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From Rescued to Revitalised: How Canine Massage Therapy Transformed Letty's Life!

Letty is the gentlest and the most gracious, placid, Red Setter that you could ever meet. You would not think that she had the most horrendous start in life. She was rescued from Greece after being kept on a chain for a good proportion of her life and then dumped on the street. It is unbearable to think of the physical and psychological trauma she has gone through, yet despite this she is the most calming and loving dog. Due to her past life Letty has been left with breathing issues and severe muscle wastage.

Red Setter sat in field of long grass


Being a small business, it is always very much appreciated when Forest Canine Massage is recommended by others. This is how I came to known Zoe and Letty.

Jess came highly recommended by friends!
Letty had previously benefitted from massage after undergoing hydrotherapy. She is a Greek rescue dog, and has poor muscle strength in her back legs, which is likely down to having been kept on chain for large parts of her life and just a general poor start to life. We were advised by a vet that she would likely suffer with her legs as she aged, and as someone who does sports themselves I wanted to compliment any exercise and supplements we give her with massage.

Before treatment

Letty has lived with Zoe and her family for 5 years. They had noticed Letty had started to slow down on walks and was becoming reluctance to venture outdoors. She was carrying a look in her face that suggested she may be in pain and was sighing from time to time when lying down. Zoe had also noticed that Letty was finding it increasing difficult to turn in tight spaces and would panic if she was stuck in a tight spot. She appeared clumsy with any movement that required turning in a circle. Letty was compensating by twisting her front leg out at the elbow when standing. Zoe hoped that canine massage therapy would be able to reduce Letty's pain and support her mobility.

Red Setter in wild daisies


Understandably Letty was very nervous and timid when we first met. She seemed to be trying to make herself as small as possible, with a look of “Please don’t hurt me on her face.” This is why I always allow 1h 30min for a dog’s first massage session as it gives dogs time to become familiar with me at their own pace. To start, I sat on the sofa and filled out my consultation form with Zoe. This allowed Letty to approach me when she felt comfortable. It didn’t take long as a few minutes later she came over for a little fuss.

Once Letty appeared more settled and relaxed in my company, I began to conduct a hands-on assessment of her superficial muscles to evaluate the condition of her soft tissue.

I have never felt so much scare tissue in a dog before, so much trapped emotion and trauma on the inside yet so still and quiet on the outside!

Red Setter curled up in her bed

What was even more surprising was Letty’s sever muscle atrophy. She didn’t give any reactions or “pain responses” to my touch, even when I gently grazed her superficial pectorals, which caused them to spasm. I don’t know if you have ever had a muscle spasm but take it from me…It hurts!

Muslce Atrophy

Muscle atrophy is a condition characterised by a decrease of muscle mass, resulting in the loss of muscle fibres. This can lead to a significant reduction in muscle strength as the muscle literally wastes aways.

There are several reasons why a dog may experience muscle atrophy.

  1. Reduced Activity - Simply not using muscle will cause atrophy (use it or loose it). This includes; dogs who get limited exercise or have an inactive lifestyle, being confined for long periods in a small cage or having sustained periods of crate rest due to recovering from an injury.

  2. Ageing - As dogs age their activity levels may decrease due to physical changes in the body (orthopaedic conditions) and underlying health issues. The production of growth hormones will also reduce so dogs are less able to process protein which is crucial in building and maintaining muscle mass. Muscle atrophy in senior dogs will usually develop gradually and will appear in the hind legs and hips. This is known as sarcopenia. Large breeds are more prone to suffer from muscle atrophy as they age quicker than smaller breeds, and are more prone to conditions like arthritis.

  3. Illness or disease – Muscle atrophy which is not due to ageing or reduced activity is usually a sign of an illness or disease that affects the structure of muscles (muscular dystrophy) or autoimmune responses that degrades muscle structure (myopathies). Starvation can also result in muscle atrophy.

In Letty’s case it was suggested by her veterinarian that the cause of her muscle atrophy was probably due to being tethered. However, Letty has lived with Zoe for 5 years and gets regular exercise so I would have expected her muscle mass to increase. Instead, it has worsened overtime. This has lead me to conclude that a possible underlining autoimmune issue may be a more likely cause, due to the sever muscle atrophy, dense scar tissue and breathing issues. Letty's care plan is constantly being monitored and revised by her veterinarian.


Since her first treatment Letty has laid in lateral recumbency (on her side). She is so abideable and trusting and I was able to do a full body massage on her during her first treatment. Some of the techniques that I use to remodel scar tissue and release sheaths of fascia & trigger points can be very uncomfortable. Letty does not show any obvious signs of discomfort however the moaning, groaning, licking of lips and yawing displayed along with the stretches she offered was a clear indication that tension, trauma and stress was being released from the body.

forest canine massage treatment

Jess was able to read Letty very well, especially as Letty does not show discomfort in an obvious way. You have to really dial into Letty’s behaviour.

After Letty's 1st treatment Zoe reported that Letty was:

Happy jolly and bright. She had a glazed look in her eye for a few weeks which has gone. She has wanted to join in more with stuff and the family. Left elbow used to turn out it doesn’t anymore.

After Letty's 2nd treatment Zoe explained that Letty was able to turn in tight spaces such as the little corridors in the house as she used to get stuck and panic in these areas. It was also apparent that the spams in Letty's superficial pectoral muscles had greatly reduced and I the full range of motion in her forelimbs had been restored.

Red Setter lying on white sofa

After 3 sessions

Behaviourally and physically we have seen a marked change in Letty. She wants to be involved in more, she seems happier, less aged and her confidence has bounced back. Jess was able to get more flexibility in Letty’s movement, and we have seen her be able to negotiate tight spaces much easier and she’s back to being more part of the walks.
In fact, Letty has fallen in love with Jess. As soon as the massage bed is down, Letty is on it and backed in ready for her treatment.
Jess gave us clear instructions for aftercare and has given us further recommendations in which we can pursue to build Letty’s condition.

Maintenance Massage

Due to the drastic change in Letty we have continued with maintenance massage sessions on a very regular basis to help maintain the changes made as Zoe notices that Letty starts to look a bit stiffer if the time between sessions are longer than 3 weeks. According to Zoe I am Letty’s favourite person. She now greets me with wiggly excitement and a waggy tail. She lies on her side as soon as I get the vet bed out.

Zoe's Testimonial

Letty has obviously experienced some severe trauma to her body from her previous life in Greece - this is something that Letty hides very well as she’s such a darling dog. Jess was able to feel the impact of her a previous life in her body through the scar tissue she carries, and we are so thankful that she is helping us bring comfort to Letty and to extend her mobility for as long as possible as she really deserves it.

Red Setter head shot

I have a real soft spot in my heart for rescue dogs especially those who have had such a horrendous start in life. Letty is a model client and its dogs like her who make me appreciate my role as a Canine Massage Therapist and the true importance of canine massage therapy. Thank you Zoe for entrusting me with Letty.

If you have a dog suffering with muscle wastage or a rescue dog that has lasting affects from their past life, get in touch today to see if canine massage therapy can help.

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