Cardiff Canine Massage
It's Your Dogs Life
I am a professional canine massage and exercise practitioner based in Cardiff, with a special interest in canine arthritis management. I cater for all dogs and ages and work from the security and comfort of your dogs home environment.
My ethics are fear and force free, working with the dogs consent.
As a professional practitioner I need to seek approval from your veterinarian prior to massage. Massage is a form of physiotherapy and therefore fall under the Veterinary Act 1966.
I also train dogs for core stability for improved posture and harmony of movement. Want to know more please do get in touch, see button below.
Canine Massage is an affordable treatment that not only helps dogs and their owners through recovery, recuperation, and rehabilitation, it can also be used in preventative healthcare; helping dogs to maintain a happy and healthy life. You may also be able to claim cost back via your insurance policy - but please check with them.
Limping or Lameness
Stiff getting up after rest or activity
Struggling to get in and out of the car
Sitting down tentatively
Favours one leg out to the side in sit
Prefers to lay on one side
Tires easily on a walk
A change in their gait/walking pattern
A change in their posture
Not wanting to play
Aging before their time
A change in behaviour
Not wanting to be touched or stroked
Skin or and muscle twitches
Pre and post operative care
Pre and Post Sports Competition
What is Canine Merishia Massage
Force Free & Fear Free
Canine Merishia Massage incorporates applied behaviour with Swedish Massage, Deep Tissue Massage, Fascia Release, Stretches and Mobilisations for the neck, back, trunk and limbs. This top to toe approach treats the animal as an individual, working with them to apply the most effective combination of techniques, and provides additional education in maintenance care for the owner. Force Free and Fear Free with the dog’s consent.
Hands On Therapy
Manual therapies like Merishia Massage are understood through evidence-based research and observation to benefit our animals’ bodies in many ways. Merishia Massage can complement veterinary treatment in recovery from injury or operations, help with pain reduction and improved freedom of movement for animals with joint conditions, aid in overall performance, and can ease tension associated with emotional stress. The knock-on effects can be far reaching, facilitating a parasympathetic response, and potentially enhancing other physiological functions in the body.
Dogs have different behavioural patterns, but these are no less important. Frequently, dogs will lie down on the same side every time, or sit to one side, they may consistently get up when told to “sit stay” or “down stay”, they may run with their hindend carried to one side or appear stiff and uncomfortable either after exercise or after rest. Once again, where disease and lameness have been ruled out as the cause, muscle spasm and soreness lead to restricted movement and these “behaviours” which do not resolve.
Chronic Pain Management
Clinical Canine Massage Therapy is suitable for soft tissue injury rehabilitation and for the chronic pain management of orthopaedic conditions as well as pre- and post-operative care. It is commonly used amongst sporting, performance, and agility competitors too.
STAMP & Royal Veterinary College
The Association of Merishia Massage Therapists (of which I am a full member) work in conjunction with Veterinarians: they are a stakeholder of the Sports Therapy and Massage Practitioner’s group STAMP. STAMP is one of the three major animal therapy groups who are meeting with Royal Veterinary College representatives to ensure that standards are acceptable and integrative in conjunction with veterinary care, and that we are working in line with the Veterinary Act and the Exemptions Order (2015). Cardiff Canine Massage ensures continuity of client care by providing a written report back to the surgery upon completion of a client’s initial sessions on request, and comply with GDPR Compliance 2018 and the Data Protection Act 1998.
What Can Massage Help With?
This list is not exhaustive
Scientific studies report evidence to support beneficial effects from massage therapy for orthopaedic conditions and pain relief. Massage therapy improves the feel-good hormones dopamine and serotonin and decreases the stress hormone noradrenaline. Therefore also reducing stress and anxiety. A 2018 massage study of gait, posture, activity, behaviour, and performance of 527 dogs was carried out resulting in significant reductions in pain including chronic pain, reduction in stiffness, increased activity, and improved quality of life. The study concluded that massage therapy as a treatment is extremely beneficial for myofascial and musculoskeletal conditions such as OA, other orthopaedic conditions, and muscular injuries.
Sore Muscles & Trigger Points
Tender, painful knotty nodules, tight bands of muscle tissue which restrict range of motion and affect quality of life. Caused by repetitive motion, injury, sudden over stretching and overuse, postural changes, long crate rest. Symptoms include, chronic pain, self-mutilation (not necessary in area of pain), muscle twitching, coat changes in specific area, worsening of orthopaedic conditions, stiffness, decrease in mobility, muscle weakness, fatigue, slowing down, premature aging, lack of proprioception and changes in behaviour (miserable, doesn’t like being handled). Left untreated will result in permanent changes in muscle tissue. Can mimic OA. Frictional massage will reduce/resolve symptoms linked to TP’s.
Note * trigger point is often resistant to NSAIDs. Trigger point release is very good for dogs that are intolerant to NSAIDs.
Dysplasia means abnormal development. It Is a genetic disorder caused by the combination of genes from the dog's parents, especial larger dogs. The femur bone does not sit properly in the pelvis socket. Poorly developed muscles result. The Symptoms include weakness and pain in hind legs, bunny hopping, stiffness, difficulty getting up and lying down and joint laxity. Muscle loss. Altered gait - standing with front legs wide apart, and hind legs close together. Reluctant to go on walks. Lethargy. Weight gain. Massage can help by reducing muscle stiffness, aiding flexibility and mobility, improving blood circulation, decreasing tension and pain.
Mainly genetic but can also be due to obesity as a puppy. ED should be suspected in any dog with forelimb lameness that hasn’t been caused by trauma. Symptoms – Pain. Swelling. Joint instability of forelimbs. Reduce range of motion. Nodding of the head whilst walking, a limp on one or both front legs. If a problem exists on both front legs a ‘paddling’ gait will be seen rather than a limp. Front paws point outwards, elbows may be held at a peculiar angle. Worse after rest and inactivity. Massage can help by removing stress points, assisting mobility, and decreasing pain
There are over 100 different types of arthritis. Arthritis is a non-inflammatory degenerative joint disease- which seems contradictory as inflammation does play a part in arthritis and reducing it is part of the treatment. It affects at least 1 in 5 dogs. Commonly thought to be a disease of older dogs, but it’s also found in young dogs. Early onset arthritis can be attributed early neutering – research is on-going. Symptoms – pain, stiffness, lameness, weakness, muscle atrophy, clicky joints, behaviour changes, lethargy, sleep disturbances, restlessness. Massage can help with mobility, flexibility, joint range of motion, blood circulation, pain relief and relaxation.
Massage can be an important add on to a diet plan for our canines. Massage alone is unlikely to have a direct impact on weight loss but used as a multimodal approach it can work wonders. By using specific techniques, massage stimulates blood circulation and increases the uptake of oxygen in muscle tissue to improve flexibility, loosening of tight muscles, improving posture, and allowing longer duration of activity. Massage can increase metabolic rate, thereby allowing the dog’s muscles to burn more calories. Dogs that are highly stressed can also have increased cortisol levels, resulting in increased weight. Massage can reduce these levels by lessening stress. Massage can improve digestion and may decrease constipation, bloating and flatulence.
Specific and targeted canine massage techniques increase blood, lymph, nutrients and oxygen circulation to the muscles and cells. Massage boosts the immune system by aiding the removal of metabolic waste and toxins. Massage consequently can help with pain management, injury recovery, recuperation, rehabilitation, and pre/post-surgery. Massage speeds up healing including post operative recovery time, reduction of inflammation and scar tissue - assisting areas of overcompensation, breaking down restrictive scar tissue, improving range of movement. Massage also helps ease stress and improves mood and behaviour, all resulting in a speedier return to normal activities.
Less - abled bodied dogs
Canine massage can significantly improve a less-abled dogs’ quality of life. By helping release tightness in over compensatory muscles, avoiding worsening of their disability by keeping muscles supple, and improving range of movement in opposing muscles. Whether your dog is a tripawd, uses wheels, or wears a splint, or has a persistent limp/lameness, or other chronic mobility condition or a neurological disorder – massage can support not only their physical conditions, but on an emotional basis too. Massage provides comfort, pain relief and addresses tension, trigger points, and myofascial pain which a dog can inherit due to their disability - as muscular systems must work harder to aid proprioception and stabilisation in the unaffected parts of their body.
As we get older, we notice all kinds of aches and pains. We struggle getting up from a chair, walking up the stars – we ‘slow down’ – and so do our dogs. Their joints become stiff and their muscles not as strong, we may notice they sleep more, find it difficult when out for a walk. They pant sooner and may even stop more or refuse to walk any further. Massage and stretching can be so beneficial for our aging dogs – by aiding range of movement in the joints, increasing or maintaining flexibility, and releasing happy hormones. Regular massage can also pick up new lumps/cysts and potentially other problems early so you can get them to your vet much sooner. Massage absolutely benefits our senior dogs, by decreasing pain, soreness, stimulates weak and inactive muscles, improving circulation, reducing stiffness and tightness, improving mobility and also helps them emotionally.
Cruciate Ligament Disease
The cruciate ligament attaches the femur to the tibia, prevents the knee joint from over rotating, overextending, and prevents the tibia shifting forward to the femur. The cause is mainly degenerative, rather than trauma because of injury. Fibres within the ligament weakened overtime. Genetics, obesity, hormonal imbalance, perhaps being neutered too early (prior to fully developed growth plates), and certain inflammatory conditions of the joint itself. It affects one or both knees, causes pain, limping, difficulty rising and short strides. Can be misdiagnosed as a neurological condition. Surgery is usually recommended; massage can aid healing, circulation, mobility and decrease swelling.
Kneecap dislocates out of its normal position - laterally or medially. Caused by weak or overstretched patella ligaments, due to injury or congenital. Common in short leg breeds. Intermittent lameness in back legs, pain at the point where the patella slips out of position when dog is active (interestingly is that once the patella is out of position it isn’t painful. Dog will extend the affected leg backwards, and a hop, hop, skip gait pattern. There are four grades 1 to 4 (4 severe). Corrective surgery may be required. Massage helps increase healing, decrease pain, aids relief to overcompensating muscles.
Iliopsoas Muscle Trauma
Very common, yet rarely diagnosed. It’s extremely painful causing lameness, with exercise making it worse. Dogs usually present with a tucked under posture, short stride length, lack of rear-end power and a tendency to off load weight onto opposite side of affected area. Causes may be due to repeated jumping and extreme stretching of the rear legs as in some dog sports. IMT contributes to over 30% of human sports injuries so why not dogs as there are many functional anatomical similarities. Massage helps ease pain, improve circulation, and overcompensation of other muscles such as sacroiliac joint and lumbar area.
Occurs in young dogs, is a common condition that affects joints of growing dogs. In short, the cartilage fails to convert into bone which weakens the surrounding areas. Mainly affects, shoulder, elbow (also known as elbow dysplasia), stifle, and hock joints affecting both sides. OCD causes secondary osteoarthritis. Genetics and nutrition (lesser extent) are thought to be the cause. Symptoms, lameness/stiffness mainly after exercise and rest, muscle atrophy, and uneven weight bearing. Develops 5 to 8 months old. Occasionally first noticed when the dog is middle aged, and arthritis has resulted. Massage lessens discomfort, aids mobility, and encourages weight bearing.
The word palliative originates from the Latin word Palliare which means to ‘cloak’. Imagine wrapping an extra layer of comfort and protection, shielding you from the harms of the illness. Palliative care is given to a dog as he or she approaches the end of life through old age or illness. Palliative care is not a curative therapy but a comforting hug. During these difficult times we can support our dog with massage for physical, emotional, and spiritual comfort – enhancing their quality of life for as long as they live. In doing so we provide comfort to ourselves too. Massage is applied very gently and slowly (passive touch and hypnotic stroking adapted to suit the dogs comfort level), giving undivided attention to help provide relaxation, decrease anxiety, agitation, pain intensity and stiffness. The aim of palliative care is to make your dog’s final days as comfortable and as enjoyable as possible. Palliative care may also include physical therapy through scent enrichment, with options that can extend both your dog’s quality of life and the time you get to spend enjoying each other.
When a dog gets nervous, anxious or and stressed, there is a high probability that they may become aggressive to other dogs, people or even to their owners. Massage Therapy can help to ease the tension and increase the bond between dog and owner and reduce stress and some behaviour concerns – such as helping the dog become more sociable. Stress, tension, pain etc can make the whole dog feel uncomfortable, therefor they are unable to process experiences and situations very well. Their muscles tighten, joints become stiff and lack flexibility, posture becomes hunched and poor – life becomes a strain. A lot of behaviour problems are as a result from undiagnosed pain and many dogs have sadly been euthanised unnecessarily. Massage can also help hyperactive and over excited dogs and puppies as it has a calming influence on the nervous system.
How Do I know If My Dog Would Benefit From Canine Massage?
"What Is My Dog Trying To Tell Me?"
Please click on the below link to access the scale to help you decide.
It is best to observe your dog over a few weeks to get more of an accurate representation. Please circle or highlight the number which most accurately relates to your dog. The higher the score the more likelihood that massage, specific exercises, and changes in home lifestyle may improve these indicators. You can also use this as a guide going forward to see how much your dog improves with each treatment – for this it is useful to complete on a weekly basis.
What Does a Session Involve?
The First Session Will Include:
After veterinary approval has been sought, The first appointment will include a comprehensive medical, behavioural, and daily living consultation. A gait, musculature, postural and neurological assessment will be carried out, after which will be the massage therapy. Please allow one and a half hours for this appointment. At the end of the appointment, you will receive specific aftercare advice and a full report will be typed out and returned to you and your vet if requested.
Most dogs will benefit by having 3 to 4 sessions, at weekly intervals. The follow up sessions last up to an hour. You may be able to claim your payment back via your insurance policy - most insurance companies allow this but please check.
Veterinary Act 1966
Prior to any massage appointment a professional qualified massage therapist will always seek your veterinarian’s consent - as we work under the Veterinary Act 1966 and Exemption Order 2015, following a strict code of practice. Please see attached form where you can take to your vet for approval or I will happily contact them if you prefer.
An initial consultation which includes the history and lifestyle of your dog, your dog’s home environment, any injuries and behaviour changes, diet and nutrition including activities etc, and what you personally are looking to achieve with /for your dog, will be taken. This form will be emailed to you, and we will talk through it and any questions you may have at the time of your appointment.
Body Condition Score
During the appointment a body conditioning score will be ascertained and if required body measurements taken. The Body Condition Score is a ranking scale form 1-9, with 1 being dangerously thin, and 9 being dangerously obese. The ideal score for your dog is 4-5. We can also discuss any weight concerns you may have.
Mobility and Posture
We then carry out a comprehensive posture and gait assessment. There are approx. 700 muscles in a dog’s body which make up 45% of their overall body weight and about 320 bones in their body (depending on the length of their tail). Muscles enable movement, stabilize joints, and maintain posture. We will ask you to walk, trot and maybe run your dog, walk in a circle, preform a stand to sit and a sit to down and a down to stand. Looking for any biomechanical issues with functionality, we check for lameness, and stiffness plus other potential gait and posture irregularities.
Strength and Capability
A dog with neurological symptoms will look ataxic or drunk, with uncoordinated movement and poor control of where and how the limbs are placed. We carry out a few tests to see if the dog has normal responses or if the nervous system has been compromised and is unable to function correctly. If we suspect that there is a neurological problem, then you must see your vet to diagnose the probable cause.
Musculature and Tone
This is where we get our hands on the dog and use touch to palpate for any tension, tightness, effusions, and asymmetries, areas of muscle soreness, knots, lumps, cuts, objects (such as ticks) and inflammation. Plus, areas of over or underdeveloped muscles. We compare both sides and assess range of movement in each limb, neck, trunk, and tail (a tight tail can tell us a lot), performing a skeletal and pelvic assessment.
Massage and Range of Movement
After all the above has been carried out we then perform appropriate treatment, or if we find anything untoward, we refer on to your veterinarian. We use specific techniques after our findings which may include, gentle Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, deep frictional massage, treatment of trigger and stress points, shoulder release, muscle energy technique’s, toning up or toning down muscles and tendons, range of motion stretches and motion mobilisations, cranial work, dorsal fascia stimulations, plus more. Always working with your dog - allowing comfort level and tolerances.
After each session we give you aftercare advice which may include on lead walking only for the next 2-3days, home exercises and basic massage techniques that you can incorporate between treatment sessions. A thorough report is written up and sent to you and to your vet if they request it. How many treatments will depend on outcome of assessment, findings, history, and condition. We do however recommend 3 treatments, one week apart initially, then decide on a maintenance regime going forward. You should be able to claim payment back via your pet insurance policy – but please do check.
Home Exercise Plan
H.E.P Stands for home exercise programme. After the initial assessment and treatment, you will be given aftercare advice which may include appropriate exercises and or activities to assist your dog’s progress between appointments. These will be tailored specifically for your dog and will fit in with your lifestyle so will be easy to manage.
Understanding Your Animals
Helping and supporting your dog is not about tough love or who is top dog. It is about empathy, compassion, welfare rights, team work and respect, along with a dogs consent - after all it is your dog's life too.
I am a professional, qualified Canine Massage Therapist, Trainer, CAMAdvocate and Pet Bereavement Counsellor based in Cardiff, with a keen interest in canine arthritis and pain management. I take a different stance with dog training and work with the dog for health and wellbeing rather than obedience and control. Sometimes we need to let a dog be a dog and this doesn't mean they can do what ever they want when ever they want to - we all need boundaries. What I mean is respect your dog and its species qualities. Be kind and use fear free, force free tools - learn to think dog.
A lot of behaviour issues are pain related which go undiagnosed and either the dog gets put into kennels, or worse euthanised. Pain needs to always be ruled out. the signs of pain can be extremely subtle (check out he blog section).
I also teach workshops for other pet professionals and owners such as Dog First Aid, Canine Body Language and Reactive Rascals, licensed by the Dog Training College.
I believe strongly in force free, fear free and pain free. Training should be about compliance from both you and your dog and it should be fun and innovative!
My initial background is in sports therapy, remedial massage and fitness training for the two legged of us where I worked with professional sports teams the WRU and Ice Hockey.
I also help support people and their grieving pets with pet loss and wrote a book called Pets Matter Too "Understanding Pet Bereavement" the book is available through Amazon, and in the blog section of this webpage you will find some written posts on pet loss that may be of help if you are in need or know someone that is.
I live with my Partner Carl and two beautiful dog's Shilo a Staffordshire Bull Terrier and Monty a Jack Russel Terrier.
Please do give me a call today.
What I Offer You and Your Pets
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