Can biomechanics affect cognitive function in dogs and cats?
Did you know 14 - 22% of dogs over 8 years old are at risk of canine dementia? Cognitive dysfunction in dogs may look like a decline in social responsiveness or problem solving behaviour. In some dogs they might decrease their response to commands, increase in fears and phobias. Some dogs may forget where they are meant to toilet or what they got up to do or even where the door is. When we think about preventing cognitive decline in our furry companions - nutrition with things like omega 3 fatty acids and blueberries probably comes to mind. We may also think about exercise and possibly medication. But how about a biomechanical tune up?
Biomechanical treatments aim to get the joints, muscles, fascia, skin and organs moving optimally. There are different method that can be employed to do this including osteopathic and chiropractic techniques, massage, acupuncture, fascial techniques, laser and rehabilitation exercises.
Osteopathic techniques have been shown to improve both pain and the brain in people. How does this work? Well we don't actually know and it is quite possible that there are multiple mechanisms by which this may work. Some of the theories include: pain hijacks the attention of the brain and by reducing pain we can free up some extra brain power. Another theory is that by improving biomechanical function we can reduce inflammation and inflammatory cytokines. Inflammatory cytokines have been found to affect the brain, memory and neurogenesis.
From another point of view - if we can get the joints and muscles moving better we can improve the blood flow to the brain. Some medications and herbs used for cognitive decline also aim to improve blood flow to the brain.
At the same time as thinking about blood flow to the brain we also need to think about removal of waste products from it. All the lymphatic drainage from the brain but also the head all goes through the medial cervical lymph nodes that sit under the 1st vertebrae in the neck before heading down the neck in the lymphatic vessels back to join the blood circulation in the chest. If there is any obstruction to the thin walled lymphatics due to tight muscles in the neck that will slow drainage of waste products from the head including the brain. The muscles in the neck will commonly become quite tight if the joints in the neck or even the 1st rib aren't moving properly. A biomechanical tune up will assist to get things flowing.
In relation to thinking about all the lymphatics from the head and brain sharing common pathways we need to also think about the congestion extra lymph from infection and irritants in the many tissues of the head. For example bad teeth can lead to infection of the mouth and increased lymphatic drainage from the oral cavity, putting back flow pressure on the brain. A good diet, good dental hygiene, reducing toxins and irritants that can be breathed in via the nasal cavities, keeping ears clear of allergy and infection (diet can help a lot with this), as well as a biomechanical assessment and tune up will all help with keeping your pets brain sharp naturally into old age.