FIRST SOME FACTS Osteoarthritis is a degenerative and debilitating disease which affects us humans and dogs alike. It is a complex disease, for which there is no cure, and leads to chronic pain in sufferers. Did you know that recent research estimates that over 1.2 million dogs in the UK have some form of arthritis, and that 20% of dogs over the age of 1 and a staggering 80% of dogs over the age of 8, are thought to suffer from this disease. Arthritis develops when the cartilage which protects and cushions a joint becomes damaged either due to wear and tear or as a result of an orthopaedic condition or injury. While the disease usually starts in one joint, over time it will affect the whole body, biomechanically and psychologically. It leads to inflammation, nerve irritation, bone remodelling, loss of mobility, changes in behaviour and mood, and ultimately a decline in the dog's quality of life.
Unlike humans, dogs move around on four limbs and become very adept at adapting their posture and movement patterns to minimise using a painful joint. They cope well until they have run out of options and start to visibly show the signs of pain, such as limping or yelping. According to Dr Steven Fox and Professor Daniel Mills, eminent researchers in canine arthritis and pain management :
Most canine patients do not vocalise from their pain from arthritis, and many pet owners do not believe their pet is in pain if they do not vocalise
THE GOOD NEWS
As pet guardians, we can look for the more subtle signs and changes in our dogs' behaviour which may indicate they are in discomfort. The 5 Principles of Pain from the Canine Massage Guild is an excellent resource to help us assess our dogs in this way. You can download your copy by visiting this page :The 5 Principles of Pain - Canine Massage Guild (k9-massageguild.co.uk)
Recently published research as a result of the world's first clinical trials in to the efficacy of Clinical Canine Massage in conjunction with the Canine Massage Therapy Centre and the University of Winchester showed a significant reduction in pain severity after canine massage. Clinical Canine Massage is a safe, non invasive and proven effective therapy to assist in the pain management of dogs suffering from arthritis.
HOW CAN CLINICAL CANINE MASSAGE HELP?
Reduces tension in muscles which have splinted - essentially they stiffen around the arthritic joint in order to protect it, and to minimise further use, pain and joint degradation.
Addresses areas of overcompensation which have developed due to adapted posture and movement patterns. Clinical massage helps to keep these muscles supple and reduces the risk of secondary damage or injury in these areas.
Promotes circulation of blood throughout the body sending fresh, oxygen rich blood to muscles and soft tissues, as well as removing toxins from them. This optimises muscular function and speeds up the healing process.
Reduces inflammation caused by arthritic flare ups. Inflammation is a chemical process which increases pain and pain perception and can irritate surrounding nerves and tissues, further contributing to pain levels.
Improves joint range of motion and flexibility by addressing fascial restrictions throughout the body. Fascia is the body's 3D cobweb like structure which surround and connects every single component within the body. When fascia is restricted, so too are soft tissues and muscles and they are unable to move freely and create fluid movement. Over time, this leads to tissues becoming adhered, reducing mobility and causing pain.
Addresses Trigger Points (knots) which have developed in muscle and soft tissue as a result of underuse, overuse or misuse. Trigger Points lead to muscles which cannot fully contract or relax, and the range of motion in the associated joint is compromised.
Promotes the generation of synovial fluid within the joint capsule which helps to lubricate, cushion and facilitate movement of the joint.
Improves overall mobility levels. This leads to increased activity, helping the body's metabolism and weight management. Weight gain due to inactivity puts additional pressure on already dysfunctional joints, and will lead to further damage.
Restores strength to muscles that have atrophied (lost muscle mass) as a result of prolonged underuse and inactivity
Stimulates the nervous system to release endorphins which are the body's natural pain killers and which improve overall mood and demeanour.
CASE STUDY - MILLIE
Millie is a 10 year old Labrador who has sever Osteoarthritis in both elbows and mild OA in both hips and knees. Poor Millie had run out of ways to adjust her weight and posture to make moving a bit easier for her. Her owners had thought she was just getting lazier, but were keen to see if Clinical Canine Massage could help. Millie was not keen, initially on being touched, as she was in a lot of discomfort throughout her body. Through patience and allowing her a lot of breaks during the course of her treatments, I did manage to make some breakthroughs and Millie's owners were delighted to see the difference in her mobility in the days following her massage sessions - she was less stiff, more keen to go for walks, and was more cheerful in herself. I am so pleased that Millie will be continuing with her massage treatments and look forward to helping her improve even more. We don't expect her to be climbing Ben Nevis any time soon, but even the slightest bit of relief can make a mountain of a difference to the dog's quality of life. Improving your dog's mobility creates a happier, more active dog. The human-canine bond is strengthened as you can enjoy doing activities together again, and after all, as dog guardians, we all want our dogs to take part in our family's lives.