The last two times Juno went to her Physical Therapy appointment---she goes once every month for a water treadmill workout and check-up---she gained 1 full pound of weight on both visits. She was down to a svelte 58 lbs and hovered there all winter, which greatly helped ease the pain of her severe hip dysplasia. But now my chunky-monkey is back up to 60 lbs. And just when I started to panic and go all diet-Nazi (as Mr. Wild Dingo calls me when it comes to
starving feeding the Sibe), I discovered, it's not all that bad.
Juno's PT noticed she actually gained a ton of muscle in her back legs, which have always been severely atrophied from improper use. And both legs are more evenly developed, as her right leg is usually worse than her left. Dogs with hip dysplasia will swing their hips side-to-side (like a wiggle) while walking in order to compensate for the pain, which causes the muscles to atrophy in the legs. Unfortunately, that compensation will cause more complications in the spine later down the line, so it's important to keep muscles strong in order to stabilize the hips and the spine. Leash walking, unfortunately, doesn't help since the pace is slow enough to cause the swinging motion and running won't help since a dog will 'rabbit' the back legs.
As soon as spring hit, I started jogging her by bike again at a trotting pace 2-3 times per week. The trotting pace forces the dog to swing the legs directly underneath her body in a normal forward and back motion, using core strength and building hip flexor muscles. And now after the PT has noticed a huge improvement each visit and muscle gain, I'm more convinced than ever that trotting is the best exercise for a dog with hip dysplasia.
She's doing so well. Her trotting pace is actually getting faster. It used to take her a little over an hour to do her 4 + mile loop. Now it takes her under 50 minutes. The first 20 minutes are spent walking to the sport field and letting her take care of business and pee-mail. After 20-minutes it doesn't take much to convince her to "get down to business" and get into a steady trotting rhythm next to my bike. She absolutely loves it. And it's a joy to watch her. We'll jog up to 15-20 minutes at a time, take a break, then add another 15-20 minutes.
Her weekly schedule basically rotates between her short bike runs of less than an hour and long slow distance, off-leash hikes of 1.5-2 hours. Hiking her anything short of that doesn't do much for her bad Sibe self. Sibe owners can sympathize. But biking her 2-3 times per week is a win-win for both of us. It gives my poor hiking feet a break which allows me to do my own ride on those days as well, and it makes her as tired as a long hike.
I put together a little video of how she and Loki run with me on the bike. Though I started off biking them separately, I found a way to make logistics work so I can bike them together now. I tend to prefer just free biking versus bike-jorring because it allows them the free time they need at the beginning of it all to take care of their pee-mail business. But typically 20 minutes into it, both are fairly committed to holding a pretty good pace and keep it up. At first Juno tried to run with Loki when he ran ahead, but I have to hand it to the Sibe. She's pretty good at listening to me and slowing down when I tell her to. Running won't hurt her, but it won't help build muscle and since this is all about that, I slow her down to a trot and I let her run, if she wants to, on hiking days instead. In fact, she's pretty much figured out she doesn't have to keep his pace and you'll notice she stays at her own trotting pace even if I or Loki are ahead of her.
It's almost as if she knows it's better for her health. Maybe she does.