canine proprioception exercises

Canine Propriception Exercises

Much like in humans, a well-designed therapeutic exercise plan can provide a wide range of benefits for our four-legged companions — even rabbits! It can be used to build strength and endurance while improving proprioception, flexibility and range of motion. Targeted exercise tailored to individual patients can help speed recovery from injuries or surgical procedures, promote functional independence (e.g. in the aspects of mobility, cognition and continence) as well as keep canine athletes at peak performance.   

Creating and evaluating a therapeutic exercise program requires training and experience. In fact, honing these skills is an integral part of the continued education of a certified canine rehabilitation professional. Inflatables of various shapes and sizes and filled to different capacities are excellent aids for exercise, including unstable surface work and weight-bearing activities. The variety makes these fitness games interesting and fun for your pet while strengthening their core muscles, enhancing sensory and perceptual stimulation and improving balance control. Remember; walking is great for endurance, but it does not build strength.

Benefits:

  • Relief from pain, swelling and stiffness

  • Promotion of relaxation

  • Joint mobilization

  • Cardiovascular fitness (heart and lungs)

  • Increase in range of motion of affected joints

  • Improve overall blood circulation 

  • Improve coordination and balance

  • Protection of joints, tendons, ligaments

  • Restoration of endurance in muscles 

  • Enhance muscles tone

  • Increase bone density and strength

  • Stimulates brain activity for cognitive function

  • Prevents degeneration of conscious awareness of movement 

Shin, an arthritic aging bunny working out with a balance disc to improve core stability

Importance of Proprioceptive & Balance Exercises

It is extremely important for our four-legged companions to be able to perform these activities with good balance and proprioceptive coordination. If they can do so, it indicates that they are generally able to orient themselves well to complete a range of activities; from daily activities such as walking and trotting, to more complex movements like jumping, landing and turning. 

In a healthy individual, the conscious and subconscious minds are both engaged to maintain the stability of their centre of gravity as well as the flight or fight reflexes. There is continuous input of sensory feedback (proprioceptive information). This allows the body to protect the muscles and joints through unconscious stabilization and proper positioning, which prevents overstretching or tearing of tendons and ligaments.

As pets age, their body’s proprioceptive abilities usually diminish, potentially causing further injury. Rehabilitation greatly aids in slowing this process and preventing future joint dysfunction. As such, these exercises stimulate the central nervous system responsible for the body’s balance and proprioception, down to the three main subsystems: somatosensory (the nerves in our joints, tendons and muscles), vestibular (inner ear canals) and the visual systems.  If any one of these subsystems is injured or working improperly, balance and function is correspondingly impaired. Therefore, physical therapy is important to maintain the proprioceptive and balance abilities of your pet.

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