Tuesday, 29 May 2018

It really isn't all about arthritis

Golden Doodles Ronnie & Roo are brothers from the same father and different litter. I worked with Ronnie last year. Since then his Mum has adopted Tripawd Roo. Roo has been a Tripawd since birth so doesn’t know any different. To him, three legs is normal. 

Ronnie is 3, Roo is 2. Ronnie has mild hip subluxation which is being managed conservatively with appropriate exercise, hydrotherapy and massage. When his Mum looked for a friend for him, she wanted a dog who could match his reduced exercise regime. Roo came along at the right time. 

We were invited around before Roo moved in permanently to help Mum assess the suitability of her house. But she already knew of all the things to do – just needed our professional confirmation. Things like carpets in strategic places, harnesses, ramps, joint supplements and garden access. The latter has already had plans approved for a bridge to be built from the patio out to the gate. Now THAT is forethought and equals the bespoke Corkie Stair Lift

Roo is a happy smiley playful carefree young lad who adores his brother who, in turn, has assumed a protector role. They have both benefitted from the new brotherly arrangement. 

When I first Ronnie last year, he was initially reticent about massage. This time the massage mat went down with Ronnie on top of it immediately. Sighs came within 5 minutes. The aim with Ronnie is to keep him fit and mobile so that his hip issues don’t become a chronic mobility problem. His Mum had been doing her homework – he felt remarkable. 

The aim with Roo is to make sure his tripawdness doesn’t lead to any long-term aches and strains by the different forces his body is going through. He only has a left fore-leg and moves that into the middle. That’ll cause the outer leg muscles to stretch while the inner muscles will shorten – a bit like a Greyhound who always runs the same direction round the track. Roo will also need maintenance work along his spinal muscles as they are also working extra to keep him mobile. He will be using his rear legs and back more to help him stand up. All these movements will cause compensation issues. Luckily, he loved his massage session – getting straight down on his mat so Chris could start work immediately. 

The brothers are now on our unique double-therapist maintenance programme which, with the hydrotherapy, should help them remain bouncy, contented and untroubled.

Friday, 25 May 2018

Every dog is individual so their treatment plan should be individual too.

“How often will you need to visit my dog?” is a question we often receive in an initial enquiry. The answer is – we simply don’t know until we’ve met you and your dog. 

Each dog is different. Each has their own individual response to their presenting issue – whether it is post-surgery, lameness, arthritis, bonding, and all the other hundreds of conditions we have met over the past 7 years. We don’t subscribe to the “we can fix your dog in three sessions” principle. 

We’ve had dogs who have been helped after just one session, others we see with a series of sessions, some we see monthly, fortnightly, biannually or even weekly. I’ve got a few dogs currently who are in my 100 club – I’ve visited them more than 100 times. Each case or issue is treated as an exclusive case. There is no set schedule for healing. 

Recently, we’ve had a lot of returnees all for different reasons. One such returnee was Whippet Sonny who has been visiting us since April 2016 and comes back every 3 to 4 months or so for a maintenance session to sort out his niggles and issues which mainly focus around his iliopsoas muscle and sometimes his shoulder. His Mum does lots of homework in between sessions and has added some exercises to help him stretch his back legs. He is now seeing a chiropractor as well – adding to his impressive multi-modal therapy regime. When he came back the other week he did his usual “OK…I love this but I’m not sure” thing - his Anxiety Alarm goes off and he walks away. But he then comes back when the alarm has finished. This goes on usually for 20 minutes when he decides to turn the alarm off completely and just fold himself into my legs. Which is exactly what he does – he moulds himself to my shape. And that moment is magic for a therapist. Total trust. Pure magic. Pure Sonny. 

Another is Auntie Pearl & Ralph, 8 year old Sussex Bulldogs. We’ve been visiting them since 2014. Originally Auntie Pearl had a very stiff neck – such that she couldn’t turn her head to see behind her but had to rotate her whole body. Massage, exercises, carer education and empowerment helped to sort that. Ralph had a break in his leg when he was only 6 months old and needed some balancing. Their frequency of visits is ‘as needed’. It can be 1, 3 month or 6 months between visits. Recently I was invited back after Auntie Pearl was knocked over by a car who simply carried on driving. She is also undergoing acupuncture, laser and homeopathy. Ralph wanted his maintenance session to help ease him out and keep him in shape. 

Ezri has also returned a couple of times recently. She is a 9 year old Miniature Poodle agility dog who has just been accepted into the ParAgility International championship in Manchester in the autumn this year with her Mum (http://imca-pawc2018.co.uk/ ). I was invited over to help her last October when something was ‘not right’ and her mobility was niggling her. At that time, we found that giving her shedloads of myofascial release massage was exactly what she needed. Her coat started to fit better. Her fur started to move again. Her muscles were free to flex and extend again. Her niggles were on the way to stopping. We also added our AchyPaw warm-up/cool-down to her agility routine. Her Mum has been doing all her homework and now Ezri is about to start competition season again and we were invited over to get her primed and ready. 

If we can’t come up with an exact ‘quote’ of how long it will take, bear with us…your dog is an individual and we aim to treat them as such.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Age is not a barrier to adding physical therapy into the treatment regime

It’s never too late to start a new mix in a therapy regime to help with mobility in your dog. 

The oh-so handsome little Blue is between 16 to 17 years old, partially blind and hard of hearing. His vet described his mobility issues as ataxic with pain on hip extension and hunched painful lumbar spine. He is on anti-inflammatory medications and well as supplements. 

His Mum invited me over to see if physical therapy could help him with his wobbles and stiffness. He already goes to hydrotherapy once a week for 15 minutes, which he loves. As well as rear end issues due to his arthritis, his pronounced back stiffness was causing him to hold his head at an angle. He needed a full front-to-back session to help make him more comfortable.

Despite his seniority, his Mum said he can be a bit of a barker and fidget. But after he found the massage mat, he stayed there for 40 minutes before having a little walk round the house (with a noticeably straighter back) – then returned for more. 

The aim for Blue was simple – to make him more comfortable. If we could help straighten his back, restore confidence in using his rear legs and ease out his neck he will be a lot more relaxed. He adored massage on his neck muscles as they were rather tight due to his head tilt. 

Working backwards, his shoulders needed plenty of maintenance massage since they are taking extra compensatory strain. Then down to his spinal muscles – lots of massage and myofascial release needed there. Ending with his thigh muscles which benefitted from pumping massage techniques to build those back again restoring his confidence in using them. 

He even found the neck and back stretching exercises fun too. He likes his treats for sure! 

Later that evening his Mum messaged “Hope this doesn’t disturb you but just wanted to share that Blue is cleaning his back leg tonight! I haven’t seen him do that in ages! Thank you so much for today!” 

You don’t need to wonder if it’s too late to try something new in a treatment regime. You don’t need to question whether they’d still benefit in their advancing age. Physical therapy can help the continuing health of your dog and maintain their muscular health from puppy hood to silver face. Age is never a barrier. And little Blue is a poster boy for senior dogs.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Empowering the canine carer

We are sooooo proud of the dog Mums and Dads we work with. 

We always explain everything we do – the why and the how. They are the prime carer after all – they’re with the dog every dog. Each dog gets their own tailored workbook after the first session of a personal massage and exercise – with annotated pictures of the dog. That means during the therapy session the carers can be active participants and not panic that they’re going to forget everything when Chris or I leave. 

Most carers understand how they can help with the healing process or the maintenance or prevention or any of the many multitude of reasons we have been invited round to help. And it shows when we go back for the second or third session, or from the feedback we get. 

Billy’s Mum, for example wrote “….We all slept like logs! No night barking, no midnight squabbles. Got to nearly 6 am before Bill decided he needed breakfast….. Hope we can continue as we’ve started……The other strange thing is that Billy keeps coming up to ASK for a massage!”. 

Henry’s Mum wrote Thank you so much for the massage information. ….Henry is so much better and stronger now. I've been massaging every few days since I saw you and his shoulder was moving normally again after about 3 days after seeing you and massaging twice a day. He actually loves it now and pushes into me for me to massage him. It's like he's saying 'Mum I need my massage after my run today'. You become so much more aware now I know some of the reasons for the massage. Thank you for that!” 

And the latest convert is Crystal’s Mum. Crystal is a Greyhound who exhibits intermittent lameness due to an existing hock injury. Being a Greyhound, she accepted massage therapy like an old friend. In fact, we had great difficulty asking her to turn over so I could work on the other side. We always tell carers that, if you are aiming for relaxation when massaging your dog and they have fallen asleep on one side, the last thing you want to do is flip them over. Make a note and do the other side on another occasion. We tell of our trick of our kitchen Blackboard. It has each of our dog’s names with the day of the week and the side we massaged that day. Means they don’t end up going round in circles with the massaged side! 

Imagine my smile when Crystal’s Mum showed me the weekly planner she has brought which she is filling in with “Done Left side”…”Right side done. And left done”…….. Total brilliance! Dee & Crystal – you get a 10 from us!

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Autism in dogs - Helping with multi-modal therapy

Sometimes it is about using ALL our experience when helping a dog, particularly autistic dogs. 

We had a call from a carer who came along to our training session with Sussex Pert Rescue enquiring if massage therapy could help with her anxious rescued collie cross Billy. She said that although there seemed to be nothing wrong with him physically (she had had him checked over by her vet) he had been diagnosed as mildly autistic by Holistic Veterinary Surgeon Tim Couzens some time ago. 

Recently he had become very excitable, particularly when people come into the house - the result being almost hysterical, non-stop barking. He had also recently started displaying jealousy of their mild mannered, tolerant older collie. This manifest itself as showing aggression towards him, again a recent development and one which, luckily, so far, Pip just ignores it and puts up with! 

They had a rather sketchy history of Billy having been ill-treated as a pup and he is wary of men. Surprisingly he is very affectionate, although he is still nervous with sudden loud noises and they live near a pheasant farm and shoot.... 

Chris went to see them, armed with ideas to try, research on and an article about autism in dogs. He was met with a very vocal greeting from Billy as soon as he parked his car and this continued as he entered the hallway. He told the carer not to worry – which she clearly was – and told Billy that was enough now, we’re not playing that game. And, much to his carer’s surprise – he stopped. They said that they felt they’d got him there under false pretences as Billy was behaving so well. 

During the 2-and-a-half-hour session, Chris used a variety of techniques on Billy – not just manual therapy. There was:
• Ear and relaxing effleurage massage 
• Kneading of shoulder, neck and chest.
• Reiki 
• Tellington T Touch (using the Half Wrap which calmed Billy down immediately) 
• Suggestion of considering the use of a pheromone diffuser and/or diffuser oils such as lavender to calm everyone down. 
• Relaxing music (As a human Holistic Massage Therapist, Chris has relaxing music on his phone. He played it to Billy and his brother who both pricked up their ears and then lay down snoozing!) He put this all together in one of our personalised workbooks which he sent back the same evening. 

The next morning, we received an email saying “Hi Chris. Thank you for all your help yesterday. Billy stayed much calmer for the rest of the day. I needed an early night, so he came upstairs with me and hopped up on the bed. I did a bit of the massage for about five minutes - he went all soft and sloppy! His night bed is on a small landing just outside the door, so I played the candle music and put a couple of drops of lavender in the diffuser. We all slept like logs! No night barking, no midnight squabbles with Pip. Got to nearly 6 am before Bill decided he needed breakfast. So, thank you again, we will keep in touch. Hope we can continue as we’ve started” And then we received “…A further update ………The other strange thing is that Billy keeps coming up to ASK for a massage!” 

Not restricting yourself to one set of skills or a single discipline, and instead using all your skills and experience can be very effective when holistically treating the behaviour and nature of a dog. Having a toolkit of skills and techniques available to call upon allows the therapist to adapt to the circumstances they find and develop a strategy for dealing with any issues they encounter. 

In this instance it wasn’t ‘just massage’ (it rarely is - and we’ve stopped saying ‘just’), but a whole raft of skills brought to bear, very quickly, and producing such a profound change in the behaviour of the dog. 

In addition, our use of personalised workbooks helps to empower the owner to be able to ‘do something to help’ rather than feeling helpless. As seen by the response from the owner the next day, the effect can be quite dramatic. 

Friday, 4 May 2018

“Empowerment is the necessity”

Handsome 14 year old silver faced Oscar became very wobbly recently. His Mum asked Sonny and Jasper’s Mum Ella from Bourne to Walk (who also came up with that wonderful quote) if she knew of any help and she suggested us. 

Any canine therapists looking at the photo of his whole body will notice he has curly coarse fur at the front and soft at the back. In fact, while out walking one day, someone came up to him and his Mum and said “Do you put gel on his fur to make it stick up like that?” (!!). Coarse fur in irregular patches often indicates some issue with the underlying muscles needing myofascial and other massage techniques. And it did. Oscar’s hips are not very good and he is getting along by pulling from his shoulders, chest and upper back muscles. These were now tight through over-compensation. He is also walking quite flat footed on the front, almost walking on his carpal joints, to ease the pressure. 

His Mum is a nurse and knows WHAT to do…..she just didn’t know HOW to do it on her Oscar. During the 90 minute session there was a lot of explaining, showing, demonstrating and enlightening with many “Oh yes…I see now” comments from Mum. 

 Both the vet and Mum said that Oscar can be a bit awkward sometimes and doesn’t like new people. Well…maybe that is so but he certainly had no problem with new people who he realised that are there to help him – namely me. He wandered onto his bed and stayed there for the full session. Occasionally lifting his head to turn it over so I could work on the other side “You’ve done that bit Dr Les….now do the same with that bit”. 

His Mum has always started her massage routine “from his nose backwards” and noticed that when she got to his hips, he would pull a face and didn’t look comfortable. Rather than interrupt that perfectly logical route, I did the same…but slower, more intentionally and taking care. By the time I reached his hips (maybe 45 minutes later) he was perfectly fine and gave no reactions at all. In fact, he was fast asleep. 

His Mum wrote later in the day “Les I can't thank you enough for all that you brought to Oscar and I today. The amazing empathy, tenderness and altogether wonderful knowledge you gave Oscar and I is invaluable. I will be diligently massaging every day and do the very best I can. At the moment he is sleeping and snoring in the hall. He didn’t think much of you leaving, the face!... Thank you so much for the papers. Regards and love from Oscar 🐾 and I 🌝.” 

 Armed with her personalised workbook on ways to help Oscar, his Mum is now enlightened and knowledgeable in physical therapy. All she needed was the necessary empowerment.