Case study: Molly
When I first met Molly she was 10 years old. She had been slowing down on walks, and her owners had noticed she sometimes had a slight limp. Molly’s vet diagnosed osteoarthritis, usually just called arthritis. In Molly’s case the affected joints were identified as her left shoulder and her right elbow – it can be very difficult to spot lameness when a dog is sore in more than one leg.
Although arthritis is a disease of the bones and joints, massage and other bodywork helps in many ways. The most important thing is to break the pain-spasm-pain cycle that can occur as the body protectively tightens muscles around aching joints, and the whole body is braced to avoid painful movement. Muscle tightening or protective splinting can lead to changes in posture and gait, reduced mobility, and becomes painful in itself, as the large muscles that move the limbs are not designed to cope with being held continually in one position.
Molly is a very gentle rescue dog, who initially found massage to be a bewildering concept, and a little bit scary. Fortunately I have extensive experience with training worried rescue dogs, and using desensitisation and counterconditioning (= lots of treats) over many short sessions Molly gradually relaxed and learned to trust me. The first day I got an enthusiastic high five from Molly will always stay in my memory! At the same time, I would get wonderful text updates like this:
“Molly back in playful staffie mode… full of bounce and mischief!”
Molly and I still have an ongoing dialogue, and if she asks for a break during a session then, of course, she gets one. Over time (and with the aid of more sausages) she has learnt not to be afraid of electrotherapy equipment, and now benefits from PMFT (pulsed magnetic field therapy), red LED light, and infrared LASER.
“Molly was very lively on her morning walk and seems to have shed 10 years overnight!”
The best results for the wellbeing of arthritic animals are achieved with a multi-modal management plan which may include prescription painkillers, complementary therapies, and adjustments to exercise or environment. Molly is now nearly 12 years old, and has regular maintenance treatments to keep her supple, mobile and comfortable.
“The difference with Molly has been outstanding and it’s such a pleasure to see her enjoying walks again, chasing after squirrels. My husband and I are thinking of having the same treatment ourselves to cope with having a puppy again!”