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Cow hessianism in dogs due to muscular imbalance – causes, consequences and treatment


Cowhessianism is one of the most common malpositions in dogs. Even if it is visible in the ankle area, it originates in the hip area. A very common cause is muscle imbalance between the internal and external hip rotators. The hip rotators are responsible for the correct positioning of the femoral head in the acetabulum. If, however, a dysbalance occurs in which the external hip rotators exert too much traction and the internal hip rotators exert too little traction, this results in what is known as cowess. It can vary in severity depending on the dog. By the way, knock-knees can also affect the forehand. Cow hessianism in dog

What is the effect of cowhessianity in dogs?

Joint stability is impaired. Due to the fact that the joints cannot be aligned correctly, good joint stability is not guaranteed. This increases the risk of injury as well as the risk of developing joint diseases such as osteoarthritis, torn ligaments and damage to the menisci. The muscles of the hindquarters can not function optimally together. This results in inefficient movement patterns, a non-physiological gait pattern, reduced power transmission from the hindquarters. As a result, misuse and overloading of other areas of the body, such as in the forehand, occur.

Misload and overload

Incorrect alignment of the hip and knee joints, as just described, does not allow for optimal power development from the hindquarters. It’s not just that an increased load on the forehand happens and overloading occurs. At the same time, the load distribution within the joints is also not guaranteed. This means that during locomotion the load is not distributed evenly over the joint surfaces and structures surrounding the joint.

The canine body as a functional unit Cowhessianism in dogs

I have already touched on it in the article: The body is a functional unit. When a dysbalance or misalignment occurs in one area, it affects surrounding structures and ultimately the entire dog’s body. Inevitably, overuse injuries occur in the areas of the body that are subjected to greater stress. These can occur, for example, in the form of damage to the joint due to osteoarthritis. Furthermore, muscular tension develops and tendons and ligaments are also affected.

How to mitigate or remedy cowhessianity?

By means of targeted training, the muscular imbalance of the internal and external hip rotators can be corrected. This involves “stretching” the external hip rotators and strengthening the internal hip rotators. However, since in physiotherapeutic dog fitness training we do not only work “locally”, but train the body as a functional unit, it is equally important to promote correct loading of all four legs and to improve the gait pattern.

I’ll say right up front that you don’t “train away” a cow hessian in two weeks. The dog must first build up the muscles step by step and also use them correctly. This means a longer process. This one should be worth it to us, though, considering the potential damage from a cowhessian in the hindquarters on the other side.

Possible exercises that can be used to compensate for the muscular imbalance of the hip rotators

Basically, it is always different exercises that build on each other and complement each other that we use in training. Examples of useful exercises to compensate for the imbalance of the hip rotators are: Cow hock in dogs

  • Stand Seat Transfer
  • Seat Place Transfer
  • Stand place transfer

For the three exercises mentioned above, it can be extremely helpful for the dog to be on a firm elevation or target. This helps him to take the position as correctly as possible.

Another exercise is to stand with the hind legs on separate elevations. Here it makes sense for the dog to stand on fixed elevations at first. As the training progresses, you can move on to more flexible surfaces.

The targeted training of the hip rotators should then be accompanied and supplemented by exercises that train physiological movement sequences and train the entire dog body as a functional unit. Here, for example, you can resort to cavaletti training, but isometric exercises are also excellent to use.

Precision is needed – and patience Cow-hessianism in dogs

Although these exercises may sound very simple to you, the devil is in the details. For dogs affected by misalignment, a lot of practice and concentration is required to shed the memorized movements and build and memorize new movements. This can only be achieved through small-step and permanent training.

Did you know that there are other causes of knock knees? In this article I will introduce them to you.

All the love, your Tina

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