Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Pet PT Pit Stop: Top Dogs and their Toplines at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show (Part II)

by Susan E. Davis, PT “pull in for a helpful refuel!”  

It’s all about guiding and empowering you to help your pet avoid injury, provide practical solutions and achieve rapid restoration of health and function!   

As promised, here are the categories of toplines, described by their contour.
(continued from part I)

Arched Topline

The arched topline of a Greyhound, Westminster Dog Show 2015
The arched topline of aWhippet, Westminster Dog Show 2015
Description:  convex upward curve, similar to a hump, seen in the following breeds:  Whippet, Greyhound, Saluki, Afghan hound, And Scottish deerhound. 

Function: helpful to sight hounds and those dogs that run at a gallop, particularly at fast speeds.  This topline allows the dog to tuck their hind limbs under the core, to cover increased horizontal distance with each gait stride during a gallop.

Sloped Topline

German Shepherd Dog (GSD) from WKC Dog Show 2015
German Shepherd Dog (GSD) from WKC Dog Show 2015
German Shepherd Dog (GSD) from WKC Dog Show 2015

Description: gradual downward gradient, gently sloping, rounding toward the rear end, commonly seen in the German Shepherd Dog. 

Function: the slope causes increased flexion of the hips and stifles which helps the dog be at the “ready” for a lunge or forward thrust movement, helpful in jobs that require springing  into action such as police work, protection, guarding. This topline also causes the hock joint to flex into the upward cranial direction more than the opposite, extension or plantar flexion. 

Note that a sloped topline may also be indicative of hip dysplasia or degenerative joint disease of the hips and spine. 

In the German Shepherd Dog, sloping top lines are desired by breeders and judges to conform to the club standard. 

Here is the dilemma: does this topline cause degeneration in the joints or does the genetic structure of GSD manifest itself in the slope? 

The answer is ……..probably “both”.

GSDs have genetic predisposition to hip dysplasia, hip arthritis, and Degenerative Myelopathy which cause hind limb weakening and lowering of the rear end of the topline, resulting in a slope. But conversely GSDs bred for conformation and show are trained to adopt the sloped bent limb position, which in theory might cause hip and spine problems later in life.

Interestingly, there is a benefit to a sloped topline for the stifle joints: cranial cruciate ligament tears are rare as tibia angles are closer to the horizontal, similar to human being or dogs that have undergone TPLO surgery (where the angle of the tibia plateau is leveled).

Roached Topline

Roached topline, Boxer, WKC Dog Show 2015
Description: Roaching of the spine is an abnormal topline characterized by an upward curve, higher and longer than the arched topline described above. Roaching indicates pain. It is a non-functional topline.

Level Topline

Level topline, Yellow Labrador Retriever, WKC Dog Show 2015
Level topline, Smooth Coat Dachshund, WKC Dog Show 2015
Description: consistently flat all along the top, with the withers and coup at the same horizontal plane, commonly seen in Labrador Retrievers, Beagles and scent hounds.

Function: helps dogs that trot and move at consistent speeds as seen in long distance travel, hunting, retrieval. Seen in other breeds such as border collies with a flat topline held in a low plane to the ground, helpful for penning, driving herds.

Sag/Swayed Topline

Sag/Swayed topline, Mastiff, WKC Dog Show 2015
Sag/Swayed topline, Mastiff, WKC Dog Show 2015
Description: a normal sag or sway with a small but noticeable dip near the beginning of the topline closer to the neck. Commonly seen in working breeds such as St Bernard, Akita, Mastiff, Boxers, and in other breeds as Bulldogs. Note that topline AKC standard for these breeds is “level”, but I am taking some liberty in further classifying it just for the purpose of this article, because I want readers to understand when a sway is fine and when it is not. 

Function: in response to large thick muscular necks of dogs that stand in alert attention, helpful for guarding. This sag or sway at the base of the neck is abnormally increased if the head is bred too large and heavy.

A sway that occurs in the middle of the topline (saggy spine) often indicates weakness in the core muscles, being overweight with extra belly mass, and an unstable spinal column. 

Breeds that tend to sag in the middle spine are Basset Hounds and Dachshunds, but this can be prevented if their owners adhere to proper weight management and fitness. Doxies and Bassets should have a level topline.  

Dachshund with abnormal sag/sway in the center of the spine

Straight Topline

Straight topline, Toy Fox Terrier, WKC Dog Show 2015
Straight topline, Toy Fox Terrier, WKC Dog Show 2015
Straight topline,
Chinese Crested
Description: straight but not level, with the withers rising up slightly from the croup, It is tilted up toward the head and neck, usually seen in toy breeds such as Min Pin, Chinese Crested, Toy Fox Terrier, Broken Coat Jack Russell Terrier. 

Function: aids a lively, spirited dog with a springy, prancing gait and in vertical jumping. 


A dog’s topline doesn’t tell the whole story of its health or soundness but it gives a clue to basic structure and how that relates to form and function! 

If these photos wet your appetite for enjoyment of more dog breeds, plan a trip to NYC for the 140th WKC Dog Show, February 2016!    See you there?                   

*** 

Susan E. Davis (Sue) is a licensed Physical Therapist with over 30 years of practice in the human field, who transitioned into the animal world after taking courses at the UT Canine Rehabilitation program.  She is located in Red Bank, New Jersey.

She has been providing PT services to dogs and other animals through her entity Joycare Onsite, LLC in pet’s homes and in vet clinics since 2008.

She also provides pro bono services at the Monmouth County SPCA in Eatontown, NJ.  Sue is the proud “dog mommy” to Penelope, a miniature Dachshund with “attitude”.  For more information see her website www.joycareonsite.com , or follow on Twitter @animalPTsue.


Sue is also the author of a fantastic book on physical therapy, Physical Therapy And Rehabilitation For Animals: A Guide For The Consumer.  

Physical therapy can do so many great things for your dog. Understanding all the possibilities physical therapy can offer will change your dog's life. This book definitely belongs on the shelf of every dog lover.



Articles by Susan E. Davis:
Functional Strengthening Exercises: the What, Why and How
One Thing Leads To Another: Why The Second ACL Often Goes Too
Compensation: An Attempt To Restore Harmony
Paring Down to the Canine Core
Canine Massage: Every Dog ‘Kneads’ It”
Photon Power: Can Laser Therapy Help Your Dog?  
Physical Therapy in the Veterinary World  
Reiki: Is it real? 
Dog Lessons: Cooper  
The Essentials Of Canine Injury Prevention: 7 Tips For Keeping Your Dog Safer 
It's Not Just Walking, It's Therapy! 
Treatment And Prevention Of Canine Intervertebral Disc Disease (Part I)
Treatment And Prevention Of Canine Intervertebral Disc Disease (Part II Physical Therapy)
Range Of Motion: It’s A Matter Of Degree…
The Weight Of Water And How It Helps Dogs 
By Land or By Sea? A Comparison of Canine Treadmills 
Unraveling The Mystery Of Fascia And Myofascial Trigger Points (Part I)
Unraveling The Mystery Of Fascia And Myofascial Trigger Points (Part II) 
Scar Tissue: Is it Too Much of a Good Thing? 
Physical Therapy Tip Of The Month: Ramps! 
Physical Therapy Tip Of The Month: Indoor Duo Dog Exercises!
Physical Therapy Tip Of The Month: Best Practices After Your Dog’s Surgery 
Physical Therapy Tip Of The Month: Ideas to Chew on - Can Physical Therapy Help with my Dog’s Digestive Problems?
Wrap It Up: Using Soft Supports For Your Dog
When Do I Use Heat versus Cold? : A Tale (or Tail) Of Two Temps! (Part I) 
When Do I Use Heat versus Cold? : A Tale (or Tail) Of Two Temps! (Part II) 
Physical Therapy Tip Of The Month: Safe Summer Boating Tips for your Dog 
Physical Therapy Tip Of The Month: Hip Dysplasia - What’s a Dawg Mama to Do?
PT Pit Stop: Wheeled Carts Keep Them Doggies Rollin' (Part I)
PT Pit Stop: Wheeled Carts Keep Them Doggies Rollin' (Part II)
Staying in the Loop with Targeted Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy
Addressing Frailty Syndrome in Geriatric Dogs 
The Pet PT Pit Stop: "Where's The Evidence?"
Physical Therapy is Great, Except When It Isn’t 
Top Dogs and their Toplines at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show (Part I)

1 comment

  1. I really enjoyed reading this article! I have just launched a book on The Whippet care, here is the link http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00T65FYDI

    ReplyDelete

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