Veterinary physiotherapist, Harriet Kitcat, specialises in holistic hands-on treatments at her practice PhysioMyDog based in Frome, Somerset. Treating every dog as an individual Harriet tailors treatments combining Acupressure, Canine Massage, Myofacial release or Reiki and integrates Photizo Vetcare therapeutic devices where appropriate. This blog looks at the effect of phototherapy and massage on the heart rate and passive range of motion of canines with osteoarthritis in the elbow joint.

Jenson the dog inspires a career change to Veterinary Animal Physiotherapist

Her inspiration to change careers, study with The College of Animal Physiotherapy (TCAP) was after her own dog, a Golden Retriever named Jenson, needed rehabilitation after a TPLO (Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy) surgery for a partial tear of his cruciate ligament.

Harriet explained: “ Back then with Jenson I was a regular dog owner who wanted to do the best for my dog. I noticed how much Jenson benefitted from our prescribed physiotherapy and hydrotherapy sessions post surgery. His overall demeanour changed, lameness became more subtle, his back less roached, and he generally moved with more ease. This observation coupled with my thirst for knowledge inspired me to learn more. I became a Canine Massage Therapist to help Jenson, which led to becoming a qualified Veterinary Animal Physiotherapist.”

Jenson – the inspiration

Sadly Jenson passed away aged five, but he left a legacy. And Harriet is determined to spread awareness about Osteoarthritis and how a combination of factors from lifestyle, diet and weight contribute to this debilitating condition.

Integrating Photizo results in a calming effect

When integrating Photizo Vetcare as a complementary tool into Harriet’s hands-on treatments, apart from noticing that she can work deeper into affected areas, Harriet has also noticed a dramatic calming effect using the device.

She explained: “It’s almost as though one of the side effects of Photizo is its ability to relax often the most hesitant client. I was intrigued by this consistent effect that helps initially in treatment as an icebreaker.  This led me to conduct a research project for a deeper understanding of how by combining therapeutic equipment and massage can influence conservative management of Osteoarthritis in the elbow in dogs, both physically and psychologically.”

The objective of this study was to investigate the impact of therapeutic massage when combined with Photizo Vetcare’s LED sourced red and near-infrared light therapy on dogs diagnosed with elbow Osteoarthritis.

By measuring the dogs’ elbow passive range of motion and the dogs’ wellbeing as measured by their heart rates, and how the dogs’ movement improved.

Undertaking a study of dogs with osteoarthritis in the elbow

Harriet’s study focussed on three Labradors and three Golden Retrievers all over two years old, weighing between 20-40kg.

Every dog and owner participated under veterinary consent having been diagnosed with Osteoarthritis in the elbow.

Some cases were not on any medication, whilst others had been taking pain relief for two months or more. Importantly every dog maintained its normal diet and routine during the research period. Exercise was prohibited an hour prior to the treatment sessions, and Harriet ensured that the environment for treatment remained the same for each dog.

The dogs were divided into two groups and each dog benefitted from three sessions lasting around an hour, spaced seven days apart.

Group One began with combined Photizo Phototherapy and Massage, whilst Group Two used Photizo Phototherapy only.

The three sessions were distinctly recorded and comprised: Session One- measurements only; Session Two- Photizo Phototherapy and Massage or Phototherapy only; Session three – both groups had Massage only.

Before and after each treatment session details of the individual’s heart rate and passive range of motion (elbow extension and flexion) were recorded.

Additionally, owners completed daily questionnaires to grade how their dogs were moving and feeling back in their home environment.


The results were very interesting. Each dog showed improvement but the Massage Only sessions showed a bigger reduction in heart rate, The Massage and Phototherapy combined sessions revealed greater improvements in the passive range of motion, and improved movement.

Whilst both groups saw a larger reduction in heart rate from massage only sessions, there was also a significant reduction from both the combined Photizo Vetcare and massage session, and the Vetcare only sessions.

Harriet explained: “I was so happy to see how every single dog benefitted from the sessions and some of the results were amazing. Some dogs saw over 30% improvements in their range of motion and reduction of heart rate of up to 25%. Looking at the individual results some preferred and benefitted from massage only and others improved more from the combined use of Photo and massage. It was interesting to see individual results as overall patterns.

An improvement in wellbeing

From a wellbeing perspective the owners reported great improvements, which was heart warming. They were asked to grade their dogs before and after sessions and all of them noticed positive changes in their dogs’ movement and behaviour. Typically, the dogs were more playful and being more energetic and sleeping less. The owners were happier and so were the dogs! Whilst this is a small-scale study, it certainly underlines the power of massage and Photizo applying red & near-infrared light working to combat osteoarthritis.”

For complete details of this study, please visit PhysioMyDog.

We are extremely grateful to Harriet for sharing the results of this amazing work to help educate the pet owners and fellow practitioners of the potential benefits when integrating Phototherapy into any manual therapy practice.

This blog originally appeared as a case study on the Photizo website and is reproduced with kind permission from Photizo and Harriet of PhysioMyDog. More information and examples of Photizo use can be found elsewhere on our website.

Photizo Vetcare Handset special offer

Photizo have very generously given CAM4animals supporters a special offer of £25 off their Vetcare handset. Please use CAM4animals25 as your special discount code. When you do, they will also make a donation to CAM4animals for each handset sold using this code. You can see the sort of things this donation will be spent on here, and find out how to support us in other ways.

We’d like to thank Photizo for this special offer.

Harriet Kitcat is based in Frome, Somerset and has a  gorgeous rescue Golden Retriever, Baxter. She has always been a huge animal lover, growing up with dogs and puppy walking for Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Her first dog,  Jenson, was the motivation to start PhysioMy.Dog and he, along with Baxter, inspire Harriet every day to help dogs move and feel better.  Jenson crossed the rainbow bridge too soon aged only 5 years old, but what a legacy he left, changing Harriet’s life and career forever.  

Harriet is a big believer that more than one therapy can help and so takes a holistic approach.  During each treatment, she will incorporate the most appropriate therapies, personalising each session and treatment plan to suits the dog’s individual needs. This might include Acupressure, Canine Massage, Myofacial Release or Reiki, as well as integrating Photizo Vetcare where appropriate.

Harriet is passionate about empowering owners to learn more about the numerous things they can do themselves to help their dog.  She will talk owners through this during treatment sessions and has also created some online learning content that owners can implement.

Disclaimer – Where blogs have been created by a guest author, CAM4Animals has reproduced this in good faith but cannot be held responsible for any inaccuracies of information in it or any use you make of this information

This blog may also contain an element of consumer opinionWhilst CAM4animals welcomes positive recommendations for holistic healthcare products, we don’t necessarily endorse the product or the author’s opinion. We acknowledge that each animal is an individual and may react differently to the highlighted product/s. There may also be other products available that produce similarly positive results.

The veterinary Surgeon’s Act 1966 restricts the treatment of animals (usually other than your own*) by anyone other than a qualified vet. Always consult a veterinary surgeon if you are concerned about your animal’s health. *For full details visit the RCVS website