Saturday, 30 December 2017

Going the extra mile to manage canine arthritis - meet the Corkie Stair Lift

I love the fact that we dog carers go to extra lengths to make our dogs comfy. The award of the year for 2017 has to go to Corkie’s Dad. He has built him a Corkie Stair Lift. 

Corkie is a 12 year rescue who spends all his time with his Dad. Recently he started to show signs of slowing down and discomfort so was taken to the vet who suggested there was some arthritis in his mid-spine. Shoulders and hips felt fine though. 

Corkie lives in a lovely house which unfortunately has many flights of narrow stairs to get to the top floor. There was no way his Dad could ask him to continue climbing those. He had to be carried. But it was a long way. His Dad would end up doing his own back in which would be bad news for both. Also, picking Corkie up the wrong way could make his spinal issues more uncomfortable. It would only need him to wriggle or twist and that would exacerbate his arthritis. Cue some wonderful resourceful inventiveness. His Dad came up with the Corkie Stair Lift (CSL). 

The inspiration was a basket used to carry things – but with an extra twist. CSL Mk1 was a bit heavy and clumsy. He’s now on CSL Mk2 which is a wooden lightweight open ended carrying frame with a fluffy cushion for Corkie to sit in. A treat is inserted into the frame. Corkie enters the frame. Corkie lies down. Dad carries Corkie in the CSL down the stairs. At the bottom, Corkie walks out of the CSL into the hall. No effort on his back. 

How amazing is that? Much admiration to Corkie’s Dad. 

Apparently CSL Mk3 is on the cards which will be a lighter slightly thinner version so Corkie fits snugly inside. Corkie’s Dad’s inventions are going to be bigger than Bitcoins next year! 

Meanwhile, Corkie is up for complementary therapy to help him manage his arthritis. He is already on supplements. As well as the CSL ©, carpets are now being used to cover the wooden floors. Food bowls are raised. And a ramp has been bought for the car. 

All that is left is a massage lesson – which was why I was called round. That was my job for the day. 

After a quick tour of Corkie’s body, his Dad started working with him. If Corkie could speak, he would have said “At last Dad….at last. That is sooooooo good”. Corkie is the new definition of receptive. We knew exactly where he needed his help – mainly along his stiff back muscles. Every time his Dad hit the spot Corkie closed his eyes in ecstasy and grinned. 

In fact, by the end of the 2 hour session, Corkie decided that anywhere was good. Anywhere and everywhere. Thighs. Shoulders. Neck. Chest. Just bring it on Dad. 
 When we’d finished, Corkie was prancing around the room looking so much happier and flexier. 

But this session was not all about Corkie. His Dad needed to feel that he could do something for Corkie. I think this was a result too as he said "I now feel inspired to help Corkie". That's my job done. 

With this early diagnosis from the vet, daily physical therapy from a wonderful inventive Dad after our guided instruction session, some recommendations on exercise and other therapies, plus Corkie's receptive nature, this little fella should be looking at a comfortable 2018 with lots of fun and walks.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Come on the Locomotion

Well…..there’s a first 

When we got to the Park this morning at 7:00, the temperature was below zero and it was very frosty. So, after getting the dogs out of the back of the car, we did our Locomotion routine on them. 

A lady, who’d just drawn up, got out of her car and said, in a quizzical unbelieving voice “Wait……did you just warm-up your dogs?” The reply came in stereo from us “Yes” in a why-not tone of voice. Chris had been warming-up Sarah and I’d been warming-up Sam. 

She was then more than interested to find out what we’d been doing. I explained that we designed the quickest effective warm-up routine in Sussex which we call The Locomotion. After waving my hands in the air, showing her how to do it, I explained that the dogs love it. It’s fast. It’s very warming. And if you sing a warmy-up song while doing it the dogs add to the routine by becoming bouncy. 

I explained the song lyrics doesn’t really matter – she started singing “The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round” If you turn up the volume on the video here , you’ll hear the booming voices of the Healing Animal Graduates with their rendition of the Locomotion. (Yes, the AchyPaw workshops are full of fun and interaction while you’re learning). Or you can simply make up your own song. Mine….it’s a rubby dubby song. 

As long as you warm your dog up before exercise – even a walk – especially on these cold days and nights, it can help to prevent injuries from cold muscles. Like our Locomotion routine, it doesn’t need to take ages, and the dogs get to expect it, even asking for it – standing still after they get out of the car until they’ve had their warm-up. They are clearly more sensible than us. 

My mission for 2018 has now expanded. Added to my first mission to help all caring owners become aware of early signs of arthritis or other mobility issues teaching them how to help their dogs before these problems become chronic, is to share and spread the importance of warming their dogs up, and, of course, cooling them down afterwards. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s efficient, it’s The Locomotion, it’s all part of our service.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Another review of our workshops

Our introduction to the Sussex Pet Rescue was through a training session I did early in the summer. There was a pleasant surprise yesterday to receive a copy of their latest Newsletter with an article about my session with Pearl (and her brother Archie). 

The article says "Pearl is our 10 year old Staffie adopted from the SPR 3 years ago. 

She had a very rough start in life, and, adding that to her age, we discovered she was starting to creak a bit as she went about her daily life. We decided to look for a way to help her tired bones get through the day. By chance we met Dr Les Ellam at a dog show where he was demonstrating massage techniques. We introduced Pearl to him and, when he began to massage her, she simply melted. 

After a lot of happy grunting from Pearl we managed to chat to Les and discovered, among a variety of classes etc, he did home visits. We arranged a day for him to visit and work with Pearl and our Beagle Archie. Les arrived and began with a very informative chat about a dog's anatomy and structure which was full of common sense and not the usual dry lecture. 

After 2 hours learning how to massage our dogs, taking their individual needs into account, he then showed us some warm-up and cool-down techniques to be used when exercising the dogs. 

In addition, my wife Sue, is disabled and Les showed her how to perform his techniques with the dogs sitting on her lap. Pearl and Archie probably had the best two hours of their lives and, as the photo shows, Pearl enjoyed a snooze afterwards. 

As a bonus, about 24 hours later, Les emailed a complete guide to everything we done with him including diagrams. 

We now spend about 15 minutes a day massaging the dogs and it is a great way to end the day with them. One complaint - they both spend a lot of time rolling around in front of us trying to get extra rubs!" 

I'll happily take that complaint!

Adding canine massage to your dog's daily routine can't start too early

When I started AchyPaw all those years ago, I mainly had requests to help with dogs who were already showing symptoms from their arthritis. But this year, I’ve had more people asking me to help their young dogs or dogs newly diagnosed with arthritis. They are trying to help early rather than waiting until the disease starts to maim and lead to mobility issues. All also want to learn a daily routine that they can use in between therapy sessions. 

Awareness of complementary ways to help arthritis and other mobility limiting issues is spreading. 

Imagine how wonderful it must be for a dog having Massage + Owner in one place. Dogs love massage. Dogs love their owners. And now their owners are helping them with physical therapy. What a powerful treatment. 

Now meet Daisy. She had pneumonia when she was only 18 months old which led to one third of a lung being removed. She is not yet 5 but after having X-rays for another problem, her vets discovered possible spondylosis and the beginning of arthritis. Her Mum said she is ‘clicky’ which sums it up perfectly and sometimes her left elbow becomes swollen which results in a slight limp. 

 Daisy is still young. If we can start helping to strengthen her muscles and joints, keeping them supple and healthy, we should be able to maintain her quality of life. 

Two years ago, her Mum visited us at the RSPCA Open Day and took a card. When she recently found out that Daisy might have mobility issues later in life, she immediately called for a treatment and hands-on session. 

 Daisy wasted no time in getting down to the treatment session. She fell asleep almost before I was sitting on the floor with her. I was able to work completely on one side, before we got her up to turn her over so Mum could practice on the other side. Interestingly, that was the side where she’d had her operation scar and she was slightly more reactive. But that was good, as her Mum could learn all about taking the pressure off over sore parts. And sure enough, Daisy then let her Mum perform the full routine. 

Owners + Massage = very happy content healing dog. 

It’ll be a good day when all caring owners become aware of early signs of arthritis or other mobility issues in young dogs and look to help their dogs before these problems become chronic and the dog must constantly cope with their discomfort. That’s my mission for 2018. 

Monday, 27 November 2017

2017 - a year of training milestones for us

We’ve had a lot of milestones this year with our teaching. We’ve delivered over 14 workshops and diploma courses this year plus dozens of 1 to 1 sessions. Thanks to Paws, Play & Stay for hosting many of those classes and Elizabeth Whiter with the Healing Animals Organisation for the Diploma courses. 

That’s hundreds of dog Mums and Dads in East & West Sussex (plus others who came from London and beyond) who understand what is going on under their dog’s fur and now have the skills to help maintain their health and well-being. 

We also had a diploma module with the most dogs attending ever – 19 in 2 days. And yesterday ended our teaching year with the biggest workshop of 2017 – 18 people attending. 

We were invited by the Sussex Pet Rescue ( to organise and deliver a workshop for their dog rescuers, fosterers, board members and even the founder of the SPR, Marcia Harris, who set up the organisation 50 years ago. The numbers who were interested, grew over the weeks and we filled up the hall. First time we’ve needed chairs in two rows too! 

 Dogs of all ages, from a newly rescued anxious puppy to senior dogs came along. All sizes and breeds. All levels of anxiety from very nervous to very chilled. The group started off with a ‘getting to know what’s under the fur’ session so that people could identify and pick up on any issues quicker rather than letting potential mobility problems become chronic and long-term. 

There was no fancy technology this time just a white board and pens. The pages quickly filled up with benefits of massage showing how this therapy can be used for so many different conditions and uses. Canine massage is truly multi-therapeutic and not for a single purpose only. We had dogs who needed help with their mobility due to their age or surgery. We had dogs who had been newly rescued and were quite anxious – although the littlest fella in the group decided that falling asleep on her foster Mums massage mat was far better than being nervous. We had dogs that needed a bit of stretching and myofascial release to ease out aches and strains. And we had dogs who just enjoyed it. 

We’d devised a special routine for the Sussex Pet Rescue comprising 13 massage techniques and the workshop finished with some Canine Pilates stretching the dogs out before their trips home. 

Thank you Sussex Pet Rescue, we’re looking forward to coming back to show more of your members how to help your lovely rescued dogs. 

All the pictures from the day can be viewed here


Tuesday, 14 November 2017

My Luther

My Luther 

Two years I was kindly invited to go and help Luther Weimaraner, who was then 10, by vet Guy from Coastway Vets. He and his Dads were almost at the end of the therapies they had left to offer Luther for his rear leg arthritis and resulting mobility issues. 

Philip, one of his Dads, wrote, Luther was “a HUGE dog, over 50k at one point but always fed and exercised and loved very much. 2015 wasn't great for Luther, prostate removal, stomach problems and then the diagnosis that he was very arthritic. I was devastated, not least because I hadn't noticed the change in him because we're together all the time…….I had to keep going into other rooms to cry about losing him so he didn't pick up on the vibe - you know that sounds strange to some people, but when you bond with another life, you bond” 

When Luther’s Dads heard of Guy’s suggestion of canine massage, they were a bit unsure – to put it mildly. Again, in Philip’s words “Guy said, "I know you'll think this ridiculous, but I know a chap who's a qualified dog masseur...and don't roll your eyes!" So I'm there, I've dabbled with massage, acupuncture, reflexology & Feng Shui, what did I have to lose? My best friend. So I called Dr Les kind of reluctantly. I mean I'm a realist, and the thought of paying to have my dog massaged.... But the universe gives you what you need - I'd known Dr Les for about twenty years, four times a week at the gym. He was a Dr at Brighton or Sussex Uni, and had helped me with some research for my job as a journalist but we had lost touch” 

On the first visit Luther looked sad, no other way to describe it really. But he still had enough spirit to eye me up suspiciously at the start. 

What to do with Luther? Answer : Just about EVERYTHING. He loved it. Philip said “From the first 6 weekly sessions, Luther wanted to eat again, go out, and didn't need the Tramadol. Les showed us how to learn his techniques and use them between visits” 

Two years on and Luther is still up and about. He is now swimming weekly in the Hydrotherapy pool at House of Hugo. His medication has been changed appropriately (Tramadol removed and Rimadyl added) and now he had added thyroid issues and peripheral neuropathy. But he still walks daily – he has an A Frame back end gait and rolls his right back leg out a bit while walking but that is his way now. He even runs to meet me. 

And I ADORE Luther. I really do. He and our girl, Sarah, are totally inspiring. They don’t moan, they get on with it. And that makes wanting to help them and their well-being even more special and important. To share that knowledge with a dog’s loving owners is a double bonus. 

These days with Luther, there is no faffing about. I walk in and he is down on the king-sized massage mat ready and waiting before I’ve got my jacket off. 30 minutes into the session, he gets up and turns over so I can work with the other side. Every time. Without fail. 

His Dads are really the best too. They have listened throughout. They probably know more about Luther’s muscles than they do about their own. I am sent videos of Luther walking weekly which I keep for comparative purposes. Luther’s new brother, Hugo, is also receiving massage from his Dads to keep him in top condition. 

I couldn’t ask for more really. A lovely receptive dog. Owners who take note of what I say and work with their dog daily. And two more years with a dog who is happy and comfortable. Once again, to quote Philip “Get your dog massaged? Oh please! But if you have an aging dog that seems a little stiff, you may know how it feels yourself, at least look into this service. But if you love your dog, it may be the best thing you can do for them”. If your vet suggests “It’s just arthritis”, give us a call and see how we can help you manage their condition. They may be getting older but they need not be put out to pasture yet.

Thank you My Luther 

Monday, 13 November 2017

Relax HAOK9 Massage Diploma - November 2017 Cohort

Twelve graduates from the Healing Animals Organisation became the 6th cohort to be awarded their Diploma in Relax HAOK9 Massage exclusively designed and delivered by AchyPaw Canine Massage. 

This time we had the most dogs ever to help these students learn their new skills – 19 dogs. Some stayed for the whole course, others were special guest stars. But it meant that the graduates went away with a rich diversity of knowledge in how to help and work with dogs of all conditions. 

We had puppies like Evie, we had senior dogs like Dempsey, we had first-timers like Zoe, we had returning guest stars like Perry, and we even had nervous rescue dogs ‘that don’t like men’ but ended up sitting happily in Chris’s arms. 

These fully professional therapists can now help dogs nationally, and internationally, using their new physical therapy skills to work alongside their existing energy and communication therapy skills. 

Welcome to this great new set of multi-modal therapists. 

The full set of pictures can be viewed here


Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Avascular Necrosis and Complementary Therapy

Sonny’s Feedback 

In June of this year, I was invited over to help Sonny. He was then not even a year old but diagnosed with bilateral Avascular Necrosis affecting both hip joints. The vet decided the best plan for his recovery was Femoral head & neck excision. While this condition is common-ish in young dogs, to be affected with both legs at the same time is rarer. 

It meant that little Sonny could not enjoy being a puppy. He has only known wobbly gaits and compensation for his weak hind legs. The vets operated on one leg in May with the other hip booked in for 6 weeks later. 

His Mum wrote “It is very important that the muscle and scar tissue around these joints is built up to ensure as good a mobility as possible. Is this something you can help with?” She is already a Reiki practitioner and wanted to combine physical therapy with energy healing to give Sonny as much help as possible. He was also on anti-inflammatory medication. 

When I first visited him, he was walking with his hind legs closer together but was not showing any signs of gait discomfort placing both legs down equally. I guess he had never known anything different so was doing the dog thing of “Getting On With It” 

The session was more aimed at training for his Mum to build up the muscles of the leg that had been operated on to help support him for the operation on the other leg. Literally, to give him a leg to stand on! I often get asked what a fit muscle should look and feel like. 

 I use the analogy of a chicken fillet. A high-quality chicken fillet. A Waitrose or Marks & Spencer’s chicken fillet (although other supermarkets are available). The affected thigh muscles of Sonny looked more like a ham slice or lower quality fillet. They needed considerable building up. 

He had other compensatory issues, including tight neck and overused shoulder muscles. 

I devised a massage routine plus physiotherapy exercises for his Mum to perform daily. 

I recently had an email saying “I just thought you'd like an update on Sonny. The massage techniques and exercises you taught me were so helpful in his recovery. He went on to have the second surgery carried out in July from which he has recovered equally well using massage and exercise. He hasn't needed any further intervention and his Lidl chicken fillets as you called them are now looking like Tesco Finest!! We've just returned from a break on the Isle of Wight where he ran freely on the beach for hours on end. So a big thank you to you from us!!” 

I asked if it was OK to share this story and his Mum said “It can be very worrying for people who find their dog needs this operation, but it is generally very successful and Sonny is living proof!! If his story can help other owners that would be wonderful.” 

 She also sent some photos of Sonny post-operation and allowed me to share his before and after X-rays. Look at the way the femoral head was not fitting in the socket in the ‘before’ picture on the left and how the head was excised in the ‘after’ picture. Here are all the pictures – shared. 

Poor old Sonny had spent his puppy days with those ill-fitting joints. Physical therapy, massage, exercise, Reiki and medication all working to allow Sonny to run like the puppy he should be on the beach in the Isle of Wight. What a great transformation and testament to the power of complementary therapy. 

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Tellington T-Touch Training

We attended a workshop to introduce us to touches and methods using Tellington T-Touch Training delivered by Caroline Still of Stylish Fido ( 

T Touch is not massage but involves a variety of touches manipulating the skin rather than the muscles below. Although the touches are light pressure, they can be very relaxing and powerful. However, like massage, the aim is to help resolve health and behaviour. 

As well as bodywork, there are also a number of groundwork routines designed to aid flexibility, movement and increase confidence. 

The touches themselves are named after animals, such as the Leopard, Chimpanzee, Racoon and Llama. These involve different placement of the fingers on the skin. As with massage therapy, the touches slide from one to another meaning the dog always has at least one hand on their body maintaining contact. 

The groundwork is used to engage the dog’s attention and focus and involve slow and purposeful movements around objects or poles with frequent stops allowing the dog to experience their balance. 

Another component is body wraps. This is similar to swaddling a baby giving the body security and a big hug. The aim is to provide comfort by making the dog aware of all the areas that the wraps touch. It is a great tool for nervous dogs and can be beneficial for Halloween and November 5th fireworks. 

It’s always good to learn new principles and touches which can be adapted to add to our existing massage routines. We’ve never wanted to stop at just using the same few techniques but rather to constantly learn new moves to adapt and add. On Friday Chris went on a massage course designed for expectant Mums. He came back saying “Oooo…I’ve got a great move we can add to the AchyPaw routine”. As expectant Mums tend to prefer massage on their sides, this is similar to working on a dog lying down. We’ve adapted one of the moves to give a good myofascial release of the dog’s pectorals. That’ll go in our toolkit. Then there was the time Chris took a Hands-free massage course. Again, one of those moves we adapted into our exclusive Angel technique which gives the dog a huge long stretch along their entire body and most adore. 

We’re going to need a bigger toolbelt soon. 

Friday, 20 October 2017

Complementing complementary therapies

We met Caroline Still of Stylish Fido some time ago at a dog event we were doing. She is professional Tellington T Touch practitioner ( As she says on her webpage “Tellington T Touch is a holistic respectful method of training, handling and learning. Using a combination of specific touches, lifts, and movement exercises, T Touch helps to release tension and increase body awareness. This allows the animal to be handled without provoking typical fear responses. The animal can then more easily learn new and more appropriate behaviours. It is not about ‘quick fixes’, it is about working with that animal to bring a new awareness, offering another experience and giving new information, so the animal can be more flexible and adaptive, often having profound positive behaviour changes.” 

She now has a young Poodle, Bill, and wanted me to check him out to make sure everything is OK physically. In return, I asked if she could do the same on our Sarah to give me some more ideas to help her. 

 The two different complementary therapies are, in fact, very similar. Most of the physical therapy massage moves I was demonstrating on Bill, were the same as T Touch moves, only with different names and different intensities. But despite the names, they had the same aims and benefits. 

When it came to working with our Sarah, Caroline showed me small circular moves over her thigh muscles, called The Raccoon, which targeted them far more precisely. Within a short time, both the muscles we were working on, plus the other side, started to warm up. She also sent me some lifting moves which also target the thighs. 

We’re attending one of Caroline’s workshops this weekend giving us even more tools in our Therapeutic Toolkit as you can never have too many options. That gives us massage techniques, advice, exercise routines, education, acupressure, Reiki and energy healing plus all the experience gained over the past 6 years added to the human massage techniques from the past 15 years and now T Touch. The AchyPaw Toolkit is getting bigger. And in the New Year we hope to have a new qualified and insured Canine Myotherapist joining the team. 

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Meet Lord Nelson

Meet Lord Nelson 

No…not that one. That one is in Trafalgar Square. This one is a Sam and Sarah lookey likey living in Hove. He is a stunningly regal Welsh Springer Spaniel (like the Mum of ours hence him being a bit stockier than a Springer) who is now 8 years old. He has a brother, called Mr Darcy who is more of a Springer Spaniel in looks and behaviour. And yes, I fell in love with them both instantly. 

Lord Nelson was rescued a year ago to be a companion for his also rescued brother Mr Darcy. Lord Nelson was rehomed from Spaniel Aid after his previous owner could no longer keep him. It’s likely he had been crated or kept in a single room for a while before he was rehomed. His new Dads said he did not seem to know how to walk when outside. His legs were like jelly and soft. He was also quite heavy at 32 kg, although he has now slimmed down to 25 kg. 

When he was first taken to their groomer, Caroline Still who is also a TTouch practitioner, she said his spine just didn’t look right, almost curved. He was then taken to their vets who performed manipulations but decided against an X-Ray or further intervention as they could not find anything untoward. 

He sleeps hunched up and still struggles to move first thing in the morning when his back half looks curved and his tail comes in. After a while though, he straightens out. “It is like he needs a warm up” his Dad said. He also hesitates sometimes when climbing on a sofa. He puts his fronts legs up first, stops and thinks then clambers up with his rear legs. And when walking he often bunny hops rather than the traditional one leg, next, leg, other leg etc gait of a dog. Exercise-wise, he has a lot. At least 4 times a week he and his brother go on 2 to 3 hour walks over the fields and Downs where he can now keep up with his brother. 

But his hunched back and stiffness was concerning his Dads and, after getting the appropriate vet consent, I was invited over to meet the family. 

On initial palpation it was clear to feel that his back was certainly tighter and stiffer from half way down to two thirds – just where his hunch was. He had probably developed this as a chronic issue from the time he had been kept confined without a lot of exercise. But the good news was that shoulder and thigh muscles felt splendid, just the way they should in an 8 year old. 

Hopefully, easing out his stiff back should restore his balance and gait. He had lots and lots of myofascial release massage over his back to stretch him out as well as a series of Canine Pilates exercises with the same effect. 

He responded so well to everything, sighing, yawning and with a very dribbly nose as his body eliminated the built up waste. 

His Dads were left fully armed with a massage routine, warm-up Locomotion routine, cool-down and exercises to perform on him daily with a repeat visit from me in a few weeks to monitor the improvement. That was a good Saturday morning.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

September is Arthritis Awareness Month and there have been lots of posts about it. I thought I’d take a different line and go through a couple of the dogs I’d worked with over the years showing how a multi-modal approach can work better than just medication or single therapy alone. 

First is Luther. My big handsome wonderful Luther. I’ve been visiting Luther the Weimaraner since November 2015. He had been diagnosed with arthritis but suddenly he had gone off his back legs and his Dads just did not know what to do anymore. He also had a very stiff top line, he had gone off his food (which is NOT like Luther at all) and he generally looked sad. His vet referred him to me, and despite some initial scepticism from his Dads, I started to work with him. Luther, being a big boy, can be quite intimidating but is really a big softie when you get to know, and love, him. He was rather suspicious at first but allowed me to perform an almost classic massage routine on him. 

The techniques that turned the corner for Luther were Myofascial Release. His discomfort from arthritis had made him concertina into a shorter dog. He was tight all over. Once we got that tightness released and stretched him back out, we could work with his muscle tone, building his wasted thigh muscles back up again to support his weight. 

Two years on and his Dads are my best advocates so much so that they now give Luther’s new brother, Hugo, a massage every week when I’m working with Luther. Luther is now off Tramadol, and has added Rimadil to the medication mix as well as weekly physical therapy from me, hydrotherapy from Mia at the House of Hugo and laser therapy. He has his bad days, but don’t we all, and he is now 12 years old. Currently, though, he is walking three times a day in his steady plodding but comfortable way. And his loves his massage sessions regularly snoring his way through the hour. 

Then there is Stanley the Shih Tzu. He is 12 now and I’ve been visiting him for 18 months. He was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in the hips. He was treated with Metacam which was easing his discomfort but was not really helping with his wasted rear leg muscles. Stanley is a character and has to be massaged on the sofa so he can look down at his brother Freddy who is desperate to join in. His arthritis had caused his whole body to be wrong, which is a non-technical term but describes perfectly the way he stood. He had a very high rear end so the spine dips at the shoulders which were over developed. He did not walk but waddled with one or both rear legs crumbling under him as he progressed forward. He did not seem in the least bit perturbed by his legs giving way. He simply got up and continued to waddle on. 

With Stanley, he benefitted from as much kneading as I could give him before his attention span ran out (usually between 30 to 45 minutes) and he asked to get off the sofa. In the last couple of months, the physical therapy was really only holding him stable but not helping his muscle tone to improve. His Mum even bought a buggy so he could go out but Stanley was having none of that. A few weeks back we added hydrotherapy to the mix. This was the addition that brought about his turning point. After a few sessions, he had muscles. Big muscles. And he stood without falling. For a long time. And he walked, actually walked. It was an emotional session the first time and such a joy to be able to work with his muscles again, helping to build them up further to maintain his mobility. And today his Mum is off to IKEA to buy some carpet runners for the hall and kitchen so Stanley can continue his progress without fear of slipping. Add ‘environmental changes’ to the mix of therapies. 

Duffy the Old English Sheepdog sadly passed away a few months ago from a heart condition, but I had been visiting him every four weeks for 18 months. He was referred with Ankylosing Spondylosis in his upper back resulting in forelimb arthritis. He was already on a regime of Rimadyl and Cartrophen with monthly acupuncture from vet Guy Liebenberg of Coastway Vets. During the physical therapy sessions, his Mum added Holistic Veterinary Medicine to his mix from Tim Couzens. This took the form of daily herbal medication which included things like Turmeric and Ginger for the arthritis. He also had laser therapy. 

As well as massage, he loved his stretching exercises and passive joint stretches. His Mum took on board the need to do a few massage moves and exercises daily to keep him mobile in between my visits. Another couple of additions to complement his multi-modal therapy. 

For the first few sessions treatments, he just could not keep still and was very vocal. But by the 4th and 5th session, the problem with him was getting him to leave the massage mat at the end of the hour. He wanted more, and when I left, he always went into a deep relaxed sleep – a perfect result from a session. 

Last, but not least, is our Sarah. My inspiration. We took her on a basic introductory massage workshop many years ago and one move we learned from the wonderful Pia Campbell was what inspired me want to start AchyPaw. Simple skin rolling released so much anxiety and discomfort from her that she turned from a grumpy old woman to the 5 year old she should have been within days. 

She has now been diagnosed with arthritis in her hips and, 6 years on from that basic workshop, she has daily massage and acupressure from us, weekly hydrotherapy with Mia, holistic medicine from Tim, a raw food diet to help with weight control, environmental changes (such as our new ramp to the back door and half steps all over the house), daily activity changes (frequent but shorted walks daily so she exercises but doesn’t overdo it), nutritional supplements, a Bioflow collar, energy healing from her Auntie Lou and recently Regenerative Medicine. A truly multi-modal girl. 

Which treatment is the one that is working? Don’t know. It may not just be ONE, but a combination of all. This is complementary therapy after all. What I do know is that she is currently fitter, happier and more comfortable than she has been in a long time. And I can’t ask for a better result than that. 

Check out all the options open to an arthritic dog. It doesn’t have to be ‘just arthritis’.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Subluxation of the canine hip - meet Ronnie

Ronnie is a 2 and a half year old Golden Doodle – Golden Retriever / Poodle cross. He is a big boy with stunning eyes. 

Some months ago he started to display issues with his mobility. He lives in a house where there are quite a few steps to climb to get indoors. He started to look painfully at these steps up to their house. His Mum said it was like an old man who was reluctant to try them. He also became stiff and hyperextended his back end. His gait was definitely way off balance. This was not due to overwalking as, when his exercise regime was severely cut down, he still displayed these issues 

His local vet could not determine what was going on with him and referred him to a specialist vets. They took CT scans of his elbows and X-rays of his hips. The good news was his elbows were fine but his left hip showed mild subluxation. His right hip was also fine. 

When a joint completely dislocates or separates between the joint and the bone, this is commonly described as luxation. This is often what happens in dysplasia. But when the joint is only partially separated, this is referred to as subluxation although it can be equally painful. The signs for both are similar with limping, lameness, pain, licking or change of mood although subluxation can come on quite quickly as it is typically due to a recent trauma. 

There are a number of ways to treat this, depending on the severity, including surgery. In Ronnie’s case, his was mild and the surgeon recommended that he started with physical therapy. This included massage, exercise and hydrotherapy. If this did not resolve the issue, then surgical interventions might be necessary. He was given some medication although the Gabapentin he was given, did not agree with him. He is now just on NSAIDs 

He has already started hydrotherapy and I was asked to fill in the multi-modal therapy of physical therapy and exercise. Although he is a large boy, he is very soft with a stubborn and a “I-don’t-think-you-should-be-touching-there” glare given when he is not happy. 

He was perfectly fine with 30 minutes work on his right hand side but was not happy with his left – the side of the issue. In fact, he walked out into the garden, under the tree. I sat with him chatting away and eventually he let me rest my hand on his hip. Luckily, we found his Go-To muscles were his left shoulder and his hip. Any amount of massage there sent him straight to sleep. Alternating between the lovely muscle and the iffy muscle seemed to work. He gave up trying to out stare me and rested under the tree. 

 His Mum is now armed with homework and exercises plus a quick warm-up and cool-down routine as Ronnie struggled more after exercise. Hopefully the physical therapy, exercise and hydrotherapy should start him on his road to recovery and may prevent any surgical interventions. 

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Benefit of having your own Personal Massage Therapist

“Hi I’m JC. I’m a little bit of a canine athlete, competing in shows most weekends during the season. I have the edge on my competition though. I have my own Personal Massage Therapist called Dr Les. 

My Personal Massage Therapist came to see me just over a year ago when I started to fail at a couple of events during a show. My Mum was told about Dr Les who came along to see if he could help. I’m not always the best of friends with everyone who comes into my house. When Dr Les walked in holding what looked like a big fluffy red bed I thought “Hmmm…why has Mum let him into my bedroom?” so I walked around eying him up and sniffing him out. He smelt OK so I decided to plonk myself in his lap to keep him company. He then spoke to me and asked if he could touch me. Well….Ok…..I guess so. Wow…..was I happy I agreed to that. He did something to me which released a lot of heat from my skin. It felt great. I just had to lay down on the bed to get more of that. 

He said that I was rather tight in my thigh muscles. I don’t know what that meant but he made a big difference. I decided I’d had enough after 40 minutes and walked away. But he didn’t leave, he was chatting to my Mum. So I went back…for more. And more. It was really lovely. 

I didn’t see him again until the same happened. I just couldn’t do the sit properly. It hurt a bit. I had to remain standing. I know that was not what my Mum wanted but I just couldn’t get there in time. She wasn’t angry though. In fact she must still be pleased with me because, guess what,…Dr Les came back. I wasn’t going to be all standoffish this time. I bowled him over with my excitement. I felt he needed extra kisses and cuddles as he must have missed me after this time. As soon as he put that red bed down I threw myself on it and looked at him longingly. He said something about ‘flirting’…it must have worked as he started his magic again. 

He taught my Mum something called The Locomotion which she has to do before I compete. It’s great fun. She now does that every time I get out of the car and I feel all warmed up. None of the other Mums do The Locomotion to their dogs. They must feel really stiff and cold before they compete whereas I’m all warm and suppley. 

We’re reaching the end of the event season and, as you can see, I’ve won quite a few prizes. Not bad for a 10 year old girl eh? My Personal Massage Therapist has just been again and said I feel pretty good, in between me giving him kisses, licking his beard and doing that flirting thing. 

And my Mum has been doing her homework. I showed him how well by doing the stretching exercises he put me through. They make me stretch my back, which feels nice, and I get a treat while doing it. I call that a Win Win. 

I have two brothers. They don’t have a personal massage therapist. I guess that makes me special. I’m not going to tell all my mates at shows about Dr Les as he’s mine” 

Editors note : If you would like your dog to have a personal massage therapist like JC, just get in touch 

Monday, 11 September 2017

Benefits of physical therapy – and some obscure ones

There are dozens of established benefits from massage and physical therapy. There are the physical and mechanical benefits such as : 

  • Rehabilitation 
  • Prevention 
  • For exercise and sport 
  • To manage pain 
  • Stimulation of the healing process 
  • Increase blood, lymph and nutrient flow 
  • Increase joint movement 
  • To improve muscle tone and strength 

Then there are the psychological benefits including : 

  • Relaxation 
  • Bonding 
  • Reducing anxiety, stress and other emotional issues 

And then added benefits such as : 

  • Give the owner peace of mind 
  • Education 
  • Beacuse it feels nice

Every now and again I get the odd one to add to my list. For example, I was once referred a dog who really struggled to poo. When she came to see me, she hadn't been for a couple of days. Would massage help? Dunno, but stand clear and let's try. For the next few days I received multiple texts from the owner detailing quantity and quality of that dog's movements. It worked. There's a new benefit then...helps to poo. 

And yesterday I added a new benefit. Lovely anxious Whippet Sonny has been suffering from neck issues for some weeks now causing yelps and general depression. He came to see me last month and has now visited a chiropractor who put his pelvis back in alignment while making tweaks to his neck. Yesterday's massage was much easier with Sonny adopting his usual "I'll just lie here Dr Les" pose. 

When I got home I received a message and photo from his Mum saying "First cuddle we've been allowed to have in longer than I can remember! Very rare, he must be feeling better. Thanks again". So there we have it....massage benefit number 7654321 : Increases and Restores Cuddling Ability. That's going to be one of my favourites. 

Friday, 8 September 2017

Canine Regenerative Therapy : My experience part 2

8 weeks ago, we took our Sarah to Dr Stewart Halperin for Regenerative Medicine Therapy.  At that session she was treated with had Plasma Rich Platelet therapy, Arthramid, steroid injection and lubrication during the surgery.  Medication wise, we added Amantadine to her regime.

I really didn't know what to expect.  Would the effects be instant?  Would we start to see improvement in a few days or weeks or months?  Would it work at all?

She regained her mobility quite quickly but still stumbled on her right hind leg for a while.  When that sorted itself out, she decided to stumble on her left hind leg.  A week after surgery we also added twice weekly hydrotherapy to her physiotherapy routine using the 10 metre pool at the House of Hugo. 

As I walk behind my girl at least 3 times a day, I constantly took videos of her walking which I could refer to for changes.  For five weeks, it seemed that not a lot was happening.  But then she started to walk symmetrically, balanced and with more confidence. And her thigh muscles began to appear.  This was quite evident as she developed alopecia over her operation area - meaning she has two baldy patches over her thighs.   You could see through to the muscles - not good for her but good for me to judge progression.  You can see in the video here, when she stops, she quickly corrects her hind leg placement.  A couple of months ago, a rapid turn like that would have sent her legs flying in different directions resulting in a fall.

Dr Halperin also removed her bad front teeth.  Now that doesn't sound a lot, but she must have been in pain from them.  Removing that discomfort seemed to help with her mobility recovery.  

Yesterday we had our 8 week review back at his Chiswick surgery.  I was looking forward to a fresh pair of eyes assessing the outcome.  Encouragingly, he was pleased at the change.  He agreed with us that a major improvement is how she stands up from a sit with less effort.  He followed us walking down Chiswick High Street while taking a video for his records and agreed with my opinion, which is that she is clearly pushing from her rear legs now rather than pulling with her front.  Meaning she is regaining strength and confidence from her hips and thighs.

He performed a physical examination.  Her wrists no longer crackled when moved, her elbows and shoulders felt more solid and her right hip had considerably more movement.  She still showed some reluctance in her left hip, but hey, any relief to her discomfort of bone rubbing on bone has to be a benefit and a result.

It was decided she did not need a top-up this time.  The plan now is to continue with the medication and physical therapy routine with a review around Christmas time. 

As I said a month ago in my first post about her surgery, "it's just arthritis" doesn't have to mean the end. There are options for relief including physical therapy, hydrotherapy, acupuncture, medication reviews with your Vet, laser therapy, making simple but effective dog friendly changes inside your house (we’ve just added ramps everywhere) plus all the new innovations coming along which can give us dog Dads and Mums, more hope now.