This is why I can relate to my canine massage therapy patients

Every week, during my canine massage clinics, I meet dogs with pain, dog with orthopaedic & neurological conditions, elderly dogs.  And one word can summaries why I relate so closely to them and their owners:  MEHWI (MAIS OUI), my “little” pup who was supposed to become my next agility dog and my first trial herding dog but took me instead on a totally different route and experience.

Mehwi at 14 months was diagnosed with severe hip dysplasia and needed replacement for both hips. Due to some complication during the recovery period for the first hip he ended up spending over 6 months of his life cage rested, that was nearly a third of his life.

Mehwi had his first 10-minute walk away from home exactly a year ago today, he was overwhelmed, look at the video at the end of this post, it shows it all, his first walk, his gait after his first and second operation, it was a scary time for me. It took Mehwi a year after that first walk to build enough muscle strength to be able to run freely at home. Still Mehwi has not played with other dogs since, he has not been yet for long free walks, he has only seen the top of a Scottish hill once.  It has been a lengthy process and it has been quite painful psychologically for me as his owner. There have been scary moments, moments when I questioned my decisions, moment when I blamed myself for letting him do too much, moments of impatience as he was not progressing fast enough, moments when I have been dishearten, frustrated.

And our “adventure”, if we can call it an adventure, is not over as  Mehwi is now back to short lead walks for a few weeks as we are trying stem cells therapy to help him with another orthopaedic condition: elbow dysplasia – I am crossing fingers that this will work and I can only thank the team at Aberdeen Veterinary Referrals, especially Scott Rigg, for helping me to try to offer pain free life to my pup.

I have definitely learnt a great deal with Mehwi, and I am still learning. Rehabilitation can take a LONG time, and when I write LONG, I mean LONG time, much longer than I would have expected. It’s not a linear process either, it can be such a roller coaster. So yes,  I relate to every single of my patients and to their owners too because I am also living their experience.  On a more positive line, I definitely believe that Mehwi has made me a better canine massage therapist and a better animal physiotherapist to be.

These are below a few tips I have learnt with Mehwi:

1 – Get your dog insured with a good insurance company: what happened to me could happen to any of you and this is such a relief to know that you can provide your pet with all the treatments he/she may need without having to worry about the cost.

2 – If you feel something is wrong with your pup or dog, trust your instinct go to see your vet and ask, if required, to be referred to a specialist. This has happened multiple time in my life and every time I was right.

3 – Physiotherapists, masseuses, chiropractors, osteopaths are not supposed to diagnosed, you should involve your vet and a specialist if needed.

4 – Try to work with a vet you trust, if you are in a practice with multiple vets, there is nothing stopping you to “choose” to deal with one of them only. Working with a vet who knows your dog can make so much difference and don’t be afraid to ask your vet to refer you to a specialist, you don’t have to wait for him/her to do so.

6 – Take charge of the rehabilitation process, ask questions, make sure you understand what you are explained, make sure you are comfortable with your dog’s rehabilitation team. Work with professionals who understand the subject, don’t be afraid to “build” a multidisciplinary team around your pet with individuals who are willing to communicate with each others.

7 – Canine Massage Therapy can be a powerful tool to help dogs with orthopaedic conditions and post-operative recovery both in term of pain management and rehabilitation.

8 – Be patient, very patient, we are never patient enough when it comes to rehabilitation post surgery.

Team Scotland Understand the Importance of Taking Their Guild Canine Massage Therapist To The World Agility Open

Canine Pawsibilities and Agility Team Scotland feature this week in the Canine massage guild blog!

If you are interested to understand how warm up and cool down massages can benefit your agility dogs or any canine athlete, this blog is for you! Check it out on the Canine Massage Guild blog page:

Team Scotland Understand the Importance of Taking Their Guild Massage Therapist To The World Agility Open

And to set the atmosphere, I also have summarised the experience in in a slightly more lively manner:




World Agility Open, go on Agility Team Scotland!

In 2012 Manouk and me were lucky to be part of the very first Agility Team Scotland that went to represent Scotland at the World Agility Open Championship. This year I will be returning to the event as the Canine Therapist for Team Scottish.

Last Sunday was the last team training. I thought it would feel extremely strange not to be there as a competitor and of course it was a little, but to be honest I just love my role in the team. It’s so much fun and so much challenge to take care of all the canine athletes!

I spent most of the training afternoon getting to know the Agility Team Scotland canine athletes before the big event in May and performed some pre-event warm up massages and muscular health checks. My aim was to earn the trust of the dogs I barely had time to actually watch any of the runs!

I also hope the team members will take back home my advice concerning warm up and cool down for their team mate and will spend a little bit of time developing a tailored routine. It is an aspect of the heath, performance and well-being of the canine athlete that is too often ignoredin agility.

I am so excited and can’t wait now for the event, less than two months to wait now! Go on Agility Team Scotland, let’s go and win some medals!

And I forgot to say….I was so proud of little Kelsy, I have been treating her now for a few months and she was absolutely flying!

Photos courtesy of Fiona Flood

Introducing Canine Massage Therapy to the veterinary community

On Wednesday 17th of February, I had my first opportunity to raise the awareness about the value of Canine Massage Therapy and the Canine Massage Guild to the veterinary community of the North East of Scotland.

It was also a great opportunity to discuss how beneficial a multi-disciplinary approach can be for the rehabilitation of a canine patient. The presentation was split in two main subjects: Hydrotherapy, presented by Sarah Wilson and Clinical Canine Massage Therapy, presented by myself.

The presentation was held at Aberdeen Veterinary Referral and was fully booked. I am delighted by the very positive feedback we had after the presentation and I am hoping to continue to improve the awareness of Canine Massage Therapy to the veterinary community of the NE of Scotland.

I would to take the opportunity to thank Sandra Wilson (K9 Health Centre)  for her trust by inviting me to share her presentation and AVR for giving us such an opportunity.

Less than 18 months in practice and already nominated for the Petplan award!

It’s been an amazing year setting up my Canine Massage Therapy Clinic, with some scary moment too!

My confidence builders have been two of my canine massage guild colleagues, namely Natalie Lenton, course director of the Canine Massage Therapy Centre and Chairman of the canine massage guild and Emma Overend, instructor in Canine Touch and McTimoney Animal therapist.

And of course Scott Rigg from Aberdeen Veterinary Referrals who is kindly mentoring me in my next project: becoming an small animal physiotherapist. Scott has also authorised me to use sometimes one of the room at the practice when some of our common clients may not be able to drive up to Huntly for their Canine Massage Therapy treatments.  But just to clarify I am not technically a member of staff of the practice!

I can’t even explain how nice if feel to be nominated for such an award especially after just under 18 months of practice in Canine Massage it means a lot to realise how appreciated I am by the people and owners of dogs that I am trying to help. I guess this nomination set the standard high for my few coming years of practice! Thank you so much for your support Jeri!

Canine Sport Medicine course: conditioning and rehabilitation of the canine athlete

Today is a good day: I just found out the I passed the exam for the canine sport medecin course with a 99% Mark, hurray!

As some of you already know I went to Zurich at Bessy’s Kleintierklinik last month for a 3 day intensive course about Canine Sport Medicine taught by Chris Zink.

This was an amazing opportunity for me as the course, developed by the Canine Rehabilitation Institute (USA), is mainly held in the USA and is only opened to veterinarians, veterinary technicians and physical therapists. It was definitely a steep learning curve!

The group included 83% of veterinarian surgeons with 4 orthopaedic specialists and some veterinarian specialised in animal rehabilitation, most of the last 15% were physical therapists who specialised in animal therapy. It was a truly European course with people from Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Germany, Denmark, England and Scotland.

The course, aimed to provide us with a fundamental understanding of anatomical structure and locomotion and how they relate to performance and potential injuries was quite intensive. We covered in depth the main sport injuries of the canine athletes in all disciplines, including their causes, the main diagnostic procedures, their prevention via conditioning program and post injury targeted rehabilitation. The course also included the safe introduction to canine sport for young dogs.

The role that psychology can play in the rehabilitation was also discussed as well as the nutrition and supplements.

We had some very interesting discussion on the subject of diagnostic and rehabilitation with the participation of all the experts in the room describing their own approach during the practical sessions.

Chris Zink was definitely a brilliant instructor, extremely knowledgeable with a thorough science based approach that I really appreciated and she is very entertaining too!

Finally it was a very good opportunity for me to network with some like-minded professional with whom I am hoping to keep contact and maybe meet again in the future.

I would like to finish by thanking Chris for the course and Rico Vannini, Owner of Bessy’s Kleintierklinik for the organisation and welcoming us all to his clinic.

There is always so much to learn in canine massage therapy

As a member of the Canine Massage Guild I am required to follow a certain number of days of continuous development program. This is an easy commitment for me as I love learning and I believe that however good or skilled someone is in a subjet, there is always more to learn and share with others. Someone lately described me as a “sponge” (!)…I still wonder if this was actually a compliment or not!

So two weeks ago I was back “down South” to Worcester for my second week of CPD for this year were I followed 4 days of advanced massage techniques and I loved the whole of it!

The two first days was all about release techniques for the ventral aspect of the dogs. To clarify, the ventral aspect means the area of the throat, pectoral, abdominal and ventral side of the hind legs of the dogs. These areas can easily be overlooked and some can be difficult to access, but when massaged with the right techniques by a knowledgeable person, it can bring tremendous relief to some dogs. The course was instructed by Natalie Lenton from the canine massage therapy centre who again blew me away, she can definitely make anatomy and massage come to life!

Mehwi acting as super model for Natalie

The second Course was two days of Canine Touch, with Emma Overend as instructor, from PawDimensions. The Canine Touch technique is a gentle bodywork designed to address the dog’s soft tissue with series of small moves set into specific procedures. There are so many way these moves can be incorporated into a massage therapy session.

Mehwi acting as super model for Emma

And I am not the only one who benefited from the week: Manouk and Mehwi were with me, acting as practice dogs and they loved it too! Look at them waiting eagerly for their turn! In fact, and I suspect you have already noticed with my two first photos, Mehwi ended up becoming the superstar model for both Natalie and Emma. This was a fabulous opportunity for him as he was just 3 week post operation for his elbow.

These techniques are of huge benefits for any dogs I will be treating in the future, in fact I started applying some as soon as I came back from my trip. I already wonder how I managed to live without them before!

These four days are just a small subset of my development program, I am currently studying to become an animal physiotherapist, I followed a 3 days classes on canine sport medicine in Zurich earlier this year and there are more to come before the next year, but this will be some another blog posts!

Just a few more photos for you to enjoy, I know I am no way as good as Iain to take photos, sorry!

Orthopeadic conditions in agility dogs

The talk from Scott Rigg about the most common orthopeadic conditions found in the agility dog finally took place on Friday 25/09 at Aberdeen Veterinary Referrals in front of a full house: it was apparently the highest attendance the clinic ever had for a talk and it was definitly a very motivated crowd.

On behalf of everyone who attended the presentation, I would like to take the opportunity to thank Scott and his team for their warm welcome at the clinic and for Scott’s willingness to spend time educating us about the subject. So many people mentioned how positively suprised they were by the high quality of the talk and how instructive the presentation was.

I would also like to thank AVR team for accepting to use the event for fund raising for the Oldies club, which is the charity the Canine Massage Guild is currently supporting, and for all the participants for their generous donation. I currently do not know how much we raised as the collecting tin will stay at AVR for a couple of more weeks.

Finally I would like to invite those who were present at the talk and would be interested by a follow up talk or / and workshop on a canine athlete conditionning to get in touch with me via CANINE Pawsibilties website.



Sheep Herding with Derek Scrimgeour

Well that’s is, the annual 4-day sheep herding clinic at CANINE Pawsibilities with Derek Scrimgeour is officially over and was as fun and instructive as usual!

When we started this clinic with Derek 6 year ago, we struggled to find 6 dogs and handler pairs to participate, this year there was 14 lucky border collies! This success is definitely the results of Derek’s passion, patience and enthusiasm to teach all of us, whatever our experience and background are, beginners, triallers, agilitists and farmers alike.

The clinic is a little bit of a family gathering including, Mehwi’s mum Lyn and Mehwi’s dad, Manouk, Mehwi’s brother Fionn, Mehwi’s half-brother Mozzie (Mehwi even met is young half-sister Ninja but she was too young to play with the sheep), Mehwi’s cousins Denny, Blue, Rosie and all his other friends!

Obviously no need to say that we have booked Derek for next year already and I hope that Mehwi and Ninja will be able to participate this time!

A subset of the photos taken by Iain on Sunday are posted below and if you really like herding action shots, another subset can be seen on Iain’s website.  For the participants, Iain took over 500 fabulous photos so next time you come to see us if you bring a usb stick and talk nicely to him, I am sure he will give you a copy of all the photos.


The walk I never want to forget

After 3 major operations, after being around 10 times under anesthesia (I stopped counting after a while) and endless hours…weeks…months… of cage rest, Mehwi has finally been allowed his first walk on Tuesday 7th of July. A day I don’t think I will ever forget!

Mehwi was diagnosed with severe hip dysplasia at 14 months and had had both hips replaced a 4 months procedure which took 6 months due to some complication after the first surgery.

For those who take for granted a game of tug, a walk in the wood or just having your dog free in the house: remember that you are lucky!  It was so nice yesterday having him lying at my feet, going to be fed with the rest of the pack, watching him trying to play with Midge or just sitting his chin on my knee…I missed it so much!

The difficult part now is to take it easy and develop a rehabilitation program to get him back to what every young dog should be doing. It is going to be a new challenge, a new learning curve. I am looking forward to our first dog show and our first sheep herding day! Watch this space!