Most of my regular readers know that I work as a canine massage therapist and helping elderly dogs and those recovering from injuries is very rewarding for me. Many of my clients use massage for their dogs as a way of staving off the need for non-steroidal inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), or at least to keep the dosages of these drugs as low as possible.
So here’s a wee story of something that happened to me this week.
I was working on a dog who I have been seeing for 18 months. He’s a lovely Labrador and he is starting to have the aches and pains of old age. With a regular 5-weekly regime of massage, he’s been pain free.
Because I know this boy well, I could pick up that he was tight through his hind legs – a muscle called the biceps femoris. When I said ‘he’s tight down here’ to his owner, she replied, ‘I didn’t want to say anything…I wanted to see if you’d notice.’
This happens fairly often. Some people like to test me to see if I actually know what I’m doing (some owners remain doubtful about complementary therapies) but most of the time it is because owners doubt if the changes they observe are real. When you live with someone with a chronic health condition and see them on a daily basis, it is often hard to pick up changes in their condition.
In this case, it was the latter. This lady wasn’t confident that she was really seeing her dog running stiffly. He was tight, but was moving freely when he left after his massage.
Success for the week!
What’s the lesson here? It’s unrealistic to expect a massage therapist to ‘solve’ a dog’s problem in a single visit. Dogs have to get used to the therapist and massage is a new experience for them. So, the first visit is usually a time when they aren’t as relaxed because they are uncertain.
Because I keep notes on every massage session, I can refer back to these to track a dog’s condition. This is no different than what your vet does. When I am familiar with a dog and their unique characteristics, I’m much better able to pick up changes and act swiftly to help.
Please consider your dog’s therapist as a member of your healthcare team and part of your dog’s preventative healthcare regime. It’s much better than the ‘ambulance at the bottom of the cliff.’