Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Award winning canine massage

JC’s back (again) 

JC is a champion award winning 9 year old Collie who is the dog equivalent to the heptathlete Jessica Ennis in that she competes in many different sporting events.

I was asked to help her last year when she suddenly stopped being able to perform a controlled sit with her Mum during an event. In fact she missed this move a couple of times which was noticed by the Mum of another of my dogs I have helped. She was fine with all the running and jumping events, possibly because she didn’t need to think about those, but was running on excitable energy. This was an exact event which gave her time to think whether she could do it or not. 

At that first meeting with JC, her Mum said she can be a ‘bit morose’ and standoffish. Nope, JC walked over, licked my whole face and lay down on the mat. 

Flash forward exactly a year to the day and I’m invited back to see JC who has exactly the same problem again. Her Mum admitted that because JC did not display any further mobility issues after my last appointment she had forgotten about me. I was not crushed, just glad that I was able to help with the single treatment. But as soon as the issue recurred, JC’s Mum remembered that she was going to add JC to my maintenance programme. So I was asked if I had space to come back as soon as possible before it became a more chronic issue with JC. 

This time, JC welcomed me like her best forever friend. She rushed across the room, placed her legs on my shoulders and totally cleaned my face and ears! She had the same issue as before with tightened muscles at the rear end especially the adductors. All the muscles she would need to perform a controlled sit. Clearly, in her head, rather than do a bad sit because she was so tight, she thought a no sit would suffice. Unfortunately, that also means disqualification from that event. It was very important to ease those muscles out. 

I often talk about the dog leading the massage session. With JC it was like working with the Big Controller. She lay on her side giving me her back. Then she rolled over opening her back legs giving me her adductors. Then she did a shuffly circle so I had access to her biceps. Then stuck her head in my lap so I could work on her neck. She was in total charge of what she needed and what I did next. I just followed her cues. 

After an hour, she got off the mat and wandered back to her own bed where she lay down. 

I suggested to her Mum that as the problem seems to occur with the more precise events, she could build an obstacle course of different thickness of mattresses, followed by a few poles and then more mattresses laid out in a random pattern in the garden or room. If she walks JC round this course slowly it will assist her proprioception as she won’t know what is coming next. Hopefully that will help rebalance her. 

We are also making a specific date for a return visit this time so I am not forgotten. 

That weekend I received an update on how JC had performed at her next event. The email said “…..JC has worked very well including the dreaded sit on the move position! JC won open 'C' Bitch today!!! “ That is definitely a #result 

Monday, 26 June 2017

Multi-modal and Multi-faceted canine healing

Beautiful Hanna was a Cyprus Rescue Dog adopted by Louise of Touch of Reiki. Hanna came over to the UK a couple of days before Lou was due to take our Level 1 Canine Massage Diploma module with the Healing Animals Organisation

Lou decided to bring her along to the course to help with their initial bonding. Quite understandably, Hanna had quite a few emotional and physical issues including a lot of scratching and nibbling at her own body. Plus she was quite anxious when other dogs or people moved in too close to her. 

When Lou was working with other dogs in the class, Hanna sat quietly with my Chris who added some extra relaxing massage and energy therapy. At the end of the module, by the time of the exam, Hanna's personality had changed immensely for the better. Lots of tears. 

Fast forward a few months. Lou had been working with Hanna in a truly multi modal and multi-faceted way giving her Reiki healing, physical therapy from massage, plus self-selection of natural food remedies and oils. Goodness, what a transformation. No scratching, calmer, glossy fur and even allowing different people to work with her. When Lou came to the Level 2 Diploma module, everyone thought she'd brought along a new dog. Which was sort of right I guess! 

Now for the Proud Uncle Les moment. Lou and I were invited along to be the expert speakers on Canine Massage to a group of Mums and Dads with their dogs for The Dogs Club. And who was the star demo dog? Hanna. She proudly sat up on the stage in front of lots of dogs and allowed Lou to show them some techniques while I explained what she was doing and why. Hanna even flopped her head down to go to sleep when we did the Extra Relaxing Move. Our Sarah couldn't have done it better herself and she's had 5 years practice of being a massage ham. 

Oh so proud to be a part of this lovely dog’s healing process. It goes to show that physical therapy is not just for arthritis. It can affect and benefit the whole dog. Add in some energy healing and you've a Holistic Healing routine. 

Well done Hanna. 

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Mine's a Dog Friendly house...what about yours?

I’ve always been a firm believer of how simple changes to a dog’s home environment can be beneficial to their mobility. When I first visit a dog’s home I find myself looking around their living quarters - not in an interior designer way (I'm sure dogs don't really mind too much about the colour of the walls or curtains) but at their flooring and where the dog might jump down from. 

Any changes don't need to be expensive. There are some simple ideas to make your house friendlier for your dog, mobility-wise. 

The first thing is your floor. When we moved to AchyPaw HQ many years ago we had lovely ethical bamboo flooring installed. Sam and Sarah, our dogs, didn't care it was environmentally friendly, it made a great race track for them scooting around the house in circles. Bit by bit we added rugs and runners until we went to IKEA and saw some inexpensive practical carpets which we cut and matched to cover most surfaces. It may not look pretty but it works. The dogs now feel they can safely chase to the front door whenever anyone rings that bell without their legs going in different directions. One Mum of a dog I visited not so long ago took to heart my suggestion that adding carpet to their wooden floor would help as, on the following visit, I found she had carpeted throughout covering all the slippy floors and added matching cushions. But it meant that her dog who, on the first visit flew across the hall floor, literally, to greet me, was now able to safely amble up for a sniff. If you don’t want to completely cover your laminate floor, provide ‘islands’ of rugs allowing your dog to move between rooms. In particular, place carpets or rugs by their food and drink stations. 

Regarding food and drink, as your dog gets older you might want to consider raising their bowls off the floor slightly. Try this experiment. Get yourself on all fours on the floor and imagine you are your dog eating their food from the bowl. Ouch, it hurts. Your back, your shoulders, your neck all start to ache. Feeding time should be enjoyable not a pain. Again, it doesn’t need to be any fancy bowls. You can use those old copies of Yellow Pages that you don’t need any more to raise their bowls. Cheap as chips but it helps adapt your home environment to help your dog. 

Getting in and out of the house can also be tricky. The garden from our back door involved climbing a couple of stairs. With our Sarah starting to get stiff, we decided they needed adaptations too. We looked online for some steps but ended up turning a couple of old decking planks into “Sarah's Steps’. The tops of the steps are sanded or covered with rubber so they are not smooth and slippy. She even has an old car ramp for those days when she is extra lazy or her arthritis is playing up. I went online and found something called ‘half-steps’. They are adaptations to make it easier for elderly folk to get around their house. We’ve now get several of those around the house wherever there was a step so our Sarah can roam the house freely again without hurting her joints. 

Memory foam beds for dogs are another great idea. I have lost count of how many new expensive beds we have bought our spoilt pair over the past 10 years as the old one starts to lose it’s ‘memory-ness’. We’ve now found that you can buy offcuts online and put them inside a posh cover. The dogs don’t know any difference. They are just happy being comfy. If you want to know how a bed feels for your dog, try the EastEnders experiment (other TV programmes are available). Sit on their bed for an episode of EastEnders. If you are still comfy by the end, then that is a good bed for your dog. Any spare bit of memory foam left over, or old beds, can always be re-used beside your bed or couch, at the bottom of the stairs or anywhere your dog might land on when jumping. 

Look around your house and see what things you have done, probably without thinking about it, to help your dog maintain their quality of life by helping ease their mobility. I’m sure it will be more than you think. But you can always find a few more ways to make your house more dog friendly.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Legg-Calve-Parthes Disease in dogs & Femoral Head & Neck excision

Meet Sonny 

This stocky little lad is a Border Terrier / Lhasa Apso cross who has been through the wars already in his 11 months. Instead of being able to jump around like the puppy he is, his owners noticed that after exercise he had started to limp. On investigation, it was found he had bilateral Avascular Necrosis – one of the worse cases the vet had seen. This is also called Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease and is an issue I have treated before. To explain, the hip is a ball and socket joint where the head of the femur bone acts as the ball and should fit neatly into the socket of the hip. In this condition, the head of the femur starts to lose its blood supply becoming necrotic so no longer functions properly. This means the ball and socket no longer fit. This will clearly make walking difficult and painful. 

There are different treatments but the one recommended for small dogs like Sonny is to remove the neck and head of the femur. Sounds dramatic but as bodies of dogs are amazing, usually new fibrous tissue is laid down and a ‘false joint’ created. More amazingly, with proper rehabilitation, most dogs are running and playing as if nothing happened. 

Sonny had the operation on his left hip 3 weeks ago and is scheduled for the right hip operation in July. It is even more important for him that we get his rehab programme started as soon as possible to start building up his left side before the right side is operated on. Then to continue the good work on both sides. The aim is to allow this brave little man to enjoy being a puppy again. 

When I sat on the floor, Sonny thought it was playtime. Which was OK as it allowed me to see how he walks. If he hadn’t had his operation ‘haircut’, you really wouldn’t know. But touching his hip it was clear that his left side needs a lot of building up while his right side was still tender. 

We moved to the sofa where he realised this was not playtime after all but therapy time. His Mum, who is also a Reiki practitioner, was fully involved in what he felt like and the plan to help Sonny. His shoulder and neck had been working overtime and felt like he was in training for the World’s Strongest Man. His lower back and thigh muscles, on the other hand, felt like they needed a good pumping up. 

Which is exactly the massage techniques we did on him. Kneading at the front, gentle pumping over the back. Within 30 minutes he was asleep, deep sleep. Thoroughly relaxed and totally comfortable. 

His Mum was left with lots of ideas for rehabilitation exercises that needn’t be too hard and don’t need special equipment. When he walks uphill, they can just stop for a few seconds so he will have to balance out his front and back legs adjusting his weight. Similarly, when going downhill. Simple but effective. Walking slowly over Dad’s outstretched legs is another that he will enjoy but makes him raise all his limbs to get over. 

With this rehabilitation plan in place plus the energy healing from his Mum, he should be better prepared for his next big operation and hopefully make that recovery to enjoy the rest of his puppyhood. 

It seems like the plan is working as his Mum wrote to say “Thank you so much for today's visit and for all the useful info you have provided for Sonny. He continued to have a nice sofa snooze after you had left and since he's woken up he's had lots of energy, been drinking lots of water and has been in and out for massive wees all afternoon which I'm sure you will agree are clear signs of a healing response so that is a very positive result! ….Many thanks again for visiting and sharing your knowledge with us, I'm sure it's going to help enormously with Sonny's recovery” 

Another #result. 

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

"Don't be put off, just do it"

We've known Riley's Mum, Alison, for a number of years now when we both started to go to events to promote our services. Alison runs Dog Delights healthy homemade dog treats. We discovered her amazing cheesy dog treats which we found are also human yummy. Since those early days her talents have grown and she has her own unit to make the biscuits in. 

Alison adopted Riley a few years ago. He is not the chief biscuit sampler though as he is a Lab and once started, he'd never stop. But he gets to enjoy all the smells and odours. Well...when he is not fast asleep that is. 

Recently he has started to display issues with his neck and upper back. Alison wrote "He screams/yelps/squeals (not sure how to describe it) when he awakes (possibly when he lifts his head??)”. He is now on Metacam which is helping his issues but he stills winces when he lifts his head in the morning. He walks and runs OK, seems happy in himself, still jumps into the car/bed/sofa/stairs OK but still gives out a “terrifying haunting wail” which is a very graphic description. 

Despite being a Lab, making him hard wired to love touch, he tends to play up at the vets or when he thinks people are doing things to him that he might not enjoy. Alison was worried he would not settle during the therapy session as he tends to play up at the vets. Again, using wonderful descriptions, she said a vet visit as “like trying to catch a moving skip and we all have to give up so nobody gets hurt" 

I was happy to try and help this handsome moving skip but made sure I was well out of range of his massive legs and feet when he had a rolling around on the floor episode. He means no harm, he is just a happy boisterous lad. 

As well as his ultra-stiff neck and upper back, he also suffers from loose core muscles which means he is not really flowing in his walk. Instead he tends to lollop along. The aim with Riley is to help his stiff neck to release that pain and to devise an exercise plan to help trim up his core. 

Alison and I took him through my new Canine Pilates routine designed to strengthen his core muscles and safely stretch his neck and upper back. He quickly picked up these exercises and seemed more fluid at the end of the 90 minute session. At least his head was turning around from his neck rather than the whole body. We plan to keep him on maintenance sessions to monitor his progress. 

Two days after his treatment session, Alison sent me an update "Smiley Riley hasn't made any whimper this morning so Les Ellam has helped him enormously already. Anybody who ever has a poorly dog with arthritis/mobility issues,or even unexplained pain, please do visit AchyPaw. AND he is very reasonable too so don't be put off, just do it" That sounds like a result to me.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Treatment given to the owner and not the dog

Luna is a 12 year old Labrador who had recently been diagnosed with arthritis in her knees and hips. 

Her Mum has made all the recommended house changes such as rugs and soft beds allowing Luna to move around the flat comfortably and rest without placing extra pressure on her joints.

Luna is bilingual as her Mum is Portuguese. When Luna is being awkward she gets told off in Portuguese but when she's being good, she gets praise in English! 

Luna's Mum used to be a paramedic and wanted to know how she could help Luna herself with massage as well as exploring other complementary therapy options. 

I was invited along, not to treat Luna but to help Mum learn a massage routine which would empower her and enable her to provide some much needed relief. Her paramedic training came back quickly and she was a natural with massage once shown how to perform the techniques appropriately.

We discussed the benefits of adding hydrotherapy, laser therapy and acupuncture to the mix. 

Luna is now in Mum's safe and competent hands. Sometimes it is not necessary to treat a dog but give their owner the right tools to help them along.

The next day Luna's Mum wrote back saying :
"Dear Les, thank you so much for your time yesterday.  Cannot thank you enough for the valuable resources you are providing me. I tried some more massage last night. Luna was lively this morning and we even play bit of fetch around the cars."

Good result I reckon

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Holistic canine massage - noise phobia

Meet Binx 

But say his name quietly. Binx has noise phobia. Not just fireworks or noises like that but lots of things can make this dear boy anxious. The sound of a golf club on a golf ball if walking past a golf course, the bathroom door banging upstairs, motor bikes outside....you get the idea. 

 His Mum was referred to me after the trainer at his weekly dog class noticed that he was limping a little. When his mum read all the benefits that canine massage can do, she asked if I would be willing to come over and see if we could design a massage routine to help calm him down as well as looking at his wobbly leg. She was very interested in the energy healing aspect of AchyPaw massage therapy. 

I was told he can be a big aloof with people. I must have been giving off extra calming vibes then, as he simply lay down on the massage mat and didn't move for 120 minutes. His Mum was constantly shaking her head and saying "What are you doing? He is NEVER like this". It's sometimes a little difficult to isolate the specific - but it works, so I certainly wasn't going to stop. He loved everything I was doing to him...not a single complaint - except if I stopped. 

We had to help him up to turn him over so his Mum could practice the relaxing routine on his other side. 

2 hours later he eased himself up to the sofa with his head on one of the arms. As his Mum and I were chatting, his little head was slipping down the arm....he couldn't hold himself up he was so un-anxious (which isn't a word but sums up Binx's responses). His reaction and responses to the session really made my day. 

 This is what holistic massage therapy is all about - applying it to help all with sorts of different conditions. I've discovered, over my years of practice, that it isn't only indicated for arthritis or mobility issues - in the last few weeks I've had epileptic dogs, dogs with muscle tremors, anxious dogs, wobbly dogs, senior dogs...massage therapy can be inclusive and not exclusive. I love it.