Monday, 25 August 2014

Canine massage – prevention, rehabilitation, maintenance or holistic?


I read a post (well, more a rant) recently from a canine professional which niggled me as it said that dog massage should only focus on prevention. I thought that was rather narrow-minded. Even though I’ve only been working in this field for a year now I have quite a variety of clients in my portfolio.

Some come regularly for maintenance massage session. This suits those who have arthritis which cannot be prevented as such but massage and myotherapy can help maintain their mobility and ease out any compensatory issues the dog might have. One of my case studies was an old German Shepherd who was a real lady but was beginning to not be able to enjoy walking. She had several sessions with me, not working on any muscle in particular but easing out her stiffness, helping to stretch her muscles and joints and generally allowing her to go “Ooooooo….that is what I needed”. After each session her owners would send me a picture of her lying flat out on the floor in what I call the Superman pose (arms outstretched in front) fast asleep instead of being in a stiff ball or being restless not being able to settle down. In a way she was healing herself. When she finally woke up she was ready for that long walk again. OK, she will never catch that rabbit again, but she could certainly move. When I last saw her, a year after her initial therapy, she was still mobile and happy. Prevention or maintenance?

Others come with a specific injury. Massage and muscle therapy can target the area that the vet has diagnosed as being the cause of the injury. Again, it is too late to prevent that injury…it has happened. But what the sessions can do is promote and hopefully hasten the natural healing process. Also by showing the owner what techniques are beneficial to that particular issue, hopefully the injury should not recur. Prevention or rehabilitation?

Four of my clients have been amputees. In these cases you have to use your skills to think what muscles and joints are possibly being overworked to compensate for the lack of one limb. As well as that, there is the back and spine to consider. The spine of amputee dogs often bends slightly to help balance. So that area should also be looked at to assess for any undue strain and tension. Prevention, maintenance, rehabilitation or what?

Other clients I have are canine athletes. They attend agility events where they have to jump walls or hurdles. In these cases maybe prevention of injury is the best therapy. I usually schedule a therapy session before or after their event to make sure everything is in working order. I also teach the owners the importance of warm-up and cool-down massage routines just before and after the actual event. So maybe this could be classed as prevention but it is also maintenance and well-being.

Finally there are the clients who come to me for relaxation. I have quite a few nervous clients who were not able to be touched or were just antsy. Often it takes several sessions to build up the trust with these clients but over the course of these sessions they visibly change from nervous excitable dogs to massage divas who run to the massage mat when they come in and lay down as though to say “OK….I’m ready now Dr Les. Start your work”. One such client is a small Chihuahua who, at the age of 5, was still not pick-upable by anyone other than the owner. She has been coming for some months now and this time the owner said that she actually feels that she would be able to leave the dog with a groomer without her getting too anxious. That was a great result. When she sits in my lap for her session, her eyes go googly immediately now and every muscle and joint relaxes so she is all floppy. Prevention, maintenance, rehabilition, behaviour or maybe just holistic?

Personally I think to pigeon- hole the rationale behind canine massage and myotherapy as having one benefit is not the way to go. I prefer to think holistically – where my therapy can work on the whole body since everything is ultimately interrelated and interconnected.  The focus should be on the dog and the many ways that massage & myotherapy can help them.

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