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Canine massage Resolves Barney's Intermittent Lameness

Barney, a 9-year-old Griffon Cross, was rescued from a kill pound in Spain. Griffons are typically used as hunting dogs and are often disposed of after a single season. Barney is incredibly fortunate to have found a loving, forever home with Paula and enjoys a life that any dog would wish for. Paula’s devotion to Barney is evident as she even goes the extra mile by personally preparing his meals from scratch. Barney’s home cooked diet consists of nutritious meats and vegetables, which is particularly remarkable considering Paula is a vegetarian.

White scruffy dog with worm soft toy

Reason For Massage

Barney fell off Paula’s bed nearly 4 years ago and bruised his back. Since then, he had been suffering with intermittent lameness on his right forelimb. Barney started Canine Massage Therapy treatment, however due to the pandemic treatment was halted.

Paula stumbled upon Forest Canine Massage during a Facebook search last April. She had growing concerns that just a slight twist, irregular movement or uneven surfaces would cause Barney to become lame. Paula had also noticed that Barney would occasionally slow down on walks and had a sway to his hind-limbs when walking. Paula was delighted to discover that I provided treatments in the comfort of her own home and offered great flexibility when it came to scheduling appointments. This arrangement also ensured that Barney, would be more relaxed and settled within his familiar surroundings. Paula hoped Canine Massage Therapy, would identify, and treat issues and areas of overcompensation to improve comfort levels and mobility.

Consultation & Assessment

Barney is a happy go lucky dog who was very pleased to see me. He brought me several of his toys during my initial consultation with Paula and was very comfortable during his primary evaluation. I noted the following findings;

  • Reduced stride length at the walk and trot

  • Very well-developed, tight (hypertonic) muscles in the neck and shoulders

  • Trigger points behind the shoulders

  • Restricted fascia

  • Hypertonicity in lower back (Iliocostalis Lumborum) and gluteals

  • Scar tissue and multiple strains in the epaxials (back muscles) which indicate the ‘strain-restrain- cycle.’

The strain, restrain cycle

A strain is one of the most common muscular injuries a dog is likely to sustain. This is generally recognised as a limp, an obvious change in stride pattern or favouring a leg. Your veterinarian should always be your first port of call if you suspect your dog has sustained an injury. Your vet will usually recommend rest and prescribe a course of pain killers/ anti-inflammatories. The limp usually dissipates within a few days and so you continue life and walks as normal.

But then the limp comes back!

This is because strains go through 3 stages of injury repair.

Stage 1 (acute) - occurs immediately after the muscle has been injured and can last 3-5 days. Pain, swelling, heat, redness and loss of function/ range of motion is often seen.

Stage 2 (Sub-acute) - can last up to approximately 6 – 8 weeks. The injured area is prone to re-injury due to the weakness and instability of the muscle fibres. However, because the injury is passed the acute stage your dog will start to feel better, overdo it and re-strain the area. This causes intermittent lameness.

Stage 3 (Chronic) - begins at about 6 weeks post injury. The muscular injury is well on its way to healing however the scar tissue that has formed will restrict and shorten the muscle fibres by up to 50% making the area more vulnerable to restrain in the future.

To prevent the strain, restrain cycle, I may suggest short lead walks and potters around the garden, no sudden acceleration/ deceleration, preventing your dog from turning quickly/ tightly, jumping up as well as any other activities that may cause a restrain.


Barney can be very fidgety during his massage sessions. Paula describes him as…

A wasp in a jar! Jess has such patience and never forces Barney to sit or lay still.

With support of a lick mat and peanut butter, I can adapt my treatment and techniques used to ensure Barney still receives an effective treatment.

White scruffy dog head shot
Barney looking very proud of his peanut butter beard!

After 3 initial sessions Paula reported that;

Barney has remained sound and has more energy and releasing tightness in back muscles have improved his mobility.

Aftercare Advice

Paula and Barney enjoyed their routine and their morning and evening walks. I discussed with Paula the risk of over exercising including;

  • Repetitive strain injury (RSI) - Muscle is like an elastic band. If you constantly stretch and stretch it, microtears within the elastic band start to form. The elastic band will become weaker and eventually snap. RSI can be caused by a range of repetitive activities including constantly jumping up, slipping on laminate/tiled flooring and chase games.

  • Hypertonicity - means too much resting muscle tone (tension). It is a very common condition which occurs when a muscle has been overused. Overtime the muscle becomes tightened, shortened, and inflexible (hard & stiff). A hypertonic muscle will require more effort than is necessary to produce the movement of a healthy muscle. Your dog will become fatigued quicker look stiff and will be at a higher risk of developing an injury.

I also explained that if she notices Barney start to struggle on his walks i.e. slowing down, stopping or resting more than normal there are things that you can consider;

  • Terrain – It is very hilly where Paula and Barney live so there are usually many ascents and descents. This forces the muscles to work harder and as a result early onset fatigue. Paula has been considering the routes she takes and tries to walk in in flatter areas where possible.

  • Distance – On days that Barney appears tired I suggested sticking to out and back walks so Paula can easily turn around and shorten the walk if needed.

  • Time – Going at Barney’s pace and allowing him to stop and sniff ensures that he is not rushed or exercised for longer than he is capable.

  • Ground conditions – Barney is known for being accident prone. He will trip and fall easily on uneven ground. Paula is now much more aware of walking in fields with ruts and holes.

  • Warm up – Barney predominately walks on a lead and harness however a few times a month Paula will rent a secure field for Barney so that he can have a good run around and play with friends. Paula is now aware of the importance of warming up Barney and will walk him for 10min on lead before letting him off for a run around.

head shot of white scruffy dog with trees in background

Maintenance sessions

Paula was so pleased with Barney’s results after three initial session that Barney has continued to have maintenance massages sessions ever since.

Before monthly massage sessions Barney used to suffer with intermittent lameness. Massage helps address these issues and areas of overcompensation.
Any ongoing discomfort and tightness is easing and he is walking much longer and easier. When I see him slowing down on walks, after Jess has worked on him he seems to walk that little further again.

Barney is a delight to treat. He is always so happy to see me, and I do love the peanut beard! Thank you, Paula, for having faith in canine massage therapy and allowing me to treat Barney.

canine massage therapy - dog having a massage

If you have a middle-aged dog who is suffering from intermittent lameness, slowing down on walks or seems old before their time then get in touch today to see how Canine Massage Therapy can help your dog.

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