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Titch the Patterdale Terrier Finds Relief from Osteoarthritis with Canine Massage Therapy

Meet Titch, a senior Patterdale Terrier who was adopted by Rebecca at the age of 7. They share an unbreakable bond and love going on long daily walks and playing games like tug-of-war or fetch. Titch also has a fondness for chews, snuffle mats and treats.

Titch a senior Patterdale Terrier

July 2022

Rebecca’s veterinarian recommended Canine Massage Therapy as an alternative pain relief for Titch, given the limited success of his prescribed medication, Galliprant for his suspected Osteoarthritis. Titch had been experiencing restricted mobility and Rebecca had noticed Titch had difficulty navigating the stairs and was sometimes slowing down on his daily walks. He would intermittently go lame or one of his legs would give way underneath him. Rebecca was determined to find a solution that would allow Titch to continue enjoying his walks and daily adventures.

Titch senior Patterdale Terrier lying down

Titch’s first consultation

When I meet Titch for the first time, he had not long recovered from surgery to remove his right eye. His remaining left eye had limited vision and he was also experiencing hearing loss. Due to these circumstances Titch needed to be given time to adjust to me entering the house. To make him feel comfortable, I ensured that I introduced myself slowly, making my presence known. I settled myself down in one place, on the living room carpet so Titch knew where I was at all times. I allowed Titch time to become familiar with me on his own terms by having a good sniff of me, and my vet bed. I was very mindful of Titch’s limitations and adapted my approach accordingly.

Giving Titch, the necessary time and space he needed to become familiar with me also provided me with the opportunity to carefully observe his movement. It was evident that Titch’s mobility was significantly affected. He walked with a low head carriage and reduced length of stride. Every stride looked slow and stiff.

Once Titch appeared to be settled and relaxed in my company, I began to conduct a hands-on assessment of his superficial muscles to evaluate the condition of his soft tissue. Titch’s demeanour quickly changed, and he started low rumbling growls. Rebecca was offering reassurance to Titch and tasty treats, so I continued at a gradual and gentle pace. Titch was struggling to accepted even a gentle palpation and reacted by whipping round and giving an air snap.

Dogs are allowed to say ouch!

Put yourself in Titch’s position. Imagine, experiencing trauma in the first 7 years of your life that you cannot tell anyone about. Imagine that you cannot see or hear very well. Imagine that you are suffering daily with chronic pain due to suspected Osteoarthritis and wide radiating myofascial pain. Now imagine a stranger comes into your home and starts to handle you in a way that seems very strange and alien. You are asked to be submissive and feel like you have been put in a very vulnerable position. On top of that the stranger has now touched an area of your body which is very sore and uncomfortable. I bet at the very lease you would say Ouch! Along with a few choice words!


One thing is for certain all dogs bark and all dogs bite it is just a question of how far you push them. You can have the mildest dog but if they are pushed beyond their limits there will be a turning point. People will have their own opinions on muzzling dogs however they can be very helpful during a massage treatment. I use them occasionally for three main reasons.

1. Therapeutic discomfort – If you have ever had bodywork yourself (no I don’t mean a pamper session at the spa) you will be all too aware of the discomfort caused, even when you know that it is going to happen. Some massage techniques can be very uncomfortable for dogs causing them to nip/bite. This does not mean that the dog is aggressive. It is a natural response (reflex action).

2. Nervous, fearful, anxious dogs – believe it or not but placing a muzzle on a reactive dog can have a calming effect and help them feel more secure in stressful situations.

3. Safety - Muzzles are a standardised part of risk assessments. As a canine massage therapist I respect the safety guidelines established by the veterinary industry.

In Titch’s case it was decided that a muzzle needed to be worn to protect both humans and dog. Titch was already used to wearing a muzzle which Rebecca placed on him. This had a calming effect on Titch and he became a lot more accepting.

Building a relationship

Every dog is unique and massage treatments can sometimes be uncomfortable. As an experienced canine massage therapist, I was able to quickly identify Titch’s body language and regularly ‘checking in’ with him to gauge his comfort levels. Rebecca was an excellent support to Titch during his treatments and kept me informed about his responses. This allowed me to modify my techniques accordingly for optimal results.

Titch Patterdale Terrier fast asleep on the sofa

Rebecca was asked how she felt Titch behaved during his massages and whether this changed over time. She stated.

It definitely changed! Titch found it uncomfortable at first and would need bribing with treats to stay and put up with it, and there are times he still does when Jessica works on a sore spot, but he is sitting on her lap by the end of the session and is always so excited to see her.

After three treatments

After three treatments Rebecca reported:

Titch is doing well. He is getting up/down the stairs easier and is striding out more on his daily walks. He is walking more instead of trotting and stretching out in front. He seemed to be able to walk for longer and hasn’t had a leg go out from under him in a while.

Happy senior patterdale terrier in a field

I had also noticed a reduction in Titch’s pain and by his third session, he appeared more at ease and even lay on his side. This allowed me to apply direct myofascial releases which greatly improved the range of motion of all his limbs. Consequently, Titch was walking with more vigor and a higher head carriage.

Maintenance sessions

Rebecca was thrilled with the dramatic changes observed in Titch and he has been having regular maintenance massage sessions ever since. Our relationship has continued to grow, Titch likes sitting on my lap through most of his treatments and only needs to wear his muzzle for the Ouchy bits.

After the 3 treatments he seemed happy but I did notice a decline after waiting a longer time between sessions so we have continued with them at a fairly regular schedule. They really seem to help. Compared to half a year ago his walking is definitely improved.

Thank you, Rebecca for entrusting me to provide the best treatment possible for Titch. I look forward to seeing you both soon!

If you have a dog suffering with an Orthopaedic condition get in touch to see if canine massage can help your dog!

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