Wednesday, 19 December 2018

How old should a dog be to start canine physical therapy?

Some people suggest that massage is only beneficial for senior dogs or canine athletes. The workshops Cathie and I designed recently, focussed on ways that manual therapy, exercises and knowledge can help influence the way that development progresses – from puppyhood to senior years. Of course, physical therapy is especially good for our silver faced chums with all sorts of benefits. But youngsters have a high level of activity – often wiggling and waggling carefree all over the place. 

Moss was a perfect example of this. He is a 5 month old Vizsla/Collie cross with that infectious lust for life puppies have. He’s not worried about warming up, running too far, tripping up, straining muscles – he just wants to see what new and exciting thing is around that corner and if it’s even better than the thing he is currently playing with. 

But this carefree attitude can lead to mobility niggles. In Moss’s case, he was developing a stiff back leg at the end of his walks. Although the walks are kept appropriate puppy length, he does love to play chase in the garden with his older, but still young, sister. At the vet consult before the therapy session, it was found that he was reluctant to fully extend either stifle. 

His Mum had heard of us through Debbie Peters of Schooling 4 Dogs and asked if I could go over to check things out. 

Of course, Moss is a wriggler. He’s a puppy. But we found that there were two ways to keep him still (-ish). One was to allow him to totally wash my face, ears, beard and neck – that way meant that I could work with his hind legs – mind you I could not see a thing. The other was to give him something to chew – preferably not my massage mat. That way I could work all over. 

Between those two distractions, we managed to discover he did, indeed, have very tight thigh muscles – particularly those of the left. It’s likely he simply ‘pulled’ something which had gone undiscovered and unnoticed in general puppy wriggling and enthusiasm. 

In the next hour, in between puppy tongue washes and treat nibbling, Moss received a good massage and his Mum and Dad received education on what is going on under that seething mass of puppy. They learned how to feel him – not pet him and to understand how a normal muscle should feel and what Moss’s tight muscles felt like. 

You don’t need to wait before adding physical therapy into your dog’s growing-up. Armed with their recent knowledge of a massage routine, exercises and our warm-up/cool-down, his Mum and Dad are well equipped to help Moss’s current issues but also to continue that maintenance through his next stages of life. 

Keep enjoying life Moss.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Canine Massage Therapy #123456 - "Being able to chase that dog you've always fancied"

For our latest Double Therapist Day, we worked with senior girls Lyla and Midge. Midge chose Chris while Lyla chose me. 

Lovely Lyla is a 12 year old Doberman who has a history of stiffness in her forelimbs. Radiographs taken last year showed arthritic changes in both carpi and digits. She is a happy potterer when out walking and her Mum wanted to start maintenance massage to support her through the next stages of her life.

Lyla got over her shyness and realised the benefits by settling down for a full hour. 

The next day her Mum wrote “..OMG!!!! Wow what a difference in the girls, ….. Lyla was walking with a spring in her step not as stiff at all, managed to chase this dog she fancy's….Magic hands uncles a big THANKU XX” Hmm…chasing a dog she fancies. 

Now THAT is a new benefit for canine physical therapy. 

Monday, 3 December 2018

Building confidence in the owner and muscle strength in their dog

Jack is a 13 ½ year old Springer/Lurcher/Staffie. He is now stiff with osteoarthritis all over exhibiting worse in his hip joints which have weakened. But other than his mobility issues, his Mum described him as in remarkable health for his age. That may well be down to the extensive research and care his Mum is taking for him. She checks out the pros and cons of everything. When I arrived, I was handed a list of the medication, supplements and food he is on – everything meticulously studied and balanced. And all his food is hand made with the same amount of care. 

Mobility-wise, his Mum said he is a ‘plodder’. He was tentative when he got up and equally deliberate when going down – front end first then his backside. 

He needed a little extra to complement this jigsaw of multimodal care. Adding manual therapy is something that can give him a lift and, equally important, something his Mum can do daily along with all the healthy food preparation. 

He was one of the “I love this massage and shall lie here……. Although maybe I’ll get up now and come back in a minute” dogs. Massage was on his terms. But when he was in the zone, he fully went with it, closing his eyes. 

After an hour I handed over the skills to his Mum, who took to physical therapy like a professional, not that I had any doubts. We also went through a few gentle stretching exercises and our simple, quick and effective warm-up / cool-down routine. 

Just before he left, he lay down, front and rear at the same time, without any hesitation – a big indicator of the benefits of the session. And later in the day, him Mum send me a post-session picture – a snoozing relaxed Jack. 

The following day his Mum send me a message of another benefit of the session – and that was to Jack’s sister. His Mum wrote “I just wanted to tell you about this morning. I was massaging Jack under Pixie’s watchful gaze, and he did his get up and wander off routine like yesterday. The very instant he moved off she flopped at my feet waiting for her massage too. She was pretty comatose by the time Jack decided he’d let me do a bit more!” 

In her review his Mum added yet another benefit “…..Perhaps the biggest thing Les did when he came to see our dog Jack last week was give me confidence. I was so worried about hurting Jack and Les patiently explained and showed me how I can help ease Jack’s aches, pains and stiffness safely and gently. The next day Les sent over a workbook that went over the session again and included exercises (more like games for Jack) that will help build his confidence and muscle strength again.”

It was never in any doubt that Jack’s Mum would fully embrace this addition to his therapy regime.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

"Not bad for an old boy"

It’s always encouraging to see how dogs we’ve worked with are progressing with their mobility many months later. 

I visited 12 year old Corkie and his Dad on New Year’s Eve 2017. At that time Corkie had recently been diagnosed as arthritic and his Dad wanted to learn how to help him manage his condition. I then met them again this summer when his Dad organised the Senior Dog Massage training day in St Leonards.

He recently recommended us to Bailey’s Mum after which I wrote a letter of thanks. 

He replied “Happy to hear you had a good session with Bailey, there are definitely a few old dogs round here who are moving a bit better these days”. He told me that they had recently been on holiday and sent me a few pictures. He added “Not bad for an old boy!” 

These pictures say everything. Well done Corkie’s Dad.

Monday, 12 November 2018

Massage and canine anxiety

Sometimes it not just about the physical issues. 

6 year old Jack Russell/Chihuahua cross Pippa was referred to us by behaviourist Debbie Peters Schooling 4 Dogs. For the past few months, Pippa had been exhibiting anxiety and shaking. Debbie wanted to make sure there were no underlying physical issues causing these behaviour patterns. 

When I met Pippa she came bounding down 3 flights of stairs and back up again – no noticeable issues there - thank you for that Pippa. Then once in the house, Pippa decided I was her latest plaything – bringing me her toys and sitting with me. Again, no obvious signs of physical discomfort or anxiety. 

What was clear though, was her movement when walking across the vinyl floored living room. She is a small dog but she was making teeny tiny deliberate steps from place to place. She also hunched her back while doing so. As soon as she reached a mat or rug, her back visibly lowered and straightened. This had given her quite a stiff back. Stiff backs in us humans can cause a lot of grief and anxiety and it is likely the same in dogs. 

The stiff back was one thing we could help to solve with physical therapy. But there was also the floor – lots of Mobility Islands needed of mats, runners or rugs especially by the water and food bowl so Pippa didn’t have to worry about slipping. 

Then there is bonding. Touch is a language all dogs understand. Using it to help with re-establishing bonding is a powerful tool. We started to build a multi-purpose massage routine that would help to ease Pippa’s overall tension, straighten her back and also to be relaxing. A few minutes a day, a few times a day. 

Massage was on her terms. A bit here, and a bit there. In between getting out more toys, walking round the room but always coming back for more. Until, after 2 hours, we had a breakthrough moment with Pippa demanding more and more from her Mum. Even shifting her body around so nothing was left untouched. 

With massage, household adaptations and some interactive play we can see how Pippa progresses before her behaviour assessment. Her Mum wrote back “Thank you very much for the report, we have already noticed a difference in Pippa and she definitely appears calmer after a little massage and less shaking” so that is a positive start. 

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Fostering a dog

For the past few weeks we’ve been a family of 5. Chris and I volunteer for the Cinnamon Trust – a network of volunteers who keep together housebound owners and their best chums by helping them out. It only takes an hour or so a week and we walk their dogs. Seems right really to give back to the souls who give us so much. A few Sundays ago, we were contacted by the Trust to see if we could do an emergency foster for a dog whose Mum had to be taken into Hospital. We weren’t going to leave that dog alone, so Chris went to collect her. 

She was a 13 year old Shih Tzu with poor eyesight – quite confused and anxious as to what was happening. She had clearly been the best companion to her Mum probably sitting on her lap 24/7. Here she was in a new house, with two dogs and lots of new space She also has chronic rear limb arthritis and was quite wobbly – she had come to the right house then. But like many of you fosterers out there, we had no idea what her medical history was, medication she was on or what her exercise routine was. We had to figure it all out initially (we now know she is on monthly Cartrophen injections). Plus, what do you feed a Shih Tzu? How much do they eat? How often do they go to the loo? All the things that we know intuitively with our Sam & Sarah. 

Fortunately, Stanley’s Mum makes collars and coats (Stanley is also a 13 year old Shih Tzu who I’ve been visiting for the past 2 years) and a quick call and visit resulted in me being given special Shih Tzu food, some harnesses and a coat. Thank you Viv. 

Over the next few weeks a shaking timid anxious dog turned into a confident strutting tail wagging girl. She even learned our existing routines – such as food time, walk time, pee time and quite a lot of our Sarah’s attitude! And as for our Sam, one morning our new little addition was annoyed by a dog while out. Our Sam placed himself between her and the offender to protect her – that’s our boy. We now had three dogs in a line at the front door when anyone came to visit, three dogs in a line when the food bowls went down, three dogs at the back door waiting to go into the garden for an explore and the loo and three dogs who needed lifting in and out of the car. 

It wasn’t easy, but it was an enjoyable challenge. And yes, we are quite (very) fond of her. And I have total admiration for all you fosterers who do this all the time. If any of you local fosterers ever need any help with some physical therapy for your foster dogs, get in touch with us. There will be no charge. 

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Benefits of AchyPaw Canine massage

There are all sorts of signs during and after a massage therapy session, that it has been of benefit. As well as the dog moving more freely and balanced, typically we finish with a dog comfortably relaxed on the floor. Then the gait benefits are harder to see.

But, as shown by Pudding here, there are drippy noses (indicating that lymphatic drainage has taken place flushing out all the nasties from the body), a relaxed posture (relief from discomfort) bright shiny eyes and overall physical ease.

Chris has been visiting 12 year old Pudding every two weeks for some months now. Her progress since that time has been heartwarming and encouraging. She now manages to keep up with her Hounds on the Downs chums.

She is another poster girl demonstrating the benefits of our AchyPaw therapy techniques.

Monday, 15 October 2018

Cheap and effective canine rehabilitation and muscle building ideas

Our Sarah has been through a bit of a time with it all lately. She had a large cyst on her wrist for the past few months which started to open. Rather than risk infection, the vets opted to remove it. All fine. Until she decided that the long stringy blue thread was far too tempting and pulled the stitch out. 
We now had an open wound. Many weeks of wrapping it up and wearing the dreaded collar followed, and still are, to try and heal the wound. But that meant no hydrotherapy. And that meant the wobbles came back. 

We added extra sessions of laser and acupuncture from vet Eili Dettmering to help fill the missing piece in the jigsaw of multi-therapies but she was still losing some of the rear end muscle mass she had rebuilt with the months of weekly hydrotherapy. We needed to add something else. 

As well as our range of exercises and stretches, we added the Sticky Licky Mat. That was something she really enjoyed. They cost around a £ (if you’re prepared to wait a bit for delivery), can be stuck on any appropriate surface and can be filled with all sorts of squishy foods. 

For several minutes the dog stands – using front AND rear legs – to gradually lick the food out. A really simple and effective mobility restoring tool. To the dog, they are getting food. To the therapist, they are getting exercise. Add in a massage mat for them to stand on, and their balance is being exercised too. 

It took a few goes to get the height right – too low and she was stooping, too high and she was stretching (although both heights would have their use in different rehabilitation cases). For Sarah, I could see she received the best benefit at just above nose height. 

It also took a few goes at finding the right treat to use as well. Cottage cheese was a no-no – went everywhere! Low calorie cream cheese, meat and even sweet potato mash worked fine. I have had to buy another for our Sam, who doesn’t really need it but enjoys the exercise – although he thinks he is just licking treats. 

Why does she have a brown patch on her back? Interesting story. Before she started seeing Eili she had alopecia over most of her body. Brown thin fur. But bit by bit, the acupuncture and laser has helped free any blockages and the fur is coming back. It was as though she has been dipped in black ink which gradually spread up her legs and along her back. One stubborn patch left but we’ll get there. Don’t underestimate all sorts of benefits from acupuncture and laser. 

Why is she looking like a Gym Bunny wearing a sweat band on her wrist? To protect the wound and bandage. We have lots of these indoors for her to wear when her wrist arthritis flares up – keeps the wrists warm and comfortable. And can be recycled as bandage protectors. 

You don’t need to shell out a lot of money to help your dog. There are plenty of cheap but effective toys that you can use as therapeutic tools. I’m certainly adding Sticky Licky Mats to my toolkit. Or recycle stuff like gym wrist bands for arthritis or protectors. Give us a call if you’d like any help with rehabilitation or exercise advice. 

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Maintaining the quality of life of a dog with manual therapy and more

My Luther is the dog I’ve worked with longest – over 3 years. When he was first referred to AchyPaw, his Dads had run out of ideas to help with his increasing arthritis in his hips. He had gone off his back legs and they feared the worst. 

When their vet first told their Dads of us, they were a bit sceptical to say the least. His Instagram comment in 2015 was “Luther hardly moves but I’ve got a canine massage therapist coming on Saturday – I kid you not. Can’t quite believe I’ve even shared that – that’s SO Brighton”. 

One week later a video of me massaging his handsome boy went up on the same Instagram feed (search #lutherweimaraner) with a comment of “Luther having his weekly massage with Dr Les. This stuff works!”. Well that didn’t take long to convince Dad did it? 

And 3 weeks later the comment went “Luther having his 3rd massage….Luther actually RAN along the road when he saw him”. So that’s Luther convinced too. 

Since then Luther and I have shared a journey. He still has his bad days – that’s the insidious nature of osteoarthritis. We’ve been through hydrotherapy and various medication regimes. On his really bad days, it’s easy enough to just get on the AchyPaw bike and go to give him an extra boost of massage benefit. His mobility is greatly helped by his Help’Em Up harness which he wears all day now. It gives him the confidence that he is not going to slip or fall as his Dads can support him from the front and back. Plus being massaged daily by his Dads benefits too and all the household adaptations they have put in place. 

He’s just celebrated his 13th birthday. He walks less than he used to 3 years ago – but so do I. He has even gained a new brother, Hugo (Instagram #hugoweimaraner) who I spotted on Waifs & Strays website and thought would make a great addition to their family. The boys get on as though they have always been together. Massage sessions HAVE to be done with them both side by side. 

Every 4 weeks Hugo now gets his own massage from me while Chris works with Luther, or the other way round depending on which dog picks who. But on the days Chris is not there, his Dad massages him using the tools we have equipped them with over the years. 

Thanks for the journey Luther. Looking forward to much more.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

2 years between canine massage sessions - same result.

It is a good plan to learn how to support your dog throughout their lifetime and to help them reach their full potential through knowledge and physical therapy. Recently I have had several returnees after a year or more to do exactly that – looking to learn more about how to manage their dog now they are a little more mature.

November 2016 I was invited over to show Mum and daughter how to massage their wonderful Retrievers Asbie and Tor. At that time Asbie was only 1 year old while Tor was 4. The other week I was invited back to give Asbie’s Mum a refresher/top-up lesson appropriate to the fact that that Asbie is no longer a new pup. Mind you, Asbie still thinks he is a new pup. At first he was being a bit of an ‘imp’ as his Mum put it, but after 30 minutes or so he assumed the “I love you Mum” position, looking up at her with that soppy grin as she worked her way through the new massage routine. 

Asbie, and brother Tor, now do agility in their garden with weaves and tunnels. But their main activity is Scent Work, once a week for 3 hours. Added to this are 2 daily walks and regular swims all contributing to the amazing condition Asbie is in at 3 years old. These activities are going to help maintain their mobility while daily massage can contribute to support their quality of life. 

Asbie has now grown into his body making it easier to see how balanced he is, how strong and toned his muscles are and any areas we need to concentrate on. In fact, he was pretty much perfect and simply needed Mum to adapt the techniques we went through 2 years ago to the increased size and mass of Asbie. As dogs grow, develop and mature, the techniques they like and need, change and adapt. 

Asbie adored the new bonding with Mum and her increased knowledge of his body. Just because he is not slowing down yet or showing any signs of discomfort doesn’t mean he won’t benefit from a daily massage routine. Getting it right at the beginning, making these simple changes, being aware of his body, will make all the difference as he matures even more. 

The one thing that hadn’t changed over 2 years is the end result – Asbie asleep & relaxed after all that massage. Here’s 2016. Not a lot difference to 2018 really. Looking forward to meeting him again in 2 years time and checking in with his progress. 

Monday, 24 September 2018

Bob's story of his first canine massage session

Sometimes a new dog comes along and the therapy session follows the textbook. 

In fact, I think Bob wrote the textbook. Bob is a young Collie with occasional rear leg issues. He is part of Sarah’s group of dog friends .  She describes him as quite non-collie in that he is chilled and laid back with only the occasional mad zoomie. At his Mum’s work, people come up to sit with Bob and just zen-out for a while. 

His Mum wanted a therapy session to check him out. During the initial palpating part of the session, Bob stood quite still and processed the whole thing. “What’s this? This is unusual. I’ll just sit here and see how this goes” 

But it worked. His stiff back was giving off loads of heat already. Once we got further into the session it went (in Bob’s voice).... 

  • “Ok…that was lovely but I’ll just go for a walk round the sofa” 
  • “And hello I’m back”
  • “Ok…I’ll go for a walk again” 
  • “And bring back my toy to hold” 
  • “Ok…I’ll go and sit by Mum and rest against the sofa” 
  • “Oh this is nice, I’ll just close my eyes” 
  • “Ok, that was an ouchy bit, I’ll open my eyes” “No I won’t…I’ll close them again” 
  • “Hmm…I’m sliding down onto the floor” 
  • “Ok, I’ll just stay here and sleep” 
  • “You’ve done that side Dr Les…here…I’ll roll over for you” 
  • “All done? Ok, I’ll pose for the pictures with my trusty blue ball”
  • “I feel like a stretch….oooooo… l-o-n-g stretch” 
  • “And I’ll do another one – ‘coz I can now” 
  • “Are you leaving? Not if I stay sitting on your massage bed and look up at you adoringly” 
  • "Ok…I’ll just curl up on the sofa…bye” 
We know our job is done for the time being, as Bob’s Mum will now be able to use this knowledge and physical therapy to support him throughout every stage of his life. But she also knows there are professionals she can call on if Bob starts to display and more wobbles. 

You don’t need to wait until your dog has mobility issues or arthritis, you can help them manage their health at an early age and maintain that through to silver faced years.

Monday, 17 September 2018

Support your dog throughout every stage of their life...

...don't just wait until they are senior or suffer from arthritis. You can help manage and maintain their mobility at an early age. 

We love working with our senior boys and girls but equally enjoy working with the newbies. Frank is only 10 months old but had already had 4 homes. His current carers adopted him 5 months ago. Not surprisingly he was initially not happy with other dogs as he had missed out on much puppy socialization. 

He is now a lot better and goes to Debbie Peters of Schooling 4 Dogs to help catch-up with his training. Recently she noticed his back seemed a bit stiff and sent a video to our colleague Cathie Forbes who, in turn, referred him to us as we are more local. 

By the way, 10/10 to Debbie for taking the video. It helped us see what she meant. Videos are great. They help you explain your concerns to your therapist or vet and they give you comparators for monitoring progress or change. My phone is full of videos of our Sarah walking which I can show to her specialist vet to explain what I see every day - we only see him twice a year and this way he can monitor her progress.

Frank is a Chihuahua/Jack Russell cross and as cute as a button. Chris was able to visit quite quickly after we received the vet agreement form (another benefit of having two therapists in the team). 

There didn’t seem to be any specifically out-of-balance issue with Frank on initial palpation although he did have a trigger point found in his shoulder. Despite being energetic and bouncy, Chris was able to perform a full massage routine on him which released a lot of fur and tension and created a lot of yawns. One of the things both Chris and his owners noticed was that, when walking on the massage mat, he held his back relaxed. On the floor, however, he hunched slightly. He also learnt that he could use the cushion to jump on the sofa and then our massage mat to get back down again rather than the wooden floor. Runners, mobility islands and mats will be re-instated. 

Chris demonstrated some back-stretching exercises and our special quick-but-efficient warm-up/cool-down Locomotion. Although no specific issues were found, Chris recommended that if the stiffness continues or they are worried, the vet should be the next port of call. 

By maintaining his balance, as Frank matures this should help him avoid having issues. This is what Cathie and I will be discussing in our winter workshops on ““Supporting your dog to reach their full potential through every stage of their life”. Give me a call if you’d like to come along.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Benefits of maintenance therapy for senior dogs

Seeing the results of our maintenance physical therapy is heart-warming. Seeing it with the senior boys and girls is even more. 

When Chris was asked to take over the treatment of glamorous silver faced Pudding in July, she had a sore back, stiffness due to her osteoarthritis, she struggled on first rising and was generally unsteady and wobbly. 

He has been visiting her every two weeks since then. 

Continued teamwork from Chris, Pudding’s Mum and Dad doing their homework and Sarah from Hounds on the Downs making sure Pudding gets the opportunity to use her new improved mobility skills during her walks, has made such a difference. A multi-faceted treatment plan involving all the carers has so many benefits. 

This video on our AchyPaw YouTube channel here says everything of why we do what we do. And it makes us smile.

Friday, 24 August 2018

What do the dogs do after we leave?

Rather than asking the carers to bring their dogs to us, we typically do home visits. There are a number of reasons for this including the dog feeling more relaxed and comfortable in their own home and for us to have a look at their environment to see, and suggest, if any simple adaptations could make their mobile life easier. 

But what happens when we leave? 

Do the dogs feel uber flexy and go round frantically hopping on and off furniture? 

Do they rush around the garden weeing and getting rid of all those waste products we helped shift during the lymphatic drainage part of the therapy? 

Do they wait at the front door for us to come back again and continue working with them? Or do they just flop down and go to sleep? 

I think the majority seem to do the latter. We frequently get snoozey, dozey, dopey and eyes closed photos sent to us afterwards. We don’t take that as an insult in a “they’ve gone now, we can go to sleep” way, but more in a “I can barely keep my eyes open after that massage” way. 

Proof needed? Here are Flint & Alfie after their second session with us. We had similar pictures after their first visit so it must be real. 

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Multi-faceted therapy routines in dogs

Vet Eili Dettering used to treat Feebee for her arthritis with acupuncture and laser. When our Sarah had a mobility flare up a couple of months ago, I asked her to visit for laser therapy. We started with weekly sessions and are now working our way to maintenance monthly sessions. Her treatments helped turn our Sarah around and now she is back to levels of the start of the year. 

Eili has two dogs of her own who she wanted us to look at in a Double Therapist Friday session at AchyPaw HQ. When she arrived with Louie & Benny, our Sarah looked most put out that she was here for them and not for her. She sulked – throughout. 

Louie is a 6 year old Whippet who was rescued at 9 months. He is rather anxious and recently, when starting to get up, the hind end took a while to catch up with the front. He was diagnosed with mild hip dysplasia of the right hip. He is now no more than 5% lame and, as his Mum said “only a vet would see it”. 

He has been to a physiotherapist who confirmed the neck and front girdle was tight which is likely compensatory for his rear end issues. He goes to hydrotherapy at Roundstone Canine Hydrotherapy in Angmering but he would only use his front end and floated with the rear. That wasn’t quite the point of the exercise! Luckily, they have a water treadmill which meant he had to use the hind legs. 

His brother Benny is also a rescue and is a 3 year old Lurcher. He’s quite an athlete with no particular issues, except that he likes to be ‘part of the group’ so his Mum brought him along so he didn’t feel left out. A good maintenance massage wouldn’t do him any harm anyway. Louie chose Chris while Benny was outside exploring the garden (which later meant our Sam had to go out and pee on all the spots that Benny had pee-d on originally. Sarah followed the two boys later and left her mark on top – that’s our girl.) 

Louie was very tight from his mid back forward – muscles and fascia. It didn’t take long for Chris to work his Back Magic and ease out the tension allowing him to massage Louie all over sorting out his tight muscles. 

Meanwhile Benny felt he had to hold onto Louie (see picture) while I was massaging him. 

Despite interruptions from our Sarah who glued her face to the treatment room window demanding that her Auntie Eili work on her and not the boys, we managed a full session including exercises and demonstration of things Eili could do quickly and regularly with them. 

With maintenance work and the other therapies the boys are having, this multi-faceted approach should help both enjoy their runs and walks without niggles and discomfort

Monday, 13 August 2018

Sunday Seniors day at St Leonards

Last New Years Eve, I was invited over to St. Leonards to help 13 year old Corkie and his Dad deal with Corkie’s newly diagnosed arthritis. Between us, we went through a special massage and exercise routine to help his mobility. Corkie already had his own Corkie Stair Lift in place. 

The other week, his Dad wrote that he has been spreading the good word of AchyPaw training to a couple of the local dog walkers who also have senior dogs and wondered whether I would be up to training them in one of their houses. Of course I would. 

Then the word passed round the Park dog walkers and we had to arrange a larger hall. Sunday, we had 12 dogs and their owners attending – the session had grown as real social media (i.e. talking to each other) worked the magic. The workshop became a spur-of-the-moment Senior Dog and Arthritis Awareness Session as the average age was 11 (9 dogs aged from 12 to 15). There were also a couple of youngsters who had their own mobility issues and one puppy who just wanted to learn how to be a Supple Senior. 

The pictures from the day can be found here 

Here’s a challenge then...if you and your chums belong to a local dog walking group, get in touch and we can look to arrange your own Park Walkers canine massage session. Let’s get everyone up to the level of the St Leonard’s Seniors (dogs not owners). 

Friday, 3 August 2018

Extra benefits of canine massage

All canine physical therapists have their list of massage benefits. Benefits such as improving mobility and gait, stimulation of the healing process, assisting pain relief and discomfort from stiffness, helping restore muscle tone and so much more. These are the physical benefits. Then there all the emotional and psychological ones. Such as relaxation and bonding,

It’s always good to add to that list. Palliative care is one such addition. This isn’t just for the dog, helping them remain comfortable and calm and as eased as possible, but also for the carer. When our dogs are in distress we all want to do something to help. By giving the carer a gentle but effective massage routine they can do with their dog, they know that they are helping and not just watching. And the dogs love it. 

Then there are the chance benefits such as Floc and her PooGate. She was constipated…very constipated. Her carer asked if massage could help. Couldn’t hurt I said. Lots of gentle massage over the stomach. Next two days….lots of texts from her Mum detailing the vast quantity of her resultant poos. 

And the psychological benefits such as Lord Nelson. When he was rescued he was very anxious and almost withdrawn. Physically he was tight – all over. He’d been confined in a cage too small for him before rescue and his body had simply fit to accommodate. He needed stretching. He joined his rescue brother in his new family. But his brother had his own problems being mildly autistic. He had random behaviours which came out of nowhere but also seemed to find it hard to read other dogs. He preferred to ignore and avoid them. 

Springer Spaniel Lord Nelson quickly learned to defer to his brother – a tactic that lead to a happy, content house. Recently his Dad wrote a couple of posts to me. The first was “Lord Nelson actually sprang over long grass several times on the Downs the other day. He used to just push through any undergrowth. That’s the first time I’ve seen. Amazing how regular therapy has given him a new life, including a much more cheerful character”. So that’s a physical and emotional benefit. 

The latest post from him was “Now this photo taken on our evening walk on Devil’s Dyke may not look very special to most, but it actually shows Nelson running ahead of Darcy back to me, something he would never do before. He used to totally defer to Darcy in everything. He’s just so much happier since the regular AchyPaw treatment and now a showing new personality, more cheeky, more assertive and so much more happy go lucky. Thank you for the AchyPaw treatment” 

“Being cheeky” and “being assertive” and “happy go lucky” are now added to my list of benefits from physical therapy.

Monday, 30 July 2018

Treating Femoral Head & Neck Excision in dogs

Bobby’s Mum came to meet us at the RSPCA Open Day a few weeks back. Bobby was rescued when he was 3. He had a femoral head & neck excision as a salvage procedure when rescued. 

His Mum says that, at 6 or 7 as he is now, he’s a little stiff first thing in the morning and after walks but doesn’t have any issues as such. And that is exactly why she asked us for a visit. She doesn’t WANT him to have any issues. 

An operation like that can lead to imbalance. This can, in turn, lead to chronic mobility issues over time. If we can help sort him now and make sure everything is working well, hopefully Billy will be happy for a long time. He already has a number of adaptations in place, such as he uses a ramp to get in and out of the car or is lifted. But during the home visit, we suggested that a few carpets and rugs as Mobility Islands would also be useful over the laminate flooring. 

His Mum had read our website where we suggest massage should be on a special place – such as a comfy mat or rug. The dog will then come to associate that place with therapy time. And has already bought one specially.

Bobby’s right rear leg is slightly shorter which may be a result of the surgery. This, in turn had likely caused his left front leg becoming more developed than the right in compensation. He also exhibited skin quivering when touched which is often a sign he needs myofascial release techniques to ease his skin – like making a tight T Shirt fit you better. 

He had a full 45 minutes of treatment before walking away. But that was only to turn round and give Chris his other side to work with. Dogs are very canny! 

At the end of the session he visibly appeared ‘longer’ and comfortable. Along with the homework we left his Mum, Bobby is on our 3 month maintenance programme.

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Home Visits

Most of the dogs we see, we visit and treat at their own home. If the dog has a mobility issue or is uncomfortable, we don’t want to add to any distress by jiggling around on a car travelling. 

It also means we get to have a look around where the dog lives – not for nosiness but to pick up on any areas that could be improved on. Flooring, steps, sofas that are jumped up on, beds. Sometimes these are just missed. You live with that step down into the garden – it becomes part of the routine. But your dog has to navigate it. 

Seeing things through a fresh eye can make an enormous difference. We don’t wag our fingers and go “Oooo, that’s bad” and be all judgey, we simply suggest and offer something that may be beneficial for the dog’s mobility. 

Many years ago, I travelled to Portsmouth to treat a dog who was recovering from a serious illness and several vet visits. He spent his days on the sofa. His Mum said that he just doesn’t want to get off. I looked at the height of the sofa, went over and picked up a couple of the spare cushions, placed them on the floor under where the dog was laying and…lo and behold…..the dog smiled, slipped gently off the sofa, onto the cushions and walked around the house with a silly grin on his face. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to get on and off, he simply couldn’t. Simple. But without an outside suggestion, the owner couldn’t see it. 

Recently I was treating a dog with rear leg issues. I was commenting on how good it was that the house had non-slippy carpets all over. But this dog likes to go upstairs with his Mum & Dad to sleep. I’m not going to be Mr Anti-Pleasure Police by saying that should be banned. Ours do and we carry them but not everyone can do that. I asked how she coped with stairs and they said fine, except for the bottom step which is in the hall – the only place with no carpet. She sometimes slips getting off, they said. I looked around, saw a lovely door mat, picked that up and put it at the bottom of the stairs. Lightbulb moment. Her Mum and Dad looked at it, looked at each other and said, in stereo “Oh yes…..”. When I went back recently, the first thing they said was “And she loves her new mat at the bottom of the stairs. No more slipping. Seems far more confident.” 

Forget Love Island…this is all about creating Mobility Islands. 

It’s not rocket science, but sometimes potential hazards become so familiar they are simply missed. It’s all part of our first treatment session.

Saturday, 21 July 2018

It's the little things.......

Today was Double Therapist Saturday again. 

Second visit to Harry and Lou. Harry is (was) an anxious boy. He can be touch reactive which could make physical therapy challenging. But on his first session he chose Chris and allowed him to do all sorts with his back. Noticeable physical change at the end of that hour. 

Session two today and no signs of reluctance or anxiety. We were greeted by minimal barks. Chris sat on the floor. Harry sat straight in his lap. Lou had already chosen me as hers for the day. 

 This time, Harry’s back fell into place so much quicker. And he even opened his chest allowing Chris to get to those tight pecs.

 After 45 minutes, Harry walked away for a drink and a wee. Then came back. He slowly sidled up to Chris and gently, deliberately, tenderly put his paw on Chris’s leg. We’d all stopped breathing with the touching movement and then our eyes misted up! That was such a trusting thing for Harry to do. It was an “Ok. You’re a good guy. You can carry on now”. 

Take it from me…’s awesome massaging with misty eyes and a lump in your throat. 

Such a little thing. But such an enormous breakthrough for Harry. 


Monday, 9 July 2018

Looking at the whole dog, not just the diagnosis

During the years of working with dogs, we’ve encountered many different names. As well as the Sams, Alfies and Billys we have Lord Nelson, Mr Darcy, Luther, Hector, Muppet and Auntie Pearl. And the other weekend Chris went to treat the adorable and adorably named Pudding. 

Pudding was referred from the vets with severe osteoarthritis affecting mainly the hind quarters and hip. But her Dad told me on the phone that she is currently displaying a stiff back which seems to be the main issue at present. 

We don’t get tunnel-vision when treating dogs for the first time. With a diagnosis of hind end arthritis, we would certainly help that region – there are muscle groups around the hip, which we can target with soft tissue massage, and would then support the rear end to offer increased support, stability and management. 

But stopping there might mean missing areas of current concern. The arthritis is a chronic issue, what else might be going on? Looking at the whole body is all part of our treatment plan. With Pudding, her issues presently were with her stiff back. Imagine if your hips ache and now your back aches. You’re not going to walk properly so your hips will get stiffer and you’ll be generally more miserable. Add to that tight shoulder muscles which she is having to use to compensate for the stiff back and arthritic hips and you’ve suddenly got a whole dog to treat and not just the diagnosis. 

Her Dad described her current state as “Her back seems worse than her arthritis and is quite stiff and sore”. Chris is the ‘back expert’ in the AchyPaw team and went over to offer help a few days after the initial contact as Pudding was clearly uncomfortable and in need of support. 

He received a friendly welcome from Pudding who allowed him to work on her whole body for the session before she decided she had enough and walked away. But came back to give him a thank you kiss! 

During the session, Pudding became visibly longer as her back became more comfy and relaxed. On standing, she didn’t struggle quite so much and the rigid part of her back now moved – so much so that her carer remarked ‘she can’t normally do that’. Her Dad was even able to touch her back and rear end which he hadn’t been able to do in a while. 

Pudding’s Dad wrote back later “Pudding seems looser since she saw you….and is also enjoying the homework! Thankfully there was no limping which we were concerned about so it does seem to be a help for her so very grateful and hopefully we can get her fit to try hydrotherapy”. Adding another, complementing, therapy to the mix is a positive long-term aim. 

Pudding is going on our maintenance programme to keep everything in shape and healthy. As well as looking at the diagnosis, it is beneficial to look beyond – at the whole dog. 

Friday, 6 July 2018

This is why we do what we do.....

“Dear Les and Chris, our parents were impressed with how quiet we were when you came in to our house. Normally we have to warn them of strangers but we knew that we didn’t need to worry about you both. You were very kind and didn’t push us into anything that we didn’t want to do. Thank you for making us both feel relaxed and more comfortable. We look forward to seeing you again , Wet kisses Flint and Alfie 🐾🐾🐾🐾"

Thursday, 5 July 2018

First Massage session in the words of a dog (well...almost!)

Last weekend we had another Double Therapist Saturday with Alfie & Flint. Alfie is a Collie who loves his agility and older brother Flint is a Springer who is a typical bouncy spaniel. Recently Alfie displayed lameness from his rear left leg. 

Alfie can be a wee bit anxious but throughout the 90 minute session he demonstrated a classic “I’m going into the massage zone” routine that we have come to experience so often. 

It went like this (using Alfie’s voice…well…..I think that’s what he would have said) : 

1. “Hmm…I don’t know who you two are so I’ll just stay a little away” 
2. “OK…you haven’t gone away and are just sitting on the floor so I won’t look at you but maybe I’ll sit in your lap Chris” 
3. “Oh…you’re working on my back….oooooo that is nice. I’ll just stay here for a while” 
4. “And now you’re on my shoulder….goodness I’ll stay a little longer” 
5. “I’ll walk away now” 
6. “Nope….I’m coming back with my toy fluffy sheep for you” 
6a. “And my toy fluffy dog” 
6b. “And maybe this toy too” 
7. “Hmm…you’re working on my brother so I’ll go to the other therapist…he looks lonely” 
8. “But I’ll just lie here against the sofa while he works on me” 
…….much later…. 
9. “Excuse me….did I say you could stop touching me Dr Les? I’ll just give you a guiding paw on your arm back to where it belongs on ME” 
10. “Hey…you can’t go….I’m staying here on your mat. You won’t be able to leave now” 
…later still……. 
11. “Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz” 

Responses like that just make what we do the best in the world. Thank you Alfie and Flint for sharing your Saturday with us (before and after pictures below)

Thursday, 28 June 2018

The strength of dogs is awesome

Rufus is a 5 year Miniature Dachshund who I started to visit in 2016. He had a back issue presenting with recurring limping of front leg. This all stemmed from an injury when he was 1 with someone treading on him while out walking. 

Massage and physical therapy worked wonders with him. He loved it. His Mum loved giving it to him daily – turning petting time into therapy time. But after several months I was asked to visit as an emergency. On visiting I recommended an immediate visit to the vets where it was discovered he had 5 fenestrated vertebrae in his mid to lower spine. 

Rufus may be small, but he is so strong. When his Mum collected him from the referral centre, he immediately was able to walk on the grass for a wee. Several weeks rest, care and gentle massage and Rufus was back to normal. 

Until June this year when I was contacted again – he had 2 more fenestrated vertebrae on his lower spine with resultant weakness on his left side. Although he was in pain, he wagged his tail enthusiastically as he was taken to the referral centre again thinking he was going back to that great hotel. This time after the surgery his left hind leg still not working correctly. 

More weekly massage visits, more homework from Mum and more annoying crate rest for Rufus 

During the limited exercise phase of his recovery, the downstairs neighbour bought some turf slabs and carpeted their front patio which was all pebbled before. Rufus had his own local Dog Park. Handkerchief sized, but then that is Rufus sized too. That is neighbourly spirit and the power of cute Rufus eyes. 

His Mum was left with a new massage routine workbook which seemed to work. She wrote ““Les, this is just wonderful. I can definitely do this without worrying now. We had a little bit more of a neck massage with sighing and relaxing (him, not me!)” 

And then “Morning Les, I opened Rufus’s crate door this morning he straightaway lay on his side on the carpet and waved his left leg at me, staring at me, clearly saying ‘well, go on then!’. After 10 mins or so he rolled over for me do the other side. All this before breakfast! He loves it! We did a very relaxing 20 mins or so. We think you're wonderful.” 

3 weeks later and Rufus is almost 100%. Muscle wastage is being reversed. He is on short walks so his weight is going back down again. Stitches are all out. He starts hydrotherapy later this week. And he is happy. He was even diving into my bag to get to the treats he knows I carry. 

Size is not relevant with dogs. He may be a Miniature, but he has the strength and determination of a Maxi dog. His Mum said “Think how we would be if we’d burst a couple of discs. We’d be off work for ages”. Not Rufus. 3 weeks and he is back to himself thank you very much. The strength and determination of dogs is so inspiring. I love helping them and being inspired by them every day.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Two IAAT CPD accredited and promoted workshops for 2018 "Supporting your dog to reach their full potential through every stage of their life"

Cathie Forbes (Southdowns Canine Massage) and Dr Les Ellam (AchyPaw Canine Physical Therapy) have combined their knowledge to design a series of workshops which have been accredited and promoted by the IAAT (International Association of Animal Therapists). We are both qualified professionals in canine massage with several years’ experience in therapy and training. 

The series of one day workshops is called “Supporting your dog to reach their full potential through every stage of their life” and the first two in the series are now available for booking with more available next year. 

These first two workshops are interactive, informative, fun and practical. You will learn a full age-appropriate massage routine, exercises and passive movements. We will also be discussing a variety of therapies and conditions experienced by dogs. You can choose to attend just one of these workshops or both. Discussion, massage and exercise techniques will vary for the different age ranges covered in the sessions. 

The first session looks at Senior Years. It will cover basic anatomy; possible health and mobility changes as they advance into their senior years; some conditions they may be affected by, such as arthritis, and how these can be managed; video observation and discussion; massage overview and how this form of physical therapy may be used to help the senior dog; a massage routine that is appropriate for daily use and some gentle stretches and exercises to keep our golden oldies in top condition.
The date is Saturday 27th October and booking is available from the IAAT CPD site here

The second session looks the Earlier Years. Just because a dog is not showing signs of slowing down or discomfort, doesn’t mean that they won’t benefit from a daily conditioning massage and exercise routine. This workshop will cover puppy exercise and development; the importance of getting it right from the beginning; repetitive soft tissue injuries/strains and how to avoid them; video observation and discussion; benefits of massage; dynamic warm-up exercises and warm-up massage; adapted movement patterns and making simple changes that can make all the difference to your dog when they advance to their senior years.The date is Saturday 24th November and booking is available from the IAAT CPD site here

The venue is the historic Blatchington Windmill Hall, Hove, BN3 7LH. As it is difficult to learn canine massage without a dog, this is a dog friendly venue. We encourage you to bring your dog to work with during the day. These sessions are IAAT accredited and a CPD certificate will be offered. 

We would like to invite everyone - vets, vet nurses, reception staff, dog walkers, dog behaviourists, groomers, owners, in fact anyone who has an interest in the health of dogs. 

We look forward to meeting you and your dogs.