Wednesday, 12 October 2016

World Arthritis Day

#WorldArthritisDay matters to dogs as well. 

Osteoarthritis as a diagnosis for your dog always sounds scary. But regular visits to your vet with appropriate advice and medication plus the addition of massage, suitable exercises, advice and education, the scariness can be helped. 

Take Poppy – a 13 year old Jack Russell terrier who was referred to me by Guy from Coastway Vets with a whole series of scary sounding symptoms including hind leg weakness with slight response to medication, severe arthritis in both knees shown by X-rays which were also bony and ossified, lumbar/sacral joint of the spine showing some spondylosis which is in turn pinching the femoral nerve which is causing her right hind leg to drag. He wanted me to go along and add physical therapy to her treatment plan to ease out her discomfort and try and give her some confidence back. 

I spread my massage mat on the floor and sat on it, as usual, until the dog approaches me. Normally this takes a few minutes. But Poppy saw the mat, saw me on it and strolled across the mat to sit in my lap with her back leaning toward me. Her Mum said “Oh….she doesn’t do that to anyone. Is that normal behaviour for a dog who hasn’t seen you before?”. I replied “Erm…..well…..yes actually but not normally with such speed and confidence”. It’s not magic, it’s just dogs sense things we don’t. They don’t faff about with polite conversation and cups of tea. Once they have decided that you’re there to help it is “OK…you’re here…I’m here…get going” 

Poppy did not move for 60 minutes except to shuffle around in my lap a little. But after an hour she got up and trotted off to the garden. And that trot was a lot more mobile than when she first strolled onto the massage mat. 

I was chatting to her Mum arranging dates for the next visit when we noticed Poppy walking back and sitting on the massage mat. Down I went giving her a little extra before I left. I used the mat to show her Mum some appropriate exercises she can do to help with her balance and proprioception. Poppy then got off the mat while I folded it up for transport. As I was putting my shoes back on, Poppy returned to sit on the folded up massage mat. It took us 15 minutes for her to finally return to her usual bed. Her Mum repeated the original question “Is that normal behaviour for a dog?” My reply this time was “Erm…well…sometimes yes”. It is why I always prefer to massage dogs on a ‘special’ place like my massage mat and not in their own bed. It is a place they can associate with therapy whether it is from me or from their Mums and Dads. It is not the sleeping place, or the feeding place, or the petting place but the Therapy Place. Luther shows his displeasure at me leaving by remaining on the mat AND holding on to me. Ralph shows his displeasure at the end of a session by sitting on me so I can’t get up but when I do, he shuffles to the front door so I can’t actually get out of his house. Equally as persistent as little Poppy and equally endearing. 

Hopefully, with regular massage sessions from me, daily massage moments from her Mum, some gentle exercises to stretch out her back and rebalance her hips, Poppy will be able to manage her arthritis and have a better quality of life.

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