Neurological Conditions

Labrador, Dylan, has arthritic changes to his elbowsMany neurological conditions are degenerative, meaning that the symptoms will progress and get worse over time. When the body has a weakness, your dog will manage to find other ways of maintaining his everyday activities and this can result in areas of overcompensation. Canine Massage Therapy will help to release sore, painful trigger points and relieve myofascial discomfort that feels like a constant dull ache. Overall, the aim is to improve your dog’s quality of life and maintain everyday function as long as possible.

Below is a list of some of the neurological conditions that Canine Massage Therapy can help to relieve.

Chronic Degenerative Radiculo Myelopathy (CDRM)

This is a progressive disease of the spinal cord.
The myelin sheath is an insulating sheath around the neurons of the spinal cord and it is thought that the immune system attacks this sheath, breaking it down. Thjs results in loss of communication between the nerves in the lower body of the dog and the brain.


  • Genetic – certain breeds are more susceptible to developing this disease, hence the importance of careful breeding


  • CDRM initially affects the hind legs and causes muscle weakness and loss of co ordination.
  • Staggering – may appear arthritic.
  • Dragging back paws when walking.
  • Considerable problems with balance.
  • Symptoms may gradually worsen in most dogs, or may progress quite quickly in others.

How massage can help

  • Relief of overcompensation in other areas – neck, shoulders and along the back.
  • Production of ‘feel good’ endorphins.
  • Stimulation through passive movement may help to keep the dog mobile for longer.

Lumbosacral Stenosis

Also known as Cauda Equina Syndrome and describes arthritis of the joint between the last vertebra and the sacrum.


  • The arthritis narrows the canal through which the spinal cord and nerves pass through. Arthritis and disc disease put pressure on the nerves coming off the spinal cord.
  • Most commonly seen in larger dogs.
  • Can be acquired or congenital, usually beginning to show at 3-7 years of age.


  • Pain – in the back, one or both hind legs, or the tail
  • Difficulty getting up and lying down, but improves once he gets walking
  • Muscle atrophy to hind legs
  • May be incontinent, or have difficulty passing urine or faeces
  • Unable to move tail
  • Shuffling gait, scuffed toes
  • Licking and chewing hind limbs

How massage can help

  • Surgery may be required, depending on the severity of the condition.
  • Massage will help to relieve areas of muscular overcompensation – particularly the neck and shoulder muscles.
  • Relieve muscle spasms in the affected limbs and along the back muscles.
  • Improves circulation, so oxygen and nutrient delivery, and lymphatic drainage as the dog becomes less mobile.
  • Encourages the production of endorphins – the ‘feel good’ hormones.

Intervertebral Disc Disease

The dog’s spine is made up of small bones – vertebrae – which are interconnected by flexible discs that allow for movement and cushioning.

As the disc becomes weaker with age or trauma, it may rupture or herniate, causing part of the disc to protrude upwards and place pressure on the spinal cord.


  • There are 2 types of disc disease – Hansen type 1, which is sudden, usually following trauma or jumping. Certain breeds are more susceptible – typically long backed breeds.
  • Hansen type 2 is more gradual in its onset, and is caused by general wear and tear on the back.
  • There may be genetic factors that increase the risk of the disease.


  • Initial intense pain when rupture occurs
  • Arched back if in the middle of the back
  • Unwilling to turn/raise/lower head
  • Shiver with pain
  • Walk very carefully and slowly
  • If severe, partial or complete paralysis of the hind legs

How massage can help

  • Surgery may be required, although often the condition is managed conservatively, with long periods of rest.
  • Massage can help to relieve areas of muscular overcompensation, notably neck, shoulders and back muscles.
  • Improves circulation and lymphatic drainage when less mobile.
  • Release of endorphins, which help to relieve pain.

Fibrocartilaginous Embolism (FCE)

The vertebral column provides a bony protective case around the spinal cord. The spinal cord is fed by a network of spinal arteries.

In Fibrocartilaginous Embolism (FCE), somehow the gel from inside the intervertebral disc (nucleus pulposus) enters the arterial system and is carried to the spinal cord where it causes a blood vessel obstruction – or embolism.


  • Tends to be a sudden traumatic event, such as jumping


  • Sudden loss of mobility – may be complete paralysis
  • Not usually painful

How massage can help

An MRI scan will confirm the diagnosis, and then a long period of rehabilitation will be required.

  • Massage will help to ease areas of overcompensation
  • Encourage joint mobilization through passive movement
  • Stimulation of new neural pathways
  • Increase blood circulation and lymphatic drainage

Get in touch

If you think your dog would benefit from Canine Massage Therapy or would like to know more about it, please contact Helen.