Tuesday, 14 November 2017

My Luther

My Luther 

Two years I was kindly invited to go and help Luther Weimaraner, who was then 10, by vet Guy from Coastway Vets. He and his Dads were almost at the end of the therapies they had left to offer Luther for his rear leg arthritis and resulting mobility issues. 

Philip, one of his Dads, wrote, Luther was “a HUGE dog, over 50k at one point but always fed and exercised and loved very much. 2015 wasn't great for Luther, prostate removal, stomach problems and then the diagnosis that he was very arthritic. I was devastated, not least because I hadn't noticed the change in him because we're together all the time…….I had to keep going into other rooms to cry about losing him so he didn't pick up on the vibe - you know that sounds strange to some people, but when you bond with another life, you bond” 

When Luther’s Dads heard of Guy’s suggestion of canine massage, they were a bit unsure – to put it mildly. Again, in Philip’s words “Guy said, "I know you'll think this ridiculous, but I know a chap who's a qualified dog masseur...and don't roll your eyes!" So I'm there, I've dabbled with massage, acupuncture, reflexology & Feng Shui, what did I have to lose? My best friend. So I called Dr Les kind of reluctantly. I mean I'm a realist, and the thought of paying to have my dog massaged.... But the universe gives you what you need - I'd known Dr Les for about twenty years, four times a week at the gym. He was a Dr at Brighton or Sussex Uni, and had helped me with some research for my job as a journalist but we had lost touch” 

On the first visit Luther looked sad, no other way to describe it really. But he still had enough spirit to eye me up suspiciously at the start. 

What to do with Luther? Answer : Just about EVERYTHING. He loved it. Philip said “From the first 6 weekly sessions, Luther wanted to eat again, go out, and didn't need the Tramadol. Les showed us how to learn his techniques and use them between visits” 

Two years on and Luther is still up and about. He is now swimming weekly in the Hydrotherapy pool at House of Hugo. His medication has been changed appropriately (Tramadol removed and Rimadyl added) and now he had added thyroid issues and peripheral neuropathy. But he still walks daily – he has an A Frame back end gait and rolls his right back leg out a bit while walking but that is his way now. He even runs to meet me. 

And I ADORE Luther. I really do. He and our girl, Sarah, are totally inspiring. They don’t moan, they get on with it. And that makes wanting to help them and their well-being even more special and important. To share that knowledge with a dog’s loving owners is a double bonus. 

These days with Luther, there is no faffing about. I walk in and he is down on the king-sized massage mat ready and waiting before I’ve got my jacket off. 30 minutes into the session, he gets up and turns over so I can work with the other side. Every time. Without fail. 

His Dads are really the best too. They have listened throughout. They probably know more about Luther’s muscles than they do about their own. I am sent videos of Luther walking weekly which I keep for comparative purposes. Luther’s new brother, Hugo, is also receiving massage from his Dads to keep him in top condition. 

I couldn’t ask for more really. A lovely receptive dog. Owners who take note of what I say and work with their dog daily. And two more years with a dog who is happy and comfortable. Once again, to quote Philip “Get your dog massaged? Oh please! But if you have an aging dog that seems a little stiff, you may know how it feels yourself, at least look into this service. But if you love your dog, it may be the best thing you can do for them”. If your vet suggests “It’s just arthritis”, give us a call and see how we can help you manage their condition. They may be getting older but they need not be put out to pasture yet.

Thank you My Luther 

Monday, 13 November 2017

Relax HAOK9 Massage Diploma - November 2017 Cohort

Twelve graduates from the Healing Animals Organisation became the 6th cohort to be awarded their Diploma in Relax HAOK9 Massage exclusively designed and delivered by AchyPaw Canine Massage. 

This time we had the most dogs ever to help these students learn their new skills – 19 dogs. Some stayed for the whole course, others were special guest stars. But it meant that the graduates went away with a rich diversity of knowledge in how to help and work with dogs of all conditions. 

We had puppies like Evie, we had senior dogs like Dempsey, we had first-timers like Zoe, we had returning guest stars like Perry, and we even had nervous rescue dogs ‘that don’t like men’ but ended up sitting happily in Chris’s arms. 

These fully professional therapists can now help dogs nationally, and internationally, using their new physical therapy skills to work alongside their existing energy and communication therapy skills. 

Welcome to this great new set of multi-modal therapists. 

The full set of pictures can be viewed here


Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Avascular Necrosis and Complementary Therapy

Sonny’s Feedback 

In June of this year, I was invited over to help Sonny. He was then not even a year old but diagnosed with bilateral Avascular Necrosis affecting both hip joints. The vet decided the best plan for his recovery was Femoral head & neck excision. While this condition is common-ish in young dogs, to be affected with both legs at the same time is rarer. 

It meant that little Sonny could not enjoy being a puppy. He has only known wobbly gaits and compensation for his weak hind legs. The vets operated on one leg in May with the other hip booked in for 6 weeks later. 

His Mum wrote “It is very important that the muscle and scar tissue around these joints is built up to ensure as good a mobility as possible. Is this something you can help with?” She is already a Reiki practitioner and wanted to combine physical therapy with energy healing to give Sonny as much help as possible. He was also on anti-inflammatory medication. 

When I first visited him, he was walking with his hind legs closer together but was not showing any signs of gait discomfort placing both legs down equally. I guess he had never known anything different so was doing the dog thing of “Getting On With It” 

The session was more aimed at training for his Mum to build up the muscles of the leg that had been operated on to help support him for the operation on the other leg. Literally, to give him a leg to stand on! I often get asked what a fit muscle should look and feel like. 

 I use the analogy of a chicken fillet. A high-quality chicken fillet. A Waitrose or Marks & Spencer’s chicken fillet (although other supermarkets are available). The affected thigh muscles of Sonny looked more like a ham slice or lower quality fillet. They needed considerable building up. 

He had other compensatory issues, including tight neck and overused shoulder muscles. 

I devised a massage routine plus physiotherapy exercises for his Mum to perform daily. 

I recently had an email saying “I just thought you'd like an update on Sonny. The massage techniques and exercises you taught me were so helpful in his recovery. He went on to have the second surgery carried out in July from which he has recovered equally well using massage and exercise. He hasn't needed any further intervention and his Lidl chicken fillets as you called them are now looking like Tesco Finest!! We've just returned from a break on the Isle of Wight where he ran freely on the beach for hours on end. So a big thank you to you from us!!” 

I asked if it was OK to share this story and his Mum said “It can be very worrying for people who find their dog needs this operation, but it is generally very successful and Sonny is living proof!! If his story can help other owners that would be wonderful.” 

 She also sent some photos of Sonny post-operation and allowed me to share his before and after X-rays. Look at the way the femoral head was not fitting in the socket in the ‘before’ picture on the left and how the head was excised in the ‘after’ picture. Here are all the pictures – shared. 

Poor old Sonny had spent his puppy days with those ill-fitting joints. Physical therapy, massage, exercise, Reiki and medication all working to allow Sonny to run like the puppy he should be on the beach in the Isle of Wight. What a great transformation and testament to the power of complementary therapy. 

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Tellington T-Touch Training

We attended a workshop to introduce us to touches and methods using Tellington T-Touch Training delivered by Caroline Still of Stylish Fido (https://stylishfido.co.uk/t-touch). 

T Touch is not massage but involves a variety of touches manipulating the skin rather than the muscles below. Although the touches are light pressure, they can be very relaxing and powerful. However, like massage, the aim is to help resolve health and behaviour. 

As well as bodywork, there are also a number of groundwork routines designed to aid flexibility, movement and increase confidence. 

The touches themselves are named after animals, such as the Leopard, Chimpanzee, Racoon and Llama. These involve different placement of the fingers on the skin. As with massage therapy, the touches slide from one to another meaning the dog always has at least one hand on their body maintaining contact. 

The groundwork is used to engage the dog’s attention and focus and involve slow and purposeful movements around objects or poles with frequent stops allowing the dog to experience their balance. 

Another component is body wraps. This is similar to swaddling a baby giving the body security and a big hug. The aim is to provide comfort by making the dog aware of all the areas that the wraps touch. It is a great tool for nervous dogs and can be beneficial for Halloween and November 5th fireworks. 

It’s always good to learn new principles and touches which can be adapted to add to our existing massage routines. We’ve never wanted to stop at just using the same few techniques but rather to constantly learn new moves to adapt and add. On Friday Chris went on a massage course designed for expectant Mums. He came back saying “Oooo…I’ve got a great move we can add to the AchyPaw routine”. As expectant Mums tend to prefer massage on their sides, this is similar to working on a dog lying down. We’ve adapted one of the moves to give a good myofascial release of the dog’s pectorals. That’ll go in our toolkit. Then there was the time Chris took a Hands-free massage course. Again, one of those moves we adapted into our exclusive Angel technique which gives the dog a huge long stretch along their entire body and most adore. 

We’re going to need a bigger toolbelt soon. 

Friday, 20 October 2017

Complementing complementary therapies

We met Caroline Still of Stylish Fido some time ago at a dog event we were doing. She is professional Tellington T Touch practitioner (http://stylishfido.co.uk/t-touch). As she says on her webpage “Tellington T Touch is a holistic respectful method of training, handling and learning. Using a combination of specific touches, lifts, and movement exercises, T Touch helps to release tension and increase body awareness. This allows the animal to be handled without provoking typical fear responses. The animal can then more easily learn new and more appropriate behaviours. It is not about ‘quick fixes’, it is about working with that animal to bring a new awareness, offering another experience and giving new information, so the animal can be more flexible and adaptive, often having profound positive behaviour changes.” 

She now has a young Poodle, Bill, and wanted me to check him out to make sure everything is OK physically. In return, I asked if she could do the same on our Sarah to give me some more ideas to help her. 

 The two different complementary therapies are, in fact, very similar. Most of the physical therapy massage moves I was demonstrating on Bill, were the same as T Touch moves, only with different names and different intensities. But despite the names, they had the same aims and benefits. 

When it came to working with our Sarah, Caroline showed me small circular moves over her thigh muscles, called The Raccoon, which targeted them far more precisely. Within a short time, both the muscles we were working on, plus the other side, started to warm up. She also sent me some lifting moves which also target the thighs. 

We’re attending one of Caroline’s workshops this weekend giving us even more tools in our Therapeutic Toolkit as you can never have too many options. That gives us massage techniques, advice, exercise routines, education, acupressure, Reiki and energy healing plus all the experience gained over the past 6 years added to the human massage techniques from the past 15 years and now T Touch. The AchyPaw Toolkit is getting bigger. And in the New Year we hope to have a new qualified and insured Canine Myotherapist joining the team. 

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Meet Lord Nelson

Meet Lord Nelson 

No…not that one. That one is in Trafalgar Square. This one is a Sam and Sarah lookey likey living in Hove. He is a stunningly regal Welsh Springer Spaniel (like the Mum of ours hence him being a bit stockier than a Springer) who is now 8 years old. He has a brother, called Mr Darcy who is more of a Springer Spaniel in looks and behaviour. And yes, I fell in love with them both instantly. 

Lord Nelson was rescued a year ago to be a companion for his also rescued brother Mr Darcy. Lord Nelson was rehomed from Spaniel Aid after his previous owner could no longer keep him. It’s likely he had been crated or kept in a single room for a while before he was rehomed. His new Dads said he did not seem to know how to walk when outside. His legs were like jelly and soft. He was also quite heavy at 32 kg, although he has now slimmed down to 25 kg. 

When he was first taken to their groomer, Caroline Still who is also a TTouch practitioner, she said his spine just didn’t look right, almost curved. He was then taken to their vets who performed manipulations but decided against an X-Ray or further intervention as they could not find anything untoward. 

He sleeps hunched up and still struggles to move first thing in the morning when his back half looks curved and his tail comes in. After a while though, he straightens out. “It is like he needs a warm up” his Dad said. He also hesitates sometimes when climbing on a sofa. He puts his fronts legs up first, stops and thinks then clambers up with his rear legs. And when walking he often bunny hops rather than the traditional one leg, next, leg, other leg etc gait of a dog. Exercise-wise, he has a lot. At least 4 times a week he and his brother go on 2 to 3 hour walks over the fields and Downs where he can now keep up with his brother. 

But his hunched back and stiffness was concerning his Dads and, after getting the appropriate vet consent, I was invited over to meet the family. 

On initial palpation it was clear to feel that his back was certainly tighter and stiffer from half way down to two thirds – just where his hunch was. He had probably developed this as a chronic issue from the time he had been kept confined without a lot of exercise. But the good news was that shoulder and thigh muscles felt splendid, just the way they should in an 8 year old. 

Hopefully, easing out his stiff back should restore his balance and gait. He had lots and lots of myofascial release massage over his back to stretch him out as well as a series of Canine Pilates exercises with the same effect. 

He responded so well to everything, sighing, yawning and with a very dribbly nose as his body eliminated the built up waste. 

His Dads were left fully armed with a massage routine, warm-up Locomotion routine, cool-down and exercises to perform on him daily with a repeat visit from me in a few weeks to monitor the improvement. That was a good Saturday morning.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

September is Arthritis Awareness Month and there have been lots of posts about it. I thought I’d take a different line and go through a couple of the dogs I’d worked with over the years showing how a multi-modal approach can work better than just medication or single therapy alone. 

First is Luther. My big handsome wonderful Luther. I’ve been visiting Luther the Weimaraner since November 2015. He had been diagnosed with arthritis but suddenly he had gone off his back legs and his Dads just did not know what to do anymore. He also had a very stiff top line, he had gone off his food (which is NOT like Luther at all) and he generally looked sad. His vet referred him to me, and despite some initial scepticism from his Dads, I started to work with him. Luther, being a big boy, can be quite intimidating but is really a big softie when you get to know, and love, him. He was rather suspicious at first but allowed me to perform an almost classic massage routine on him. 

The techniques that turned the corner for Luther were Myofascial Release. His discomfort from arthritis had made him concertina into a shorter dog. He was tight all over. Once we got that tightness released and stretched him back out, we could work with his muscle tone, building his wasted thigh muscles back up again to support his weight. 

Two years on and his Dads are my best advocates so much so that they now give Luther’s new brother, Hugo, a massage every week when I’m working with Luther. Luther is now off Tramadol, and has added Rimadil to the medication mix as well as weekly physical therapy from me, hydrotherapy from Mia at the House of Hugo and laser therapy. He has his bad days, but don’t we all, and he is now 12 years old. Currently, though, he is walking three times a day in his steady plodding but comfortable way. And his loves his massage sessions regularly snoring his way through the hour. 

Then there is Stanley the Shih Tzu. He is 12 now and I’ve been visiting him for 18 months. He was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in the hips. He was treated with Metacam which was easing his discomfort but was not really helping with his wasted rear leg muscles. Stanley is a character and has to be massaged on the sofa so he can look down at his brother Freddy who is desperate to join in. His arthritis had caused his whole body to be wrong, which is a non-technical term but describes perfectly the way he stood. He had a very high rear end so the spine dips at the shoulders which were over developed. He did not walk but waddled with one or both rear legs crumbling under him as he progressed forward. He did not seem in the least bit perturbed by his legs giving way. He simply got up and continued to waddle on. 

With Stanley, he benefitted from as much kneading as I could give him before his attention span ran out (usually between 30 to 45 minutes) and he asked to get off the sofa. In the last couple of months, the physical therapy was really only holding him stable but not helping his muscle tone to improve. His Mum even bought a buggy so he could go out but Stanley was having none of that. A few weeks back we added hydrotherapy to the mix. This was the addition that brought about his turning point. After a few sessions, he had muscles. Big muscles. And he stood without falling. For a long time. And he walked, actually walked. It was an emotional session the first time and such a joy to be able to work with his muscles again, helping to build them up further to maintain his mobility. And today his Mum is off to IKEA to buy some carpet runners for the hall and kitchen so Stanley can continue his progress without fear of slipping. Add ‘environmental changes’ to the mix of therapies. 

Duffy the Old English Sheepdog sadly passed away a few months ago from a heart condition, but I had been visiting him every four weeks for 18 months. He was referred with Ankylosing Spondylosis in his upper back resulting in forelimb arthritis. He was already on a regime of Rimadyl and Cartrophen with monthly acupuncture from vet Guy Liebenberg of Coastway Vets. During the physical therapy sessions, his Mum added Holistic Veterinary Medicine to his mix from Tim Couzens. This took the form of daily herbal medication which included things like Turmeric and Ginger for the arthritis. He also had laser therapy. 

As well as massage, he loved his stretching exercises and passive joint stretches. His Mum took on board the need to do a few massage moves and exercises daily to keep him mobile in between my visits. Another couple of additions to complement his multi-modal therapy. 

For the first few sessions treatments, he just could not keep still and was very vocal. But by the 4th and 5th session, the problem with him was getting him to leave the massage mat at the end of the hour. He wanted more, and when I left, he always went into a deep relaxed sleep – a perfect result from a session. 

Last, but not least, is our Sarah. My inspiration. We took her on a basic introductory massage workshop many years ago and one move we learned from the wonderful Pia Campbell was what inspired me want to start AchyPaw. Simple skin rolling released so much anxiety and discomfort from her that she turned from a grumpy old woman to the 5 year old she should have been within days. 

She has now been diagnosed with arthritis in her hips and, 6 years on from that basic workshop, she has daily massage and acupressure from us, weekly hydrotherapy with Mia, holistic medicine from Tim, a raw food diet to help with weight control, environmental changes (such as our new ramp to the back door and half steps all over the house), daily activity changes (frequent but shorted walks daily so she exercises but doesn’t overdo it), nutritional supplements, a Bioflow collar, energy healing from her Auntie Lou and recently Regenerative Medicine. A truly multi-modal girl. 

Which treatment is the one that is working? Don’t know. It may not just be ONE, but a combination of all. This is complementary therapy after all. What I do know is that she is currently fitter, happier and more comfortable than she has been in a long time. And I can’t ask for a better result than that. 

Check out all the options open to an arthritic dog. It doesn’t have to be ‘just arthritis’.