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Why dogs with narrow shoulders are prone to heart disease

Why dogs with narrow shoulders are prone to heart disease

Seven ways to prevent heart disease in your dog

For most people, a healthy heart is the symbol of good health. Your heart is greatly dependent on good nutrition, minerals, proteins, electrolytes and good energy flow in the body.

I have always been interested in why some dogs have good and healthy hearts and others do not.

Over my years of practicing veterinary medicine, I started noticing an interesting connection between heart problems and the alignment of dogs’ forelegs and shoulders.

Let's look at the body of a boxer and a Doberman pinscher - two breeds that are highly prone to a condition called dilated cardiomyopathy. This condition results in weakening of the heart muscle, dilation of the heart, heart murmurs and heart failure.

I started looking at the similarity between Doberman pinschers and boxers and how they are different from other breeds. One of the most striking differences is that most boxers and Dobermans have a much narrower space between their shoulder blades (the interscapular space). They also have long and relatively straight forelegs and a narrow, yet deep chest.

The heart receives its energy flow from the segment of the spine that is at the interscapular space. When this space is narrow, the spinal muscles get tight when the forelegs move. This slows down the energy flow to the heart and predisposes dogs to heart disease.

Over more than two decades in veterinary practice, I have also seen other breeds with a narrow, injured, sensitive or tight inter-scapular region suffer from cardiac disease.

To summarize, it appears when the inter-scapular spine is under excessive stress and strain the heart does not receive adequate energy flow and is more prone to heart disease.

dog with narrow shoulders prone to heart disease

I have developed this five-step heart disease prevention program for dogs with narrow interscapular regions.

6 ways to prevent heart disease 
  1. If you love a certain breed of dog and are breeding them, select dogs that have wider interscapular space.
  2. If you have a dog with a narrow interscapular space, pay extra attention to this area and work with an experienced chiropractor, physiotherapist and a massage therapist to detect and correct imbalances, tightness and inflammation.
  3. Beware of activities that make the inter-scapular spine stressed, for example rough tug-of-war, excessive digging and pouncing.
  4. If the upper margins of your dog’s shoulder blades are touching, consult a chiropractor, physical or rehabilitation specialist. The space between shoulder blades should be at least one finger width in a small dog, two to three finger widths in a medium dog and three to four finger widths in a large dog.
  5. Use a shock absorbing leash to reduce the risk of injury to the lower neck. Trauma in this region can cascade to the cranial (front portion) of the thoracic spine and inter-scapular region. Never use a retractable leash because the spring and brake mechanism causes uncontrolled trauma to the neck. Ideally, use a harness with a front and back clip instead of a collar, especially if your dog is a puller.
  6. Gently massage the inter-scapular region. Beware of too much pressure. Dogs are much more sensitive and require only very light pressure.
  7. Give your dog all-natural essentials to ensure that all the needed nutrients are available

Share this information with others to help them keep their dog’s heart healthy.

If you would like to read more about heart health, check out Be On Guard for Your Dog's Heart, Chapter 11 of our free Health and Longevity Course. 

© Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM

About the author

Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM is an Integrative veterinarian, nutritionist and creator of natural supplements for dogs and people. Helping you and your dog prevent disease, treat nutritional deficiencies, and enjoy happier, healthier, and longer lives together.

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