What's all the fuss about Fetch?


The team at Canine Arthritis Management (CAM) can often be heard telling owners that ball throwing is not an ideal activity for their arthritic dog. In fact, CAM would go as far as to say that it is not an ideal activity for any dog, whatever their age or condition. Here, three team members look at the impact of throwing a ball on a dog both physically and mentally.





The Physiotherapist

Many dogs derive a great deal of pleasure from chasing a ball, and many owners undoubtedly derive pleasure from throwing a ball and watching their dog having fun.

What many owners and their dogs don’t realize however is that this activity may not be as beneficial as it seems, and in dogs with underlying conditions such as arthritis this activity is likely to cause harm.

...What many owners and their dogs don’t realize however is that ball throwing may not be as beneficial as it seems...

The "thoracic sling"

In order to understand why we recommend that dogs with arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions do not chase balls, it is necessary to understand a little about both the musculoskeletal system of the dog as well as the behavioural aspects of this activity.


Dogs, like other quadrupeds tend to move forwards in straight lines and lack the rotatory aspect of bi-pedal movement. Their fore and hind limbs are developed to fulfil specific functions. The hind limbs act as the ‘motor’ for the dog, propelling them forwards, and the forelimbs act primarily as the braking and shock absorbing system for the dog. Dogs have developed light, long limbs powered by strong muscles around the hips, spine and shoulder girdles.  Power is transmitted from the back legs along the spine to propel the dog forward. They carry about 60% of their weight through their front legs and 40% through their hind legs.

...In order to understand this, it is necessary to understand a little about the musculoskeletal system of the dog. Their fore and hind limbs are developed to fulfil specific functions...the dog’s fore limbs are attached to the dog only by a group of muscles known as the thoracic sling...

In order to allow dogs to move efficiently by taking long strides they have sacrificed stability at their shoulder joints so that the dogs’ front limb has no bony attachment to the skeleton. Humans also have very shallow shoulder joints but they do have a bony attachment by way of their clavicle or ‘collar bone’.

What this means is that the dog’s fore limbs are attached to the dog only by a group of muscles known as the thoracic sling and, at the same time, they are also supporting most of the weight of the dog.

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