We want our dogs to live healthy, long lives
And canine massage therapy is one of many treatments that can help.
There’s been some controversy after Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield got a fit of the giggles while watching a doggy massage on This Morning.
Massage therapist Lizzie Benge was demonstrating the technique with hosts Holly, 37, and Phil, 56, when Derek, the Shih Zhu Holly was treating, rolled on his back for a tummy rub.
Phil quipped: “It’s not that kind of establishment,” leaving Holly in hysterics.
The pair have come under fire for trivialising massage which can help dogs recover from surgery and ease serious conditions like arthritis and soft tissue injuries.
I know this as it's a treatment I had for Daisy
This time last year, she began having massages with Charlotte Highland who runs The Canine Friend Clinical Massage.
Daisy was 13 and on medication for arthritis and it was when I spoke to Hannah Capon on her tips on caring for dogs with arthritis that I learned massage might help.
Around the same time, her vet said she noticed some soreness in her back so I went on the Canine Massage Guild website and found Charlotte.
Charlotte, 30, from Great Sankey in Warrington, trained for two years with Natalie Lenton at the Canine Massage Therapy Centre.
An animal lover and dog mum to Husky Kiska, Charlotte is also a dog walker and practices Reiki on animals, meaning they naturally feel at ease around her.
Charlotte and her Husky Kiska
Charlotte asked for a referral form to be filled out by Daisy’s vet and then we booked her first session
She came to my house and started with a consultation where she asked lots of questions about Daisy including her activity levels, sleep patterns, medical history and overall mobility.
When I first adopted Daisy, she had surgery on a luxating patella on her back leg.
This is a painful condition where her knee cap dislocated out of her knee joint and is common in terriers.
The operation pinned her knee cap in place, and a few years later she became lame again and needed further surgery to change the pins.
Later, she was diagnosed with arthritis and given supplements and treatment for pain management, but as she got older, I looked for complementary treatment too.
Hydrotherapy was suggested but Daisy hated water so I decided to opt for massage instead - it seemed like a gentle treatment and I could gauge her reaction.
Charlotte and Daisy during the treatment
Charlotte explained how massage would help Daisy
She said: “Massage enhances circulation and blood flow to the heart and increases the range of motion in the joints so for conditions like Daisy’s arthritis it really can help.
“Daisy has had surgery on her knee, and often, when there is pain in one area, the dog will use the muscles there to overcompensate for the joint not working properly.
“The fascia, which is a band of skin supporting the muscles, becomes tight and that causes pain all over the body which is why Daisy has soreness in her back.
“So the aim is to release the fascia that has become tight in her leg and, once this happens, the muscles can slide and glide properly and the pain is relieved.”
Massage is a really gentle treatment and Charlotte spent a lot of time ensuring Daisy was comfortable and relaxed.
Just as with a human massage, aromatherapy can help
Charlotte has a special doggy blend which she sprays before treatment. Daisy also had Dorwest Valerian drops to help her relax.
The actual massage is really similar to the ones I’ve had at a spa.
For larger dogs, Charlotte has a plinth but, as Daisy was small, she treated her on a soft rug on the floor.
At first, Daisy was a little confused and fidgety but soon was cuddling up to Charlotte and wagging her tail.
A mix of Swedish, deep tissue, sports and myofascial release techniques (this releases contracted muscles) are used all over the dog’s body.
I could see she enjoyed some areas, like the shoulder and neck, and the parts where she had tension were treated very gently.
Charlotte said: “Combining the different techniques means massage is relaxing and enjoyable.
“I’m able to work on the trigger points, which are irritable spots in the belly of the muscle that refer pain to other parts of the body.
“Daisy has trigger points down her back so I work directly with those to switch off the pain signals.
“With massage, you try to release muscles and make space in the body rather than muscles being tight and so the body can move in the way that it’s meant to.”
Healing hands - Charlotte and Daisy
Charlotte helps pups of all shapes and sizes from tiny Chihuahuas to giant Great Danes
She's one of only 120 therapists in the country.
Massage is used for orthopaedic issues like arthritis, luxating patella, hip dysplasia, to increase their dogs performance, or just simply being the dog enjoys it.
It has physiological benefits, helping with pain management and movement and allows dogs to relax, bringing behavioural benefits too.
So does it work?
Daisy had a course of four weekly sessions - sadly her health deteriorated very quickly and we lost her shortly after working with Charlotte.
I know she enjoyed her sessions from her waggy tail when Charlotte would come to our house.
She'd lean into her as soon as she sat down on the floor with her too, which is like the doggy version of giving someone a hug.
The massages reduced her stiffness, put a spring in her step and after her sessions she slept like a baby.
As she was in her Golden years, keeping her healthy and pain free was so important - something you can’t put a price on.
Charlotte was so lovely and gentle with her and I am so grateful she was there to help Daisy feel more comfortable when she really needed it.
Relaxed Daisy after her canine massage
So, Holly and Phil’s scoffing aside, I hope I’ve demonstrated how massage really CAN help our pets
You can find out lots more information about it on the Canine Massage Guild website if you click here.
Charlotte’s sessions start from £35. To contact her on her Facebook page click here or e mail her at Thecaninefriend@gmail.com