Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Canine Massage Therapy #123456 - "Being able to chase that dog you've always fancied"

For our latest Double Therapist Day, we worked with senior girls Lyla and Midge. Midge chose Chris while Lyla chose me. 

Lovely Lyla is a 12 year old Doberman who has a history of stiffness in her forelimbs. Radiographs taken last year showed arthritic changes in both carpi and digits. She is a happy potterer when out walking and her Mum wanted to start maintenance massage to support her through the next stages of her life.

Lyla got over her shyness and realised the benefits by settling down for a full hour. 

The next day her Mum wrote “..OMG!!!! Wow what a difference in the girls, ….. Lyla was walking with a spring in her step not as stiff at all, managed to chase this dog she fancy's….Magic hands uncles a big THANKU XX” Hmm…chasing a dog she fancies. 

Now THAT is a new benefit for canine physical therapy. 

Monday, 3 December 2018

Building confidence in the owner and muscle strength in their dog

Jack is a 13 ½ year old Springer/Lurcher/Staffie. He is now stiff with osteoarthritis all over exhibiting worse in his hip joints which have weakened. But other than his mobility issues, his Mum described him as in remarkable health for his age. That may well be down to the extensive research and care his Mum is taking for him. She checks out the pros and cons of everything. When I arrived, I was handed a list of the medication, supplements and food he is on – everything meticulously studied and balanced. And all his food is hand made with the same amount of care. 

Mobility-wise, his Mum said he is a ‘plodder’. He was tentative when he got up and equally deliberate when going down – front end first then his backside. 

He needed a little extra to complement this jigsaw of multimodal care. Adding manual therapy is something that can give him a lift and, equally important, something his Mum can do daily along with all the healthy food preparation. 

He was one of the “I love this massage and shall lie here……. Although maybe I’ll get up now and come back in a minute” dogs. Massage was on his terms. But when he was in the zone, he fully went with it, closing his eyes. 

After an hour I handed over the skills to his Mum, who took to physical therapy like a professional, not that I had any doubts. We also went through a few gentle stretching exercises and our simple, quick and effective warm-up / cool-down routine. 

Just before he left, he lay down, front and rear at the same time, without any hesitation – a big indicator of the benefits of the session. And later in the day, him Mum send me a post-session picture – a snoozing relaxed Jack. 

The following day his Mum send me a message of another benefit of the session – and that was to Jack’s sister. His Mum wrote “I just wanted to tell you about this morning. I was massaging Jack under Pixie’s watchful gaze, and he did his get up and wander off routine like yesterday. The very instant he moved off she flopped at my feet waiting for her massage too. She was pretty comatose by the time Jack decided he’d let me do a bit more!” 

In her review his Mum added yet another benefit “…..Perhaps the biggest thing Les did when he came to see our dog Jack last week was give me confidence. I was so worried about hurting Jack and Les patiently explained and showed me how I can help ease Jack’s aches, pains and stiffness safely and gently. The next day Les sent over a workbook that went over the session again and included exercises (more like games for Jack) that will help build his confidence and muscle strength again.”

It was never in any doubt that Jack’s Mum would fully embrace this addition to his therapy regime.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

"Not bad for an old boy"

It’s always encouraging to see how dogs we’ve worked with are progressing with their mobility many months later. 

I visited 12 year old Corkie and his Dad on New Year’s Eve 2017. At that time Corkie had recently been diagnosed as arthritic and his Dad wanted to learn how to help him manage his condition. I then met them again this summer when his Dad organised the Senior Dog Massage training day in St Leonards.

He recently recommended us to Bailey’s Mum after which I wrote a letter of thanks. 

He replied “Happy to hear you had a good session with Bailey, there are definitely a few old dogs round here who are moving a bit better these days”. He told me that they had recently been on holiday and sent me a few pictures. He added “Not bad for an old boy!” 

These pictures say everything. Well done Corkie’s Dad.

Monday, 12 November 2018

Massage and canine anxiety

Sometimes it not just about the physical issues. 

6 year old Jack Russell/Chihuahua cross Pippa was referred to us by behaviourist Debbie Peters Schooling 4 Dogs. For the past few months, Pippa had been exhibiting anxiety and shaking. Debbie wanted to make sure there were no underlying physical issues causing these behaviour patterns. 

When I met Pippa she came bounding down 3 flights of stairs and back up again – no noticeable issues there - thank you for that Pippa. Then once in the house, Pippa decided I was her latest plaything – bringing me her toys and sitting with me. Again, no obvious signs of physical discomfort or anxiety. 

What was clear though, was her movement when walking across the vinyl floored living room. She is a small dog but she was making teeny tiny deliberate steps from place to place. She also hunched her back while doing so. As soon as she reached a mat or rug, her back visibly lowered and straightened. This had given her quite a stiff back. Stiff backs in us humans can cause a lot of grief and anxiety and it is likely the same in dogs. 

The stiff back was one thing we could help to solve with physical therapy. But there was also the floor – lots of Mobility Islands needed of mats, runners or rugs especially by the water and food bowl so Pippa didn’t have to worry about slipping. 

Then there is bonding. Touch is a language all dogs understand. Using it to help with re-establishing bonding is a powerful tool. We started to build a multi-purpose massage routine that would help to ease Pippa’s overall tension, straighten her back and also to be relaxing. A few minutes a day, a few times a day. 

Massage was on her terms. A bit here, and a bit there. In between getting out more toys, walking round the room but always coming back for more. Until, after 2 hours, we had a breakthrough moment with Pippa demanding more and more from her Mum. Even shifting her body around so nothing was left untouched. 

With massage, household adaptations and some interactive play we can see how Pippa progresses before her behaviour assessment. Her Mum wrote back “Thank you very much for the report, we have already noticed a difference in Pippa and she definitely appears calmer after a little massage and less shaking” so that is a positive start. 

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Fostering a dog

For the past few weeks we’ve been a family of 5. Chris and I volunteer for the Cinnamon Trust – a network of volunteers who keep together housebound owners and their best chums by helping them out. It only takes an hour or so a week and we walk their dogs. Seems right really to give back to the souls who give us so much. A few Sundays ago, we were contacted by the Trust to see if we could do an emergency foster for a dog whose Mum had to be taken into Hospital. We weren’t going to leave that dog alone, so Chris went to collect her. 

She was a 13 year old Shih Tzu with poor eyesight – quite confused and anxious as to what was happening. She had clearly been the best companion to her Mum probably sitting on her lap 24/7. Here she was in a new house, with two dogs and lots of new space She also has chronic rear limb arthritis and was quite wobbly – she had come to the right house then. But like many of you fosterers out there, we had no idea what her medical history was, medication she was on or what her exercise routine was. We had to figure it all out initially (we now know she is on monthly Cartrophen injections). Plus, what do you feed a Shih Tzu? How much do they eat? How often do they go to the loo? All the things that we know intuitively with our Sam & Sarah. 

Fortunately, Stanley’s Mum makes collars and coats (Stanley is also a 13 year old Shih Tzu who I’ve been visiting for the past 2 years) and a quick call and visit resulted in me being given special Shih Tzu food, some harnesses and a coat. Thank you Viv. 

Over the next few weeks a shaking timid anxious dog turned into a confident strutting tail wagging girl. She even learned our existing routines – such as food time, walk time, pee time and quite a lot of our Sarah’s attitude! And as for our Sam, one morning our new little addition was annoyed by a dog while out. Our Sam placed himself between her and the offender to protect her – that’s our boy. We now had three dogs in a line at the front door when anyone came to visit, three dogs in a line when the food bowls went down, three dogs at the back door waiting to go into the garden for an explore and the loo and three dogs who needed lifting in and out of the car. 

It wasn’t easy, but it was an enjoyable challenge. And yes, we are quite (very) fond of her. And I have total admiration for all you fosterers who do this all the time. If any of you local fosterers ever need any help with some physical therapy for your foster dogs, get in touch with us. There will be no charge. 

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Benefits of AchyPaw Canine massage

There are all sorts of signs during and after a massage therapy session, that it has been of benefit. As well as the dog moving more freely and balanced, typically we finish with a dog comfortably relaxed on the floor. Then the gait benefits are harder to see.

But, as shown by Pudding here, there are drippy noses (indicating that lymphatic drainage has taken place flushing out all the nasties from the body), a relaxed posture (relief from discomfort) bright shiny eyes and overall physical ease.

Chris has been visiting 12 year old Pudding every two weeks for some months now. Her progress since that time has been heartwarming and encouraging. She now manages to keep up with her Hounds on the Downs chums.

She is another poster girl demonstrating the benefits of our AchyPaw therapy techniques.

Monday, 15 October 2018

Cheap and effective canine rehabilitation and muscle building ideas

Our Sarah has been through a bit of a time with it all lately. She had a large cyst on her wrist for the past few months which started to open. Rather than risk infection, the vets opted to remove it. All fine. Until she decided that the long stringy blue thread was far too tempting and pulled the stitch out. 
We now had an open wound. Many weeks of wrapping it up and wearing the dreaded collar followed, and still are, to try and heal the wound. But that meant no hydrotherapy. And that meant the wobbles came back. 

We added extra sessions of laser and acupuncture from vet Eili Dettmering to help fill the missing piece in the jigsaw of multi-therapies but she was still losing some of the rear end muscle mass she had rebuilt with the months of weekly hydrotherapy. We needed to add something else. 

As well as our range of exercises and stretches, we added the Sticky Licky Mat. That was something she really enjoyed. They cost around a £ (if you’re prepared to wait a bit for delivery), can be stuck on any appropriate surface and can be filled with all sorts of squishy foods. 

For several minutes the dog stands – using front AND rear legs – to gradually lick the food out. A really simple and effective mobility restoring tool. To the dog, they are getting food. To the therapist, they are getting exercise. Add in a massage mat for them to stand on, and their balance is being exercised too. 

It took a few goes to get the height right – too low and she was stooping, too high and she was stretching (although both heights would have their use in different rehabilitation cases). For Sarah, I could see she received the best benefit at just above nose height. 

It also took a few goes at finding the right treat to use as well. Cottage cheese was a no-no – went everywhere! Low calorie cream cheese, meat and even sweet potato mash worked fine. I have had to buy another for our Sam, who doesn’t really need it but enjoys the exercise – although he thinks he is just licking treats. 

Why does she have a brown patch on her back? Interesting story. Before she started seeing Eili she had alopecia over most of her body. Brown thin fur. But bit by bit, the acupuncture and laser has helped free any blockages and the fur is coming back. It was as though she has been dipped in black ink which gradually spread up her legs and along her back. One stubborn patch left but we’ll get there. Don’t underestimate all sorts of benefits from acupuncture and laser. 

Why is she looking like a Gym Bunny wearing a sweat band on her wrist? To protect the wound and bandage. We have lots of these indoors for her to wear when her wrist arthritis flares up – keeps the wrists warm and comfortable. And can be recycled as bandage protectors. 

You don’t need to shell out a lot of money to help your dog. There are plenty of cheap but effective toys that you can use as therapeutic tools. I’m certainly adding Sticky Licky Mats to my toolkit. Or recycle stuff like gym wrist bands for arthritis or protectors. Give us a call if you’d like any help with rehabilitation or exercise advice.