Victor is a big handsome chap who certainly stole my heart. As an animal therapist, it is never easy seeing any animal in discomfort, but there was something about Victor that really broke my heart in two. 

Victor’s vet report

Having started life on the streets of Romania, now should have been his time to live a full and happy life, but sadly this wasn’t the case. Victor was suffering from a variety of issues including, but not exclusively: 

  • Osteochondritis dissecans or OCD (an inflammatory condition that occurs when diseased cartilage separates from the underlying bone) in all four limbs
  • Rupture of the cruciate in his left hindlimb 
  • Left forelimb had a distorted humeral head ~ caused by a previous bone infection which had been treated, but no surgery options to correct
  • Early stages of either Polyarthritis or Rheumatoid arthritis 
  • Panosteitis (manifests with sudden, unexplained pain and lameness that may shift from leg to leg)
  • Potential autoimmune disease, resulting in collagen deficiency 

So much pain

Looking at this overview, the first thing that came to mind is where do I even begin? We have a dog that is in a serious amount of pain and this cacophony of issues will be causing such chaos across his body. Not just with the individual pain of these conditions but with compensatory tension and we can’t forget the toll long term pain has on emotional well being either. Victor had upcoming ACL surgery (to repair his cruciate ligament) and was receiving plasma therapy in both shoulders and elbows. My first port of call was to try to get pain levels under control. 

Massage begins – getting to know Victor

First massage sessions are those “getting to know you” sessions, allowing the dog to have a good sniff around, feel my relaxed energy and then if we’re all good, we can get started. As soon as I got my hands on Victor I could feel the heat radiating from his sore and tense muscles, running down his spine and into every limb. I could see the look in his eyes, he was hypersensitive to touch and, afterall, at this point I was still a stranger.

We went at a very slow and steady pace mainly focusing on relaxation. I would have loved to jump in and start digging around to find the root cause of tension, but that’s not how it works. When we have a massage, we can say, “Oh that’s sore.”…… Dogs have 42 sharp teeth that tell us if something hurts! I can’t explain to a dog “This may be uncomfortable, but you will feel better for it.” We have to build a trusting relationship over time. 

Relaxation massages gave me the chance to have a gentle feel over Victor’s body and have a conversation with his mum, Estelle, about his lifestyle and learn some more about this lovely boy’s story. As a therapist, it’s important for me to understand the whole picture. We have the clinical history from the vet, but owners know their dogs better than any professionals so listening to Victor’s story can provide invaluable snippets of information.

Photizo red light therapy (see here for more information) is utilised in nearly all of my sessions so this was a great way to provide non-intrusive pain relief whilst working gently on Victor to gradually release tension and ease compensatory pain. We started to build up the strength in Victor’s hindlegs to support his upcoming ACL surgery.

Rehabilitation after surgery

Victor’s ACL surgery was followed by a carefully laid out plan of rehab and strengthening. You can only do rehab once ~ the early stages are vital to secure the longevity of the tendon with a 12 week healing period which can easily be delayed through reinjury. Not only are these initial sessions important, but also owner involvement is paramount in recovery. Anyone who has been to my clinic sessions will know how much homework I hand out! Some of the work given to Estelle under my guidance included: 

  • Light/ medium effleurage all over the body, being mindful of avoiding any pressure on bones 
  • Light/ medium tapotement over muscle rich areas ~ only light pressure on the left hindlimb and forelimb 
  • Small mobilisation work to be done on digits, nothing further up the limbs due to OCD

……..building up to firmer pressure and a wider range of techniques over the following weeks. The idea was that we could rehab Victor together and then his mum would have the tools needed to do daily work with Victor when he was eventually signed off from weekly treatment.

Victor went from strength to strength each week ~ he had daily massage, raw food, restricted exercise, natural supplements and conventional pain relief.  

Gaining strength

Through the release of compensatory tension leading up to Victors surgery and then on to his rehab, we were able to control Victor’s pain levels so that we could then begin strengthening exercises. He now is fully recovered from his surgery and lives a happy full life. His mum is still mindful of his other conditions and is able to manage them well with input from myself when needed. 

Victor makes me burst with pride in the progress he has made and these videos speak for themselves and his recovery journey. 

“He has the sparkle in his eyes back”

Victors mum Estelle says, 

“We knew Victor had a number of orthopaedic issues, but seeing his overall decline following the ACL rupture we knew we had to do more than just surgery. That’s where Yaz came in! Our charity ‘Lucky’s Legacy Rescue’ had used Yaz previously with great results and after speaking to her, I knew she could help Victor too! The woman is magic! Victor took to her immediately and you could actually see him decompress in the sessions. When we heard the relaxing sighs and, at times, snoring, I knew this was helping him not just physically but emotionally. I stuck to the homework as Yaz explained just how important the care in between was. Victor would pull to go into his massage sessions with Yaz! As the weeks passed, the improvements came. He was not only gaining strength in areas he hadn’t before but he had the sparkle in his eyes back! Without Yaz and massage, Victor wouldn’t be where he is today. Thank you for helping to give us our special boy back.” 

Please note before any work is undertaken by any therapist, they must gain Veterinary consent.

Estelle has kindly given permission for Victor’s story to be shared as an educational tool on the benefits of Canine Massage. 

Yasmine Porritt

Yasmin runs Yorkshire Pooches Therapies from her clinic in Castleford in West Yorkshire. She combines a passion for musculoskeletal health, species-appropriate nutrition, canine behaviour and all things natural, to create a holistic canine service. Yasmin specialises in pain management (particularly that associated with degenerative diseases), working gun dogs and Romanian rescue dogs. Yorkshire Pooches Therapies is a member of the Association of Merishia Therapists and the International Association of Animal Therapists (IAAT)

After successfully running her own dog-walking business for years and wanting to challenge herself further, Yasmin trained as a Canine Merishia Massage Therapist. Throughout the year-long training at Rose Holistic Therapies, Yasmin studied in-depth Merishia massage techniques, joint mobilisation, canine anatomy and diseases/injuries affecting movement. 

Along with her Canine Merisha Massage qualification, Yasmin is also qualified in Canine First Aid, Dog Care, Dorwest Herbs and a diploma in Canine Communication. Yasmin also holds a BA(Hons) Degree and Post Graduate Diploma in Performance Practice, obtained from York St John University.

Yaz has three dogs of her own, siblings Lily and Rodney and Peggy her Romanian Rescue Dog. Also in the gang are Nancy and Patty the Guinea Pigs, Mitzi and Pan the Ferrets and Charlie the rescue Cockatiel. Not forgetting Yasmin’s forever patient husband Adam

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

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