The prevalence and selected risk factors of musculoskeletal injuries affecting working canines in KwaZulu-Natal
Background Dog agility has become one of the most popular canine sport disciplines, growing annually with many owners enrolling their canines without an educated understanding of what the sport of agility entails. Various factors have been identified that can contribute to the injury of the agility dog, these include coming into contact with the agility equipment, the experience of the dog, nutrition, supplementation, handler training in warm up technique and participation in additional sporting activities such as flyball, and risk factors such as breed, sex and age of the dog have been shown to have an impact on the prevalence and type of injury that sporting dogs are at risk for, most commonly, injuries to the shoulder, wrists, hip and an extensive range of soft tissue injuries. There is a significant knowledge gap in the literature that describes injury prevalence, profiles and the potential risks facing the sporting canine participants in a South African context and that, as more and more owners are seeking out CAM therapies such as chiropractic, literature is needed in order to enable these owners and veterinary chiropractors to better understand the risk that the sport of agility entails. Chiropractic treatment can offer both treatment and prevention, from enhancing the performance of the canine athlete, allowing them to compete more effectively and for a longer period at national and international level, to improving the quality of life of the geriatric canine patient. Aim The aim of this study is to determine the prevalence and selected risk factors of musculoskeletal conditions affecting working canines registered in the herding breed category in Kwa-Zulu Natal. Study Design This study was a cross sectional, prospective survey of sporting canine owners registered with the KZNDAA. The study employed a quantitative descriptive design. Participants The study comprised of 70 dogs registered to 38 owners who are affiliated with the KZNDAA. Methodology Potential participants were identified on the KZNDAA membership list. These members were approached by the researcher at registered agility shows and invited to participate in the study. Once it has been established that the owners and the canines met the inclusion and exclusion criteria of the study, participants were required to sign a letter of information and confidentiality and a consent form and were included as participants in the study. The research questionnaire was then given to participants, who then completed the questionnaire on site and returned it by hand to the researcher. Data was captured on excel and transferred to IBM SPSS version 23. A p value of <0.05 was considered statistically significant. Descriptive statistics such as mean, standard deviation and range were used to describe continuous variables which were normally distributed, while median and inter-quartile range were used for skew variables. Categorical variables were summarized using frequency tables. Associations between lifetime prevalence and risk factors were tested using Pearson’s chi square tests for categorical risk factors, or Fischer’s Exact tests for continuous variables. Results The period prevalence of MS conditions was found to be 8.5% and the lifetime prevalence 45.8%. Injuries were found to occur most often during play, followed by injury during agility competition, a very small percentage of the injuries incurred were due to direct contact with agility equipment. Shoulders and hips were the areas most commonly affected, with arthritis and DJD being the most prevalent type of conditions and muscular strains being the most prevalent type of injury. The breed with the highest prevalence of injury was the Border Collie(63%). Neutered males had the highest prevalence of injury (52%), followed by spayed females (30%). The 8-10 year old category had the highest prevalence of injury (30%), followed by the 2-4 year old category (22%). Large breed dogs in the 15-20kg weight category had the highest prevalence of MS injury (40%). Dogs participating in dog jumping showed a decreased risk of MS injury, while dogs participating in flyball showed an increased risk of developing MS injuries. Handlers with training in specific warm up techniques showed a decreased risk of having dogs developing MS injury. Reverse casualty associations were found between the increased risk of MS injury and dogs fed on Hills specific diets, dogs supplemented with glucosamine and chondroitin, and dogs currently receiving anti-inflammatories. Conclusion The prevalence of musculoskeletal (MS) injuries in agility dogs in KZN is low when compared to studies done outside of South Africa. Factors such as breed, age, sex, and weight of the dog influence the prevalence of MS conditions. Risk factors influencing the development of MS conditions include contact with the equipment, nutrition, participation in other sporting activities and whether warm up periods are allowed. A larger population is needed in order to further analyse the risk of injury in sporting dogs in a South African context.