Wednesday, 23 August 2017

How young is too young to learn canine massage?

How young is too young to learn canine massage? I’ve never really thought about it until the other day when I had an enquiry from a Mum of a young dog who wanted to come along to one of my workshops. I’ve successfully worked with several dogs under the age of 1 and even had a couple come along to a workshop who were 6 months old. One of those ended up fast asleep in the middle of the room after 45 minutes and only interrupted the class with his snoring, while another was too excited about being in a room with lots of other dogs. 

But there are plenty of human Mum and Baby massage groups and workshops available. In fact, Chris’s new grandson, the gorgeous smiley Caleb, went to such a class to improve his motor co-ordination and general body awareness. So why not Mums and Puppies? 

I felt it best to give the Mum a call and see why she wanted the session and to learn more about her dog. We had a 45 minute chat – very thorough. 

As to The Why, the puppy was her first dog, she had only had cats before. She felt she didn’t really know anything about dogs – how they work, how they bond, how they play and, most importantly, how to look after them physically. 

As to The Who, the puppy was a Labrador. His name was Sherlock. He was black. He was cute. He was 18 weeks old. 

Well…let’s be honest, she had me at puppy. Then at Labrador. Then again at Sherlock. I was putty by that time. 

OK…let’s go for it. We felt that the puppy would struggle sitting still, or laying still, in a class format so Mum decided to bring him here. From Streatham in London. A long way to come. That’s dedication for you and a Mum who really wants to go that extra mile (literally in this case) to help her and her dog. 

 I collected Mum, her Mum and Sherlock at the station rather than making them get a taxi or bus. Well….I wanted to see this smasher first hand. He was sitting very politely by the kerb waiting for his transport. Oh….love at first sight. He even sat in my car happily watching the Brighton traffic go past. I don’t think he was listening to my commentary about the Royal Pavilion or the Pier or Roedean or the Lido….he just was in awe of the world. 

During our trip home, I was asking his Mum more about The Why. It turns out that Sherlock has been rather poorly in his 18 weeks with lots of tummy issues, ear problems and has been on antibiotics more times than not. Mobility wise he is fine but he could do with some Sherlock Down Time to help his insides recover and heal. His Mum said “he always looks sad. I want to be able to help him”. 

That did it for me. This was going to be success if it took all afternoon. 

As it happened, we didn’t need all afternoon. We ran through the massage techniques that could be performed on a puppy which would help keep those growing muscles in top condition and others than could help him relax. We used both Sarah and Sam, the magic demo dogs, to try things out while Sherlock entertained himself chewing the carpet. 

 Then it was his turn. Unexpectedly, Sherlock remained in one place throughout the first run through of the routine. A bit of wriggling but no getting up to see what is over there. Remarkable. 

We then took him in the garden for a wee and a leg stretch before checking out what his Mum had remembered. This was the defining moment of my canine career I reckon. Sherlock, remember EIGHTEEN weeks, just flopped in his Mum’s lap, smiled and fell asleep. Yes, there were tears. I might have joined in. 

Was he happy? You bet he was. Was he relaxed? Well he was snoring like a good ‘un. Was his Mum now his best friend ever? Just look at the pictures. Listen to the accompanying video posts. 

 This worked largely because his Mum wanted it to. So much. She needed to know that she and Sherlock will now be a life team. And I think they will. All it took was 3 massage techniques to change his life and hopefully start him on his road to recovery. His Mum performed those three over and over while he snoozed peacefully grinning with an occasional endearing toe stretch. 

My day with Sherlock is certainly going in my book of Top Ten Canine Massage Moments. 

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Canine Regenerative Medicine : My experience

Our Sarah was diagnosed as having chronic arthritis in her knees and wrists about a year ago with possible onset spondylosis. As such, she has been treated with maintenance Metacam, fortnightly laser therapy and fortnightly hydrotherapy. In addition, she goes to see the wonderful Tim Couzens, Holistic Vet, who makes up a personalised and tailored herbal mixture with a couple of homeopathic tablets. 

By and large, she has been OK. But with the summer, she has been stumbling, particularly on her right rear leg. We thought her knees were sore. 

I’d read about Stem Cell therapy for canine arthritis some time back, along with Platelet Rich Plasma therapy (a great video which explains how that works can be found on YouTube here) and now, more recently, a new medication called Arthramid which has been used in horses for a while but is now being offered to dogs by a few specialist vets. 

At the recent VETFest conference I attended, there was a talk about Stem Cell Therapy and I thought that I’d have a google and see if there is anyone who is offering it. I found Dr Stewart Halperin BVMS MRCVS who has several clinics in the UK, the nearest to us being in Chiswick. I gave him a call and, following a thorough and attentive phone conversation, he agreed to see our Sarah. 

On the day of our appointment we had a consultation which lasted well over an hour going through her entire history – not just the arthritis but also her general health and her liver issues – an integrative approach. He took us through the options he offers, explaining that she may not need the most expensive therapy but may be better benefitted with the PRP or Arthramid or even a combination of several. Of course, there was always the possibility that he could not help and she may need surgery or the treatment he offers may not be suitable for her condition. But all would be revealed with appropriate X-Rays. 

We left her at the clinic, as Dr Halperin aims to perform all procedures on the same day, and found a pleasant spot in Putney by the River and near a cafĂ© to wait. Mr Sam was with us and had a Dad Day although he was clearly concerned about where his sister had gone. 

At 16:30 we made our way back to the vet surgery and waited for Dr Halperin to give us the verdict. The most startling thing, for us, was to see the X-Rays. They clearly showed (even we could read them) that her wrists, elbows and knees were fine. However, her hips were not – they were shocking. Dr Halperin showed us that the head of the right thigh bone, which should have a rounded top to fit neatly in the socket of the hip, was almost flattened due to arthritic wear. He suggested there was also likely a genetic underlying cause too. Her left hip was not good, but not as bad as her right. 

Our Sarah must have been in considerable discomfort over the past few months with bone rubbing on bone. He told us that, even under anaesthetic, they hadn’t been able to extend her rear legs back more than about 30 degrees – it should go at least 180 degrees in a fit dog. It took them several attempts at X-Raying her to get a good scan. 

Incidentally, 5 years ago we had been told that their rear leg extension was restricted by Natalie Lenton of the Canine Massage Therapy Centre, when we attended one of her workshops. She had found this likely genetic issue way before any visible symptoms had been displayed. 

What did he do? Lots. He injected an analgesic into the joint, some lubrication, some Platelet Rich Plasma and finally, Arthramid. Additionally, he took out 4 of her teeth which he noticed were badly damaged and would also be causing her discomfort, maybe even adding to her known liver enzyme issues. 

We were given quite a few medications to keep her comfy during her recovery until the therapy settles down, including Amantadine. A survey by Lascelles et al (2007) showed that Amantadine in a multimodal analgesic regimen can help alleviate osteoarthritis pain in dogs. 

Dr Halperin suggested that taking this drug with the NSAIDs she is already on might be a useful adjunct therapy for managing her arthritis. By the next morning she was already refusing her sling, preferring to walk by herself. Dr Halperin told us to continue with the physiotherapy and massage we give her daily and to concentrate the acupressure we also give her, to areas and meridians that will benefit the hips. We also booked her in for a course of intensive hydrotherapy at the House of Hugo, plus a new diet regime. 

Interestingly he also told us we needed to go out and buy a Bio-Flow collar for her. I was rather surprised that a vet surgeon would recommend this but I guess it all goes with his multi-approach to managing canine arthritis. 

It’s been 6 weeks now. She is not ‘fixed’…she has good days and she has not-so-good days. What she doesn’t seem to have is bad days. She is moving more freely, she gets up from her bed easier, she has a great wiggle in her spine, she lifts her knees higher, she does a h-u-g-e stretch immediately after her acupressure and generally seems more relieved. What we need to concentrate on now is her muscles. She hasn’t been using her thigh muscles in a while. Twice a week hydrotherapy at the House of Hugo is making a lot of difference. Her Auntie Tel, the hydrotherapist, gets her to use those rear legs in their 10 m length pool. Gradually the muscle tone is coming back. 

How long will it last? I don’t know. But if she doesn’t feel that she’s got bone crunching on bone for a few days, weeks or even months, then that will have made it all worthwhile. 

Of course, this is just our own experience. It’s not a cure-all, not every dog will respond in the same way and, for some, this type of therapy may not be suitable. It may be, like our Sarah, that they don’t immediately get back 100% fitness. But I’ll happily settle for any relief from bone on bone crunching. However, if you’ve got a dog who has arthritis and you’re open to try options, check out the StemCell Vet webpage – it’s full of useful resources and explanations of what he does. If you know of anyone who would benefit, please feel free to share this page. 

Hopefully, with all these innovations for veterinary options, we’ll soon not have to accept a diagnosis of “It’s just arthritis”.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

“Unfortunately both Archie and Pearl are now rolling about on the floor in front of us, constantly, trying to get massages!!!“

“Unfortunately both Archie and Pearl are now rolling about on the floor in front of us, constantly, trying to get massages!!! “ 


Meet Pearl & Archie 

Some years ago, at Bark in the Park, we met the lovely rescue Staffie Pearl. She immediately sat in our laps taking every bit of touch we gave out. This was quite remarkable for a dog who had been a street dog who had both front legs broken at some time. She is now 10 with arthritis of both elbows and a stiff back. Her brother, Archie was also rescued and is now 8 years old. His Mum and Dad say that they are no good at fostering, they tend to end up adopting all their foster dogs. I think that makes them excellent fosterers.

After all that time, I was called to go over and teach them how to perform a massage routine that would be appropriate for their age and mobility. Although Pearl is 10 she tends to have the two speeds of a Staffie, zero and 100. Then after a bout of 100 mph, she struggles to get up. Although Archie had no specific mobility issues, he had a cruciate operation a few years ago. 

I always start my workshops with a “Get-to-know-your-dog” session where the owners learn about Palpation – a vital part of any treatment. You shouldn’t just dive straight in with muscle kneading until you’ve had a feel of what is going under that fur. It turned out that Archie did have an issue even though that was not presenting itself in obvious lameness. Touching his lower back was quite reactive. It is possible he is still carrying some imbalance after recovery from his cruciate operation. 
Pearl also displayed an amount of discomfort in her back and legs which would be expected from her arthritis. 

Pearl’s Mum is not able to work on the floor but can work from her chair. No problem.  Pearl simply jumped onto her lap and massage was done there. 

The session went on well past their normal dinner time. Their Dad looked at the clock and said that they ALWAYS get to the kitchen waiting for food at the same time. That day they were already 20 minutes late and not looking for food at all. Well, they were, in fact, asleep. 

When we wrapped the session up, we told them it was now dinner time, which should have sent them into ecstatic bounciness. Instead they looked up at Dad as though to say “Oh Dad…just feed me here. We’re too comfy after all that massage”. 

Pearl & Archie can now go from 0 to 100 knowing that Mum and dad will be able to help ease them out afterwards. 

Their Dad posted a review later saying “Fantastic and informative visit by Les yesterday. gained so much help and information from him which will benefit our dogs in the future. Why didn't we do this sooner??? Many thanks for all the help and advice.” 

It doesn’t matter if you wait a while, learning how to massage your dog whether they are puppies, middle aged or seniors, will help their quality of life. 




Pearl with her Mum

Pearl for the rest of the day