How a Dog with Spinal Arthritis Became Young Again #8

#canine canine arthritis canine back pain canine back stiffness debono moves dogs feldenkrais method spinal arthritis Feb 20, 2024

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Have you ever wanted to turn back the clock and help your dog feel and move like a younger dog?

In this episode, Mary shares a story about a dog named Cassie who was diagnosed with severe spinal arthritis. Despite trying medication and several alternative therapies, Cassie's condition kept worsening.

Mary used a very different approach with the dog. Instead of focusing on what was wrong, Mary helped the dog feel where the movement was EASY and then built on that. She helped Cassie generalize the feelings of ease and harmony throughout her body.

This allowed her brain to better coordinate her movements, reducing strain on the arthritic areas and allowing for freer, more comfortable movement overall.

In addition, the gentle hands-on work that Mary is describing can improve dogs' quality of life and strengthen the bond between the dogs and their people.

Mary is now offering a FREE video training where you can learn ONE of the techniques that has helped Cassie and so many other dogs.  You can grab that free training at 💥


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Today I'd like to talk to you about a dog who was diagnosed with pretty severe spinal arthritis and who defied medical expectations. And in case we're meeting for the first time. My name is Mary Debono and this is the Easier Movement, happier Dog's podcast. I'm so glad you're here. So the dog, whose name is Cassie, she's like a 70 pound,

they think like maybe an Italian spinone mix and super, super sweet dog who loved to run, loved to have fun. They had assumed the dog was a young dog. They found out from the vet that the dog was probably seven, which to me is still a young dog. But in any case, the dog was always happy and healthy, and again,

loved to run, loved to go on walks and runs at the park. So one day Michelle had her at the park and they were in a big field that was surrounded by a chain length fence. And a squirrel happened to come into the field. And Cassie, of course, took off after the, after the squirrel. And she was in what Michelle called a blind run.

In other words, nothing else existed but that squirrel. So she took off after the squirrel. Well, the squirrel could get through the fence, but Cassie couldn't. And Cassie didn't even see the fence apparently because she hid it with her face at a hundred miles an hour. You know, she just was galloping as fast as she could after the squirrel and just slammed right into that fence.

So was shocking for Miss Michelle to see this, but Cassie just seemed to shake it off. And, you know, Michelle checked her over, didn't see anything obvious, and they started walking home. And then suddenly, Cassie, very uncharacteristically just lay down, just lay down on the sidewalk. And so Michelle waited for a while with her and then eventually coaxed her up.

Cassie walked a little bit more. She laid down again. Now, luckily they lived very close to the park, so she was able to get her home. But there were many times during that walk home that Cassie would just lie down. She just, so something was obviously very wrong. So Michelle immediately put her into her car and took her right to the vet.

And the first thing the vet did was he opened Cassie's mouth. And sure enough, her gums were, were bloody and shredded 'cause she hit that fence hard. And he said, okay, you know, she has some damage in her mouth, but nothing serious. And he said, this seems like it's much more a problem with her back than her mouth.

And so they took X-rays, and the X-rays shows that she had pretty severe deterioration in her lower spine, her lumbar spine. And the vet said, this didn't just happen today, Like this showed up today because of the trauma of hitting the fence. But this didn't happen today. This has been ongoing. And that's when Michelle learned, actually the dog was older than she had thought when she adopted her.

But you know, that didn't really matter. She obviously loved the dog, but she just didn't know how old the dog was. So, and again, the dog by the vet's estimation was only about seven. Cassie was only about seven when this happened. And he said, well there, you know, we'll give you medication to bring down the inflammation,

bring, you know, reduce the pain, all those things. But the only thing that has a chance of helping Cassie is to have surgery. And the type of surgery he was talking about in this case, he wasn't even sure it would be effective. And it had a high risk, there was a high risk of other things going wrong if the surgery wasn't done,

you know, if, if things didn't line up correctly, I guess. So Michelle was really reluctant to do the surgery because the vet didn't seem, and then she, she consulted with another specialist and they just didn't seem too keen on the surgery. So she's like, Hmm, let me look into other things. So she was obviously doing what the vet recommended as far as,

you know, working with how much she was walking her or not walking her, giving her the medication, things like that. But Cassie's episodes of wanting to lie down on walks just actually kept increasing. So no matter what she did, so she started going to other therapists. She, she went to a massage therapist, she went to energy worker, she talked to an animal communicator,

she did essential oils, like she did all different things. And again, Cassie actually was going downhill. She wasn't getting better. She wasn't even plateauing, she was getting worse. And, you know, so somebody, one of the other therapists recommended me. So Michelle brought Cassie to my office. And one of the things I noticed is watching Cassie walk around a little bit,

I noticed that a lot of, she wasn't moving harmoniously. So this is similar to what we talked about last week when I talked about princess, the dog with the, also had spinal arthritis. It's very, very common. And Cassie was exhibiting a similar thing in that certain parts of her back were moving and other parts weren't. And of course we have to remember that certain parts of the back are,

you know, each part of the back is designed differently. Like, in other words, there's more degrees of extension or rotation and things like that in certain parts of the spine than others. But even with all that considered, you can just see that she had kind of shut down some parts of her back and other parts were working too hard. And when parts work too hard than they're designed to,

that's when you get problems. That's when you can get arthritis. That's when you can get, you know, all other kinds of wear and tear damage the muscles around it can get really tense. And again, you go into one of these downward spirals or vicious cycles. So with Cassie, I worked with her to help reawaken in a very, very gentle way,

all the parts of her spine and also the ribs and her sternum. So like all the parts could participate so that when she walked and when certainly when she would run, they would all help. So that, that when you do that, when the, when the body's effort, if you will, is distributed more equitably, you know, and more appropriately,

then it reduces wear and tear, it reduces fatigue, it reduces soreness and allows for full healing. So the parts that had been overused, get a chance to heal. That is really important. If you don't do anything to change that cycle, to interrupt that habit. 'cause it is a habit, just like we get into movement habits. So do the dogs,

then the body, you know, the body just keep, it just keeps getting worse. The situation just keeps getting worse, which is what was happening with Cassie. So I used my hands in very, very gentle, delicate ways to, again, remind Cassie's nervous system that these other parts could help. And when they do help, it feels better.

That's what we want. We want the nervous system to recognize that, oh, actually feels better when I bring these other parts on board. So I know this is difficult to explain in, you know, just like this in an episode. So I have you covered, I wanna just say this, I created an additional free training. This one's a really deep dive into how to do a particular hands-on technique that I teach.

It's called rhythm circles, but I go really into a deep dive over it. These are new videos that I, that I just put out. And if you go to mary Debono dot com slash love dog, it's all one word, all lowercase. So mary Debono dot com slash love dog, you can, you can sign up for there and you'll get the,

the free training. I, I have a whole like, hub of resources for you. So super excited about it. So I hope you sign up for that. Don't worry if you're not in a place that you can write that down or you can't remember it, just wherever you're listening or watching this, there should be a, there will be a link in the description,

okay? So either in the show notes or in the like YouTube description or wherever. So look for that. If you have any problems, you can always email support At mary Debono dot com. So back to Cassie. So with Cassie, again, I was just using my hands in this very particular way that you will learn when you sign up for that free video training.

And, you know, she was getting more and more comfortable. Michelle says that she got herself, got so relaxed just watching this whole procedure. And, and so I could tell at the end of that session that Cassie just was moving better. She was moving better. But I had, I asked Michelle to come back the following week and we'll do another session.

And, and of course Michelle was more than happy to because she had been dealing with this for many months and Cassie was getting worse and worse despite all the treatments she had been getting from, you know, in other type of modalities. So she brought her back the next week, I did more, more work like that, or again, just reminding her body that movement could,

is possible in all these different places and it could feel good and the muscles could be softer and her brain could like remember how to move like she did when she was a younger dog. And then, you know, she got up and oh man, her, her movement was just so much more fluid, so much more harmonious. And I said to Michelle,

she doesn't need to see me again. She's good. And I wanna point out that Michelle mentioned she hadn't had a single episode of lying down, you know, doing the, I can't walk anymore, lie down in between our sessions. So from that first session, she didn't do that anymore. And Michelle had taken her for walks and she said, Cassie was great.

I said, you don't need to bring her back anymore. But Michelle, because she, she couldn't believe that after two sessions that Cassie would be okay. So she said, no, no, no, I have to come back next week. So she did bring her back another time and I did more work again to support Cassie's progress and just, you know,

help her really embody that. And after that I said to Michelle, really, she doesn't need to come back, you know, and so, so she didn't after that, so, and Cassie went on to like never have her problem with her back again. Now, full disclosure, I did work with Cassie later on in her life because other issues cropped up and I helped her recover from those.

But for that problem, that went away. Like it was crazy how well that worked. It went away. Now, I'm not saying that's gonna happen with everybody. I am not saying that. And it also takes a particular level of skill and training to do what I did. So it wasn't just what you're gonna learn in that video training that I did,

I did a whole bunch of different things. So I, and, and just so you know, I don't know if you know my background. I, I started doing my, you know, I started studying body work many, many years ago, so more than 30 years ago, like Probably 40 years ago. And I started also doing a lot of like intuitive hands-on work with animals.

And from a very young age, like super, super young age. So I'm gonna say a lot more than 40 years ago I was doing that. But then I started studying it more, more seriously in, you know, actually learning from others in my, or I would say over 40 years ago. And then more than 30 years ago, I started studying the Feldenkrais method,

which is a, a human based movement education system, if you will. And I adapted that to animals, so to horses, dogs, cats, Guinea pigs, et cetera. And that's what I, that's what I teach. So, and I call it Debono Moves. So I want to just point out, I went to school for four years to learn the Feldenkrais method,

you know, and I keep learning the Feldenkrais method. I mean, it's something that despite all the decades of experience, I keep improving my skill. So this is something that's really important to remember. So, and nothing is guaranteed, right? Like every dog responds differently. I'm telling you about this story. And there's also stories where the outcome isn't so dramatic,

or it may take a lot longer, or the change never gets to a complete reversal of the symptoms, but it's more that there's a lessening of the symptoms and an enhanced quality of life. And I work also, you know, I've worked over the years with lots of like really older dogs or very injured dogs, or dogs with severe even, you know,

congenital problems. And so it doesn't mean they all revert to being this, you know, happy, healthy puppy, but the, but my intent is always like, how can I help them feel that there's more possibilities that's something can change for the better. So I'm not, I'm I, and I ne you can never guarantee a result. It's just not the way life works.

But my, my idea is that you're helping the dog improve how they feel both in body and mind. Okay? Because when you feel better in your body, you also feel better in your mind. Like you, your emotional life is, is richer as well. So, and the other thing, and again, I mentioned this before where when you do this kind of work,

it really increases that connection, that really incredible connection that we have with our dogs. And the work actually helps facilitate that. And there's a lot of neuroscience I go over in episode six about that. So, so Cassie again went on to just be fine. Like, it's just amazing to me how a situation that was that dramatic where she like literally could not walk,

she kept having to lie down, just completely went away, completely went away. And it shows you what is possible though. So, you know, it's, I share all the stories, I share The dramatic ones like this because they're super inspiring and they let you know what's, you know, possible. And then other ones where maybe a dog is older and you're just,

again, giving them that little boost of quality of life. Or I'll tell you a, a good story. And I didn't do this one. It was a someone who just learned about me online and just read my book and did the work herself with her dog. She had a 17-year-old dog, and the dog was in the last stages of life. And she said that the work she learned,

the gentle work she did, now it didn't reverse the dog. And dog suddenly became a puppy and all that good stuff. And this dog actually happened to have cancer, which had been treated but still came back and all that. She said that the calmness, the relaxation that they felt together was profound and the dog's breathing was different when she would do this work and then it would last,

you know, for hours afterwards. And just that incredible connection they felt and she felt it was like a gift she could give her dog towards the end of life, even if she knew, you know, even though she knew she wasn't reversing the dog's, you know, symptomology, it was like, okay, we know this is going on, but what can we do to improve quality of life and to show the dog how much you love the dog,

because I just think that's so important, you know, to give back to your dog. And so, so did this woman, she just loved that idea that there were things she could do. It's so empowering, isn't it, to be a proactive member of your dog's care team, if you will. So this work never replaces veterinary medicine in by any stretch of the imagination,

but I think it's so wonderful to be an active participant in your dog's care. And also you find things, when you start working with your dog in this very gentle way, you really get to, to, you know, know their body if you will. And then you can feel when something's amiss and you learn, you learn to develop your eye as well,

that maybe there's a change in the gate that you didn't notice before. So there's all different types of things where you notice, you know, so it's not just the obvious things you notice, but maybe you notice something in, you know, in your dog's muscle that wasn't there before. Or, you know, you notice a growth that you wouldn't have noticed if you hadn't been doing this kind of work.

I've had that experience many, many times. I cannot tell you how many times I had that with client dogs where because the work is so gentle and I'm often touching like so much of the body in different ways, I feel things that the owner doesn't necessarily feel, or even the vet doesn't necessarily feel 'cause they're not examining the dog oftentimes With that level of detail.

So, for example, there were many times that I discovered, unfortunately, I discovered osteosarcoma in quite a number of dogs because that's bone cancer because I felt lumps that mm shouldn't have been there. And so what I always do is I tell, I instruct the person to go right away, not, you know, you know, I say, call your vet,

say that you found this lump, you know that you felt this and you wanna know what it is. I don't say that. I think it might be austere sarcoma. I just say it's important. It's really important that you go to your vet, you know, ASAP and get this checked out because, and I don't, 'cause I don't know if it's osteo sarcoma,

right? I, I've just guessed that and unfortunately been right a number of times. But it's important to, you know, really be familiar with your dog's body, I guess is what I'm trying to say. And the level of listening you do with your hands in this work will help you get more familiar with your dog's body. And again, it should feel good to you to have that bonding time with your dog.

And it should feel good to your dog as well. So don't forget, make sure you sign up for that free training. It's, it's, you know, you don't have to show up at a class or anything, you get a video. And again, the link is mary Debono dot com slash love dog. And it's just one word, lowercase.

Okay? So I hope Cassie's story was inspiring to you and you know, just to, to let you in on, you know, what's possible, like, you know, and it's so important, so important with ourselves and with our dogs to have that open mind. You know, I always say like an, you know, an open mind and helpful hands that you,

you are open to new possibilities. So definitely there were new possibilities for Cassie and Michelle and I want there to be new possibilities for you and your dog as well. So thank you so much for being here. I cannot wait to talk to you again. Bye for now.