial surface of the tibia and the tuber calcanei. This muscle is responsible for tarsal and hip extension as well as stifle joint flexion.
Semimembranous: originates at the ischial tuberosity and attaches at the stifle joint. It can be palpated medial to the semitendinous and followed medially to the stifle joint. The semimembranous assists the hip and stifle extension. The tendons of the semitendinous and semimembranous can be distinguished on the medial to caudal border of the stifle region.
Agility and Flyball
Dog agility is a competitive, spectator sport that tests a person’s skills in training and handling of dogs over a timed obstacle course as they demonstrate a dog’s natural agility and the bond between handler and dog. Competitors race against the clock, directing their dog to jump hurdles, scale ramps, burst through tunnels, traverse a see-saw and weave through a line of poles on a course designed to challenge a handler’s competitive strategic planning and training skills.
Agility training and competition carries a level of risk for the dog. Some dogs travel at high speeds, using significant acceleration, deceleration, twists and turns to negotiate agility courses and also sustain impacts on landing on or after an obstacle. As a result some dogs suffer soft tissue Injuries. These involve injuries to the muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia, and are presented in the soft tissues as strains, sprains and trigger points.
Flyball is a dog sport in which teams of 4 dogs race against each other from a start/finish line, over a line of hurdles, to a box that releases a tennis ball to be caught when the dog presses the spring-loaded pad, then back to their handlers while carrying the ball. Each dog must return its ball all the way across the start line before the next dog crosses. The first team to have all four dogs cross the finish line error free wins the heat.
Flyball dogs require strength for the speedy navigation of the jumps, but they also must practice regularly to prevent injury. These dogs must be taught how to hit the platform and catch the ball in a manner that will not predispose them to chronic overuse injuries.
Symptoms of possible injuries
Some of the symptoms that may be seen in a dog during or after training or competition, which may indicate that they have a Soft Tissue injury or issue are:
- Slowing down over contacts, in particular when reaching the contact area;
- Difficulties with weave entries and staying in the weaves;
- Changes in posture when jumping (not extending back legs when jumping);
- Measuring before jumping;
- Stutter Stepping;
- Tucking hind limbs up over jumps;
- Knocking down poles;
- Unsteady on contact equipment;
- Lack of focus and drive;
- Slowing down around courses;
- Lame or limping after performance;
- Unable to complete certain obstacles;
- Stiffness after exercise/limping;
- Twitching in the skin;
- Not weight bearing correctly on all four limbs
How can massage benefit agility and flyball dogs
- Increases circulation, which will increase oxygen and nutrient rich blood to the soft tissues (muscles) of the dogs body;
- Increases the flexibility and elasticity of the dogs muscles, which in turn will help to prepare their bodies for the impact and repetitive strain of agility training and competition;
- Addresses soft tissue imbalances from the offset, which helps the dog before a small issue becomes a big problem!
- Eases tension, adhesions and constrictions from the muscles, helps to prevent injury, ensuring that the dog continues to perform at his optimum capability;
- Increases the range of motion, which in turn will create better movement;
- Removes painful and sore trigger points;
- Helps to break down and remodel scar tissue (a connective tissue) that the dogs body lays down as a result of a tear to their muscle, known as the Strain. Remodeling scar tissue will increase the flexibility and elasticity in the dog’s muscles, which will in turn increase their agility performance!
- K9 Rebalance – www.caninerebalance.co.uk
- Kainer, Robert A., DVM, MS and McCracken, Thomas O., MS. (2003) Dog anatomy, a coloring Atlas.
- Amy snow and Nancy Zidonis (2011-2013), Canine Acupoint Energetics & Landmark Anatomy