Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Being Your Own Therapist

When I started canine myotherapy I realised I had an uphill battle to get the word out there that such a service exists. People know about dog behaviourists and groomers but dog massage needed promotion. As well as speaking to local dog walkers and pet stores and using social networking we thought the personal approach would be the best one, where we take the AchyPaw team (my partner and I plus our two dogs) to dog shows and fairs. We started with a small gazebo which was basically just 4 poles with a lid. After a couple of shows we progressed to a bigger one which had 3 sides and even windows plus extra supports because the British weather is notoriously unpredictable. But sometimes even that won’t do. One event in May was a day like that.

We had been invited to attend the Plumpton College Open Day. Plumpton College teaches land based and related subjects so there were displays of things like horses, forestry, animals, tractor rides, piglets, fish, plants, lizards, birds, climbing, terrier racing and us. But when we arrived at 7:00 the rain was bucketing down and the wind was gusting like crazy. There would be no way we could remain on the ground…we’d be airborne within minutes. We must have looked rather pathetic because the organiser said that they would try and find us a classroom. After a while they came back and said all classrooms were busy but how would we like the old grooming shed? They took us to this old wooden building which was full of junk but was perfect for us. And waterproof. So we started cleaning it up and making it our AchyPaw @ Plumpton College studio for the day.

When the event opened we weren’t sure how busy we would be. But within a short while we realised this would be our best day ever. Clearly the idea of seeing dog massage and being able to bring their dogs to ask questions and shown techniques from professionals caught the imagination. We didn’t stop from 9 to 5 and even had people queuing outside to come and ask our advice.

I felt like a celebrity! “Les…what can you recommend for Rover’s limp?”…”Les...Rex has a slight scoliosis in his lumbar area, are there any exercises that could help?”…”Les, my dog is very excitable, are there any techniques you can show me that could help him relax?” and more. Fortunately I had space in our new studio to display all the exercise and stretches that I had recently compiled and printed out.

But all the time part of my attention was on one of our own dogs. Mr Sam has developed a huge fatty lump (lipoma) under the axillary region of his front leg. It has grown in size over the past couple of months to the size of a tennis ball and all of a sudden 5 weeks ago he developed a limp. Now we should be able to fix his limp. It is what we do. But we simply couldn’t get to the cause of the issue. Was it a strain, was the lipoma restricting his movement, was it something else? When I was learning my canine anatomy I found it easiest to get on all fours and see what muscles moved. Then I came up with the great idea of sticking yellow Post-Its with muscle names all over Mr Sam and watching him move. He was not amused.  This time I tried sticking a tennis ball under my own arm and tried to walk on all fours to see what it must feel like for our Sam. I can assure you it hurt.

One of the things I was taught in my diploma course was that I am a therapist…a professional specialist but I cannot diagnose. That is the role of veterinarians and what they have trained for. So we took Mr Sam along to our vets who repeated the things we had been doing – extending and flexing his joints testing for range of motion while looking out for signs for discomfort. Anyone who has a dog will know how stoic they are. They don’t like showing pain, especially to their owners. Mr Sam was still putting on a brave face with the vet but was clearly uncomfortable. They thought he had some arthritis in his elbow and he was not too happy when they stretched it. The vet said that they would start by treating the injury as a muscle strain and prescribed NSAIDs with a follow-up another appointment for 2 weeks. In that time, with medication and daily massage from us, the limp improved slightly but was still evident so we were prescribed a second dose of NSAIDs. 2 weeks later he was better still but the limp was still there so the vets decided it was time for a full scan of the joint and limb and a thorough examination of his lipoma. 

The outcome was that the lipomas are not malignant and that he has mild arthritis in his shoulder.  But now I know and can treat things accordingly.  Getting that opinion from the expert is vital.

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