Friday, 6 April 2018

Superficial Front Line & Anatomy Trains - massage in dogs

Meet Tino and his SFL. 

Tino (Valentino) is Bruce’s brother. When he was 8 he developed a hunched back with prominent spine in the mid spine area. At the time his vets suggested an MRI with a possible operation which they said might extend his life by 2 years. That was 6 years ago! He has no obvious mobility issues now and, at the time, he was treated with massage and physiotherapy. He hasn’t had any physical therapy recently, so we were asked to work with him at the same as Bruce as they are now 12. 

Luckily, we now have two members in the AchyPaw team. Bruce decided that Chris was his and I worked with Tino at the same time. 

Tino wants everyone to be happy and gets worried if they are not, or if he thinks they are not. He has his security blanket which he brings to anyone who comes to the door and then lies sucking and chewing it until he realises you are a good person. Although Tino does not really lie – he squats like a greyhound. He has very long legs and neck. His Mum describes him as Giraffe neck. 

As well as his stiff back, the way he sits means that his thighs and adductors are also a lot tighter than his brother – who lies quite happily thank you, farting away during the massage session. 

One of the things we bring with us in our canine physical therapy is skill and expertise from human massage. That morning, Chris had read a paper from the JING website entitled “Tight Jaw? Tight Hips!” which stated that many patients experience jaw pain or teeth grinding related to muscle tension in the jaw. The article suggested that just working in that area might be looking in the wrong place. The author said look at the whole body, the gait, and their hip alignment. 

They referred to work by Tom Myers, the structural integration expert (read his books if you’re interested by fascia – I love his work). He describes the Superficial Front Line in his book Anatomy Train which is one of 12 myofascial chains. The SFL starts at the top of the feet and travels up to behind the ear and jaw. 

Hmmm…..let’s try massaging Tino’s jaw and see if his tight hips relax. Oh. My. Gosh. Within minutes his whole body relaxed and his previously reactive hip and thigh muscles loosened allowing me to start working with them. 

He ended the session completely soft and pliable. And happy. And he had stopped using his security blanket. A big success. 

The JING article concludes with “…all these pieces of information can be used to…..design a better treatment plan” We’d add….don’t just stop with canine massage techniques and treatment plans but look at combining them with research and methods used in human massage. We’ve had so much fusion and cross-overs in the past 6 years between human and canine massage. But Tino doesn’t care – he’s just happy we’ve found, and helped, the problem. And that is #RESULT. 


Saturday, 31 March 2018

Treating more than one dog at once - our new service

In a single treatment session, we offer many things. As well as therapy, we give advice on household adaptations, exercise advice and appropriate homework. Now that we have two members in the AchyPaw team, we have a new time-saving service to offer – multi-dog households treated simultaneously. 

The internet is full of ways to manage more than one dog in the house. Indeed, one behaviourist refused us entry to their class when ours were puppies and was very rude about our choice of having siblings. We set out to prove them wrong and now we’ve had 12 wonderful fun filled years of experience working with two dogs and wouldn’t change one moment of it. Our Sam & Sarah have always had equal Dad time. 

That experience helps when working with other brothers and sisters. If I’m working with medium breeds, such as my spaniel brothers, treating one after the other is perfectly do-able. It takes 45 to 60 minutes each dog. But we now have two sets of bigger brothers. Working one after the other with them could take up to 3 hours which would involve considerable patience and waiting time for the dogs. Solution? We work with one each simultaneously. 

Thursday and Friday were Weimaraner brother days. With the first pair, the plan was for me to continue working with Bruce again, as he has been treated by me before, while Chris would start work on Tino. Well, that was the plan. Bruce eyed up Chris and decided he was his. No problem - we always let the dog direct the session. Unfortunately, Laura was unable to visit our other Weimaraner brothers this week, so Friday Luther decided he’d continue with me while Hugo laid down in front of Chris. Another pair of dogs but half the time. Working with two dogs at the same time also has the benefit that they pick up on each other's relaxation. Two sets of snores.

Success all round as the pictures show. If you’ve got a multi-dog household and want to take advantage of two professionally qualified therapists, give us a call. 

Monday, 26 March 2018

Working with rescue dogs

Meet Minger

I know….there is a story behind the name. But she is actually quite a stunner. She is a Breton Spaniel, rescued by Mel Beck who fell in love with her and now has adopted her. Minger was rescued from Spain having been discarded by a hunter when she had served her purpose. She was part of the Save Our Spaniels Rescue, an organisation who Rescue, rehabilitate, rehome Spaniels in need abroad. (We are offering a discount for any local SOS rescued Spaniels who need, or would benefit from, treatment – please ask us for details.) 

When Minger arrived in the UK, she had developed a limp on her right rear leg which was diagnosed as a cruciate issue. She had an operation at the start of the year which was successful. But she was still preferring to lift the operated leg and walk using the left rear leg only. Due to the reduced exercise she had also developed a couple of extra ‘saddle bags’. 

We have worked with Mel some years ago with the amazing Mr Khan and so offered our services for free to help Minger back to full balance and mobility. 

Like many rescue dogs, her actual age is not known. She was said to be 8 but looks far younger at around 5. But with the wobbly back leg and saddle bags it is not too easy to tell. Her new Dad has plans for her to be his Cani-Cross partner when she is back to top health. When they came over, it was evident she was carrying a stiff back, loose thigh muscles for the right and tight thigh muscles for the left. She needed therapy to make her symmetrical again. 

Luckily, she adores touch and settled in to therapy immediately. In fact, she ended up doing the rounds – going from Chris, to me, to Dad, to Mum and back to Chris again. Not one to waste any therapy time. 

With now informed eyes and our ‘homework’, her carers can now continue with the massage therapy and rehabilitation exercises to help her regain her confidence to use all 4 legs once more and get in shape for the Cani-Cross season. Mel wrote up Minger’s story and messaged me “She’s doing really well. Andy has been giving her 15 mins of massage every night and she seems to be walking better. The dip in her back is variable, sometimes up, sometimes down. Loves the treats and walking across Andy’s legs fine. He’s been getting her to support her back end with right leg down only and left leg slightly raised. She’s limping a lot less and we’ve dared to let her potter about at the stables without a lead which has had a hugely positive effect on her psychologically. It’s lovely to see the bond building between them” 

Appropriate early rehab and therapy for cruciate issues can make a big difference in quality of recovery. Add to that caregiver involvement, education and empowerment and you’re well on the road to successful rehabilitation. If you’ve got a dog with similar issues, give us a call. 



Friday, 16 March 2018

Putting up with it


Sometimes, on a first visit to a dog, it is apparent that they must have been in pain or uncomfortable for some time. The configuration of their body or the tension in their muscles didn’t just come on overnight. Spasms and strains in dogs do happen but they typically occur suddenly and, with appropriate help, ease off quickly. These are acute issues. Putting up with it is often a chronic issue. 

Anyone who has ever had a dog knows how stoic they can be. They don’t seem to want to show their discomfort. When living with their humans, they just want to get on with being their best friend, accompanying us on our walks, following us round the house and generally being with us wherever we are, even if it means they ache. 

Our job, as therapists, is to try and identify the issue and help to ease or break that pain cycle. Pain doesn’t have to be due to the things you see or know about, like arthritis. It can be something equally insidious which you just don’t notice as your dog has been putting up with it for so long.  We know that 4 in 5 senior dogs suffer with arthritis, but that leaves the younger dogs and other seniors who could be suffering from some other painful condition which can be helped by physical therapy.  Let's not forget them.

Handsome Spaniel Lord Nelson, for example, was likely kept crated or in a single room for a while before he was rehomed. He even had to be taught how to walk in the outdoors as his legs were so underused. When his new Dads were alerted to the hunched shape of his spine they started therapy with us. 

Working with the carer and the dog, we felt our way through all his physical issues helping to put them right again. 

Recently I was chatting to Lord Nelson’s Dad and he wrote “In fact we were just saying that Nelson seems a lot happier/cheekier (depending on if you are on the receiving end of his never- ending demand/stubbornness) since you started working on him. Only thing we could think of is he probably always had a (low level) pain with his spine/legs, though he just put up with it. Now this is gone, he's a happier boy (and we have two trouble makers!)” 

Feedback like that means the world. With the new eyes that his Dads have regarding his mobility, gait and physicality, and maintenance therapy visits from us, they will have to put up with him being a happy healthy family member, an-all round trouble-making demanding stubborn boy. Lord Nelson, meanwhile, won’t have to put up with living with his discomfort. 
And as a P.S. I was reminded by his Dad of the all important poo details - he always had to lean on a tree to do his business but now he can squat like all self respecting Spaniel boys. How long did Lord Nelson have to put up with that? Clearly he knew it wasn’t right, but he had to put up with it. No more PoohGate for Lord Nelson.

Monday, 26 February 2018

Multifaceted therapy for dogs

Meet Laura – or “Hugo’s in lurve” 

Not a dog this time, but a fellow practitioner. Laura is one of Elizabeth Whiter’s Healing Animal Organisation’s graduates (http://www.healinganimals.org/) who attended the HAOK9 Relax Level 1 Diploma module that we’ve written and delivered specially for the HAO. She’s coming along to the Level 2 diploma in a few weeks and wanted to shadow me before then. 

I thought that the Weimaraner brothers of Luther & Hugo would be a good shadow as they’re both very used to physical therapy and, being big boys, have a lot of body to work with. 

As it happens, Hugo decided to pick up a limp on the morning of the session. That meant that instead of Laura just watching, she could use her skills to help Hugo. Hugo is a lovely boy, but his size can be imposing. However, he fell in love with Laura immediately, lying down with his head on her lap, silly grin and closed eyes. 

Using her energy skills as well as hands-on physical therapy, Laura quickly picked up where he wanted some help. Starting lightly, she was soon directed by Hugo how deep she could massage him. He was in bliss. Soppy face throughout, looking up at her with goo goo eyes. 

As I’ve said many times, all the complementary therapies have their place. Mixing and matching these therapies can often be more effective than one at a time. Hugo certainly seemed to believe that was the case. 

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Does canine massage and physical actually work?

We know that massage & physical therapy work (otherwise we wouldn’t be doing it) but some folk still need convincing. Here is Coco who clearly shows how just a couple of treatment session plus homework from her Mum, helped her recover full mobility.

Coco is a 3 year old Schnauzer / Chihuahua cross who recently had an accident which broke her left tibia. It was successfully repaired at the end of January with a pin placed into tibia and a plate in the medial aspect of bone. She was walking almost immediately on the affected leg but after a week she stopped using it and that leg became non-weightbearing with resultant muscle loss and over compensation on her other three legs. 

It is evident from the pictures and videos that she didn’t want to use both hind legs, preferring to hop. 




Chris was invited over to try and encourage Coco to use her left hind leg again and help to regain her confidence with all legs before a second X-Ray in a couple of weeks. She was very responsive to Chris’s touch and rehab exercise routine. He helped her stand squarely before gently raising her ‘good’ hind leg while supporting her, encouraging her to place her weight back on the affected one. After a while the left hind leg was considerably straighter and placed on the floor. A big problem was the slippy laminate floor. Coco’s recovery would be slower if she keeps slipping while trying to stabilise her gait. 

Massage to her thigh and gluteal muscles was another main part of the therapy session, helping to build them back up again to, again, rebuild her confidence and ability to stand on all fours. Equally important was maintenance massage to her shoulder and neck muscles which had been taking a lot of the compensatory strain. 




One week later and Coco’s Mum has been doing her homework diligently. It was so evident. 

Coco came bounding to meet Chris looking far more comfortable. And then there was the appearance of a rug!!!!!! Coco was happily standing and not slipping. That is not just a good Mum but a great Mum.

Muscle mass was evident on her affected thigh and the shoulders, which were tight through compensation, were looser. 

During the massage routine, far less fur was coming off too. Dogs tend to hold their anxiety in their fur and often shed bucket loads in the first massage. But as they relax, any myofascial tension is relaxed allowing blood and nutrients to get back into the skin and fur. This is frequently demonstrated by less shedding during the massage. Coco is hopefully well on the road to full recovery.  Certainly, both she AND her Mum were far more relaxed.  With just a couple of physical therapy sessions and a Mum empowered to keep up the good work, that is a job done.





Does massage and physical therapy work? Well here are a couple of responses from caers of dogs we have treated in the past.

Sonny's Mum, who we helped back in June last year after Avascular Necrosis affected both his hip joints and had Femoral Head Excision on both hips, wrote after reading the post yesterday “Oh it definitely works. Sonny is living proof of that thanks to you 💙

And the final word needs to go to the Lord Nelson's Dad who is a lawyer Dad of Lord Nelson " Does massage and physical work? Exhibit A - Pre AchyPaw: Lord Nelson could hardly put weight on his back legs especially when he first got up. Had difficulty jumping up and could only manage stairs one step at a time. Vet confirmed no physiological damage. Exhibit B - Post AchyPaw: he now hops on and off the sofa without any problem, goes up and down the stairs one leg at a time like other dogs, even his posture is different, and is a much more lively dog. I rest my case ’mlord"

Monday, 29 January 2018

Giving your dog a confidence boost

I’ve been visiting my Luther for over two years now. When I first visited, his Dads and vet were running out of options for his arthritis. But he responded so well to physical therapy from me weekly and his Dads daily he’s now had his 12th birthday. 

Several interventions have been added to his treatment regime, both pharmacological and complementary. He is off Tramadol and on Rimadyl and Paracetamol. He goes to hydrotherapy weekly. His daily walks have been realistically reduced - not stopped. And he’s happy. 

Last week he had a wobble when his front legs couldn’t quite support him. I was asked round for some emergency care. Poor chap did not look happy but allowed some physical help. We looked at supports and I mentioned the OrthoPets Help ‘Em Up harness which Fin uses. We see Fin daily and it’s made a lot of difference just having that extra help when he squats or has a little wobble. 

Today I visited Luther again and he was proudly wearing his harness. His Dad calls him RoboDog. It looked complex to put on but is quite simple. And most importantly it gives Luther confidence. As I was leaving he was tentatively standing inside the front door, looking to come out to say goodbye. All it needed was a helping hand from Dad - not a yank or a hold but a confidence boost. He came out and I got my tip, a goodbye kiss from Luther. 




You don’t want your dog to think that they have failed by not being able to stand, but that Dad and Mum are there just to give them that supportive boost. Think how many times our dogs give us their helping hand - when we’re down or just because we need it. Giving them back some extra help in their senior years goes some way to redress the extra hand, or paw balance.