Time is a precious resource. We only have so much time in our day – you don’t get any more or any less than anyone else.
I have often said that one of the most important things we have to give our dogs is our time. Time for play, time for love, time for care…That said, since I often work with sick or elderly dogs in my massage practice, I am also very mindful of how time can get away on us.
Our dogs live at a different time scale than we do. There are many illustrations of the this – here’s just one:
With our dogs aging at a faster rate than we do, we don’t always understand the impact of a delay.
|I meet many dog owners who come to see me because they have a fear of putting their dog on medications such as those that are used for arthritis. Let me be clear on this – although I practice natural therapies – I am not against using traditional medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Actually, quite the opposite.
Many dogs benefit from pain relief just like we humans do.
One of the better ways to assess the levels of pain in a dog is to give it a short course of NSAIDs and simply watch for changes in the dog’s behaviour and levels of activity. If the dog improves, this is often the best indicator we have about the dog’s level of discomfort.
If pain is managed, then we can do even more hands-on work like acupressure, stretching, acupuncture and massage and this often means dosages of the ‘hard drugs’ can be reduced without sacrificing pain management.
In this example, the owner is hesitating to make a decision on using medication – even with the idea that we go into the arrangement knowing the medications will be used for only a short period – perhaps 2-3 weeks.
The dog weighs 25 kg and is 10 years old.
I start working with the dog and suggest a number of times that I believe the dog is in pain or at a minimum – uncomfortable.
The owner takes 2 months to make a decision before agreeing to try some pain relief.
In human years, since the dog is aging at a rate of 6 years to 1 human year at this life stage…
The owner has waited the equivalent of one human year to make a decision!
I will ask– if this was your grandma/grandpa/father/mother – would you allow them to live like this without pain relief?
The answer has always been ‘no.’
We have a duty to care for our dogs which involves acting in their best interests. They can’t tell us in words how much pain they are in, it’s up to us to figure it out. And in deciding what to do, we must always be mindful of how precious time is.
Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand
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.’
Kathleen at work with Zara (another happy customer) copyright June Blackwood
Posted in complementary therapies, dog care
Tagged biceps femoris, canine massage, chronic health condition, dog massage, elderly, injuries, massage session, non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, NSAIDs, preventative care
Whenever I take on a new client, I use a health questionnaire that covers current conditions as well as the dog’s health history. One of the issues I address is any recent changes to the dog’s behaviour or living conditions.
What I am trying to ascertain is if a dog is in pain or having adjustment difficulties. There is a clear link between pain and aggression and this has been supported in a recent study by researchers at the Autonomous University of Barcelona in Spain.
In the Spanish study, which has been published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 12 dogs that were brought in by their owners for ‘aggression problems’ were studied. All were found to have pain-induced aggression with eight diagnosed as having hip dysplasia.
The breeds in the study were: a Giant Schnauzer, Irish Setter, Pit Bull, Dalmatian, two German shepherds, Neapolitan Mastiff, Shih-tzu, Bobtail, Catalan Sheepdog, Chow Chow and Doberman.
The researchers concluded “if the pet is handled when in pain, it will quickly act aggressively to avoid more discomfort without the owner being able to prevent it.”
So, when a dog is behaving differently or is “out-of-sorts”, a visit to the vet is recommended. Behaviour changes can be the first indicator that something is wrong and your vet can help to run appropriate tests to see if there is an underlying health problem.
Dogs have a way of not telling us they are in pain until a problem is more pronounced because their natural instinct is to protect themselves by not exhibiting any noticeable vulnerabilities. Therapies such as massage and low level laser (which I employ in my canine rehabilitation practice) are useful in helping to manage pain through appropriate stimulation of acupressure points and managing muscle, tendon and ligament condition. I’m also a strong supporter of acupuncture and refer clients to a local vet who is trained in veterinary acupuncture.
These complementary therapies can be employed alongside traditional pain medications such as NSAIDs to support your dog’s quality of life. When pain is managed, quality of life improves for everyone in the household.
Source: Plataforma SINC. “If your dog is aggressive, maybe it is in pain.” ScienceDaily, 13 Jun. 2012. Web. 15 Jun. 2012.
Posted in dog care, research
Tagged acupressure, aggression, Autonomous University of Spain, behavior, behaviour, Bobtail, Catalan Sheepdog, Chow Chow, Dalmatian, Doberman, dog massage, dogs, german shepherd, Giant Schnauzer, health history, hip dyplasia, Journal of Veterinary Behavior, ligament, low level laser, massage, mastiff, muscle, NSAIDs, pain, Pit Bull, research, tendon, therapies, veterinary acupuncture