If you’ve been wondering how to make sure your dog is properly warmed up for and cooled down after their sport, wonder no more. I’ve put together an easy, efficient and most importantly, safe, canine stretching routine to make sure you’re giving your furry athlete the best chance of competing safely and soundly. This routine is suitable for most dogs, as it uses range of motion to warm up the tissues and joints, however if your dog has an existing or previous injury please do consult with myself or another practitioner qualified to assess your dog’s ability to safely do these exercises. Enjoy!
Prehabilitation is a Proactive/preventive approach to manual therapy, exercise, diet and lifestyle, designed to maximise health and wellness, and minimise individual risks for injury and disease. Well-studied in human medicine, prehabilitation is found to be valuable in ‘high risk’, aged, frail or obese patients, as well as younger patients who wish to maximise their athletic performance or if injured and facing surgery, to return to their chosen sports as soon as possible. It is especially valuable when an animal is requiring surgery, and as a pre-operative approach integrates biomechanical assessment and appropriate manual therapy treatment, individualised home exercises plus diet and lifestyle advice in advance of surgery. Prehabilitation has been shown to promote lower complication rates and earlier restoration of functional activities and status during the recovery from surgery. Good quality systematic reviews show a positive impact of pre-operative exercise therapy on physical function, quality of life, postoperative complications and length of hospital stay.
Most animals have been developing compensations for minor slips, trips and falls for many months or years prior to pain or lameness becoming evident. Individualised prehabilitation helps to make sure the animal is moving well and has the best possible strength prior to undergoing surgery. This is believed to help improve the outcomes of surgery by promoting healthy circulation, minimising inflammation, reducing pain related behaviour and movement limitations, reducing strain on the healing tissues and as a bonus will often reduce the animals reliance upon medication to control inflammation and pain both before and after the surgery.
Rehabilitation takes a similar approach around the inclusion of biomechanical assessment and appropriate manual therapy treatment, individualised home exercise, diet and lifestyle advice in respect to promoting the most efficient and successful recovery after orthopaedic surgery or acute injury. Rehabilitation typically follows a pattern guided by the natural healing mechanisms within the associated tissues.
Inflammation is the main factor to manage for the first 2 – 4 weeks depending on the individual situation. This typically includes medication and rest, however these can also be complimented by gentle therapeutic options such as lymphatic drainage, laser and kinesiology taping to help the tissues clear the active inflammation and bring fresh blood supply into the healing tissues. Treatment is always considered on a case by case basis in conjunction with veterinary advice, as individual factors play a large role in the suitability of therapies during the acute stage. Gentle modalities such as laser, kinesiotaping and lymphatic drainage often appropriate immediately post surgery, and specific home exercises may be able to help maintain the nervous and muscular system function in relation to the injury.
Weeks 5-8, are crucial in ensuring the affected tissues are building their passive and active function in a symmetrical and biomechanically correct manner in order to ensure that the repairing tissue is as healthy and functional as possible. Again, passive and active techniques, more advanced exercises and modalities may be applied as appropriate to promote healthy tissue repair.
Remodelling, during weeks 9-12 is when the fun really begins. This is where, if previous stages have been completed with success, we can really start to challenge the body while still being aware there is much change still happening within the healing tissues. Monitoring the dog during this period is particularly important as they often begin to feel ‘like new’ and can easily overdo it. Rehab exercises can increase in complexity as we challenge both the musculoskeletal tissues as well as the nervous system which controls healthy movement.
Months 3 – 6 are the cherry on top as far as rehabilitation goes. While it may seem as though the dog is back to normal, it is very important to continue monitoring them for any signs that their tissues aren’t strengthening symmetrically or fully. Owners are coached on how to monitor their animals for small asymmetries or movement patterns in their own animals specific case, to help pick up early signs of trouble. This helps to reduce the likelihood of long term development of osteoarthritic changes that are common when surgical procedures have occurred. Typically at this stage home exercises should be part of normal daily life, with lifestyle changes well integrated to help the animal continue well into their older years. I always aim to make these lifestyle factors and exercises as easy to integrate into daily life as possible, which makes it significantly more likely that they will be maintained through the animals lifetime.
Please don’t hesitate to get in touch to discuss how Osteopathy and ABM can help your individual animal, with their own specific requirements be their very best.
If you are already struggling with an adult dog who has uneven movement patterns there is plenty you can do to improve their comfort by introducing a routine of safe stretches and exercises. I have compiled a comprehensive range of these within my eBook – The Canine Athlete Warm-Up and Cool-down Manual, which is a safe way for you to start exploring better musculoskeletal health for almost any dog. Check it out HERE or get in touch if you’re uncertain how to get started for your specific dog’s problems.
Is there anything cuter than a puppy? Yes! A Chondrodystrophic puppy! Image by congerdesign from Pixabay You’ve done your due diligence and painstakingly selected a breeder who has carefully screened their breeding dogs for the common health problems in these breeds including Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) and the big day arrives when you bring your … Continue reading “The best way to avoid IVDD in your Dachshund puppy! AKA – Things to do with every puppy to give them the best chance of a long and physically strong life.”
Is there anything cuter than a puppy? Yes! A Chondrodystrophic puppy!
You’ve done your due diligence and painstakingly selected a breeder who has carefully screened their breeding dogs for the common health problems in these breeds including Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) and the big day arrives when you bring your new bundle of joy home.
Knowing you have a breed which is more prone to spinal and musculoskeletal problems, it is worth having a plan for prevention in place from day 1. Dachshunds are by far the most likely to be affected by IVDD, however if you have chosen any chondrodystrophic breed (Long body/Short legs) it’s well worth getting ahead of the inherent risk for back troubles from the very start.
Most breeders and breed societies have several good basic recommendations to help keep your dog healthy and injury free, including:
Prevent your dog from jumping – train your dog to wait to be lifted up and down from beds/sofas or use steps/ramps.
Avoid stair use – installing ramps and gates where needed so as to be able to monitor their use.
Maintain a healthy body weight, especially through puppy-hood.
Avoid vigourous chasing/tugging/rumbling/tumbling games by themself or with others.
These basics are an excellent start, however there is much more you can do to help ensure your little friend has the best chance of avoiding major troubles.
Keep your dogs nails short. Long nails change the angle of the whole lower limb, and cause many of the dogs postural muscles to function in unhealthy manners. This creates increased strain both in the legs and the torso. If you can hear your dog’s nails tapping as they stroll around the house, they are too long. The best approach is to gently handle your puppy’s paws and toes as part of their daily routine, and learn to trim them regularly yourself. Whilst taking them to the vet for sedation to have them done once every few months is an option, it’s not a great one, as they’re much more likely to end up being cut too short, causing pain and bleeding and making the whole process more unbearable each time. I will do up a full post on the way I find best to trim nails without catching the blood vessel, however in the meantime you can find some quick guides on my facebook feed here, here and here.
Avoid slippery floors. If you have a house full of slipper polished floorboards or tiles, consider laying down runner mats through the main pathways your dog uses in the house. As cute as it is, don’t encourage games of fetch up and down corridors that aren’t carpetted. We’ve all seen the videos on youtube of what happens when these sorts of games are played, and whilst they initally seem amusing the risk of serious injury, particularly to the spine, that they pose is no laughing matter.
Next – Keep your dogs weight DOWN! Whilst yes, they can resemble sausages, little but long dogs really do need a very definite waist and palpable ribs with light coverage. This also very much applies to the bull breeds who have unfortunately become poster children for obesity. There is a massive difference between muscly bulk and chunky fat. A body condition score of between 4 and 5 is ideal (see chart below). These little dogs generally have a low capacity for extra calories, so remember, a couple of extra snacks a day can easily add up to the equivilent of a humans eating a couple of extra cheeseburgers a day. Keeping your dog lean will minimise the impact on both legs and spine. Also, don’t fall for the fallacy that young dogs need extra for growth. Healthy growth comes from a well balanced diet that provides appropriate nutrients. A pure excess of calories only creates extra mechanical effort on joints and systemic inflammation, and is the last thing that will help your growing dog. If you are unsure on how best to feed your dog, please reach out and I can direct you to one of many excellent experts/resources available to help you make the best decisions.
One of the most powerful things I think you can do, is incorporate prehab (yes, like rehab, only before the problem happens!). The one basic set of exercises you can begin from puppyhood that I feel has the most bang for it’s buck, whilst also being super easy to incorporate into the daily routine, is changes of position.
It’s as simple as teaching your dog to do a straight sit, down and stand. Yep, that’s it. Sounds easy right? Well, yes it can be, however making sure it is properly straight is the key. Most dogs will develop a habit of slumping to one side or the other, and this often reflects a weakness in their postural muscles. This is why working towards having them be able to do half a dozen to a dozen repetitions of straight changes of position, once or twice a day (while they’re patiently waiting for their breakfast or dinner is a perfect time!) by the time they are 6 months old is extraordinarily powerful in developing healthy movement patterns and protecting joints from the rigours of youth .
When they are 8 weeks of age start asking for one or two of each position as a learning exercise and as they grow and show keenness they can slowly be asked to do more repetitions to begin building strength and stamina. The movements that they practice will greatly influence how they use their body for the rest of their daily activities.
Stay tuned for an in depth look into this process over the coming weeks, and in the meantime please don’t hesitate to contact me to discuss how we can help get your puppy started using their body so as to minimise their future risk of injury!
Don’t forget that even if you are already struggling with an adult dog who has uneven movement patterns there is plenty you can do to improve their comfort by introducing a routine of safe stretches and exercises. I have compiled a comprehensive range of these within my eBook – The Canine Athlete Warm-Up and Cool-down Manual, which is a safe way for you to start exploring better musculoskeletal health for almost any dog. Check it out HERE or get in touch if you’re uncertain how to get started for your specific dog’s problems.
When our dogs get older we often seek extra ways to help them. Osteopathy can be invaluable in adding quality to their lives, read on to find out how.
Life can be tough on the body, even for the best loved and pampered pooch, and by the time they reach their ‘Golden Years’ they can be starting to show their age in many different ways. Their metabolism slows down, often increasing weight and lowering their ability to regulate their body heat. This extra weight in itself, adds strain to already worn joints, which in turn make it harder to get your dog out for some gentle exercise to help manage the weight gain. Older dogs often also experience changes in their temperament, becoming grumpy or aggressive towards family members, especially other pets and children. This is frequently due to undiagnosed or under-treated pain, and goes hand in hand with depression, a reduced social capacity and loss of function in their normal daily activities. Pain management often becomes a big problem when the elderly dog shows the commonly seen increasing signs of side-effects and reactions to medication, and an increased reliance on them to manage simple daily tasks. I frequently hear owners feeling powerless to break this cycle – a feeling having very few satisfactory answers to helping their dog manage as their age creeps up.
Osteopathic care is a gentle approach to helping any animal function the best they can taking into account the conditions they are experiencing. Osteopaths are university trained professionals who are able to recognise where the body can function more efficiently, helping the animal move closer to ‘homeostasis’ – the body’s sense of optimal balance, ease and functioning. Osteopaths use primarily manual therapy techniques, as well as adjunctive techniques such as laser, kinesiology taping and exercise prescription.
Human studies focusing on Osteopathic Treatment in the elderly have shown improvements in respiratory function, functional ability, balance and wellbeing. There has also been noted reduction in pain levels, medication reliance and assistance with some side effects of medications such as constipation commonly seen with some pain medications. These studies, while conducted on humans, have great relevance for guiding the kind of allied care we can offer for elderly dogs, in conjunction with care provided by your Veterinarian.
Osteopathy helps to restore an animals range of motion of all joints and soft tissues of the body, creating an ability to move more comfortably through activities of daily living. In conjunction with Hydrotherapy, we can then add numerous general and specifically tailored exercises and activities for the dog and owner to complete at home to help build added strength and function. In the elderly, it always amazes me how many of the co-morbidities (additional conditions such as failing organs, sight, hearing etc) can become less bothersome when the dog is up and moving more efficiently. Movement really is the most amazing medicine for all bodies.
If you are already struggling with an adult dog who has stiffness or uneven movement patterns there is plenty you can do to improve their comfort by introducing a routine of safe stretches and exercises. I have compiled a comprehensive range of these within my eBook – The Canine Athlete Warm-Up and Cool-down Manual, which is a safe way for you to start exploring better musculoskeletal health for almost any dog. Check it out HERE or get in touch if you’re uncertain how to get started for your specific dog’s problems.
For more information or to discuss how I can help your Golden Oldie live their very best life, please give me a shout on 0452 472 959 or shoot me a message @centaurusosteo on facebook.
How Cranial Cruciate Ligament Injuries can be managed when surgery isn’t the first choice.
Ruptures and partial tears to one or both Cranial Cruciate Ligaments (CCL) is a remarkably common injury in our doggy friends. While certain breeds seem to have significantly more frequency of injury, I see it in a wide variety of breeds, ages and sizes of dogs.
Traditionally, it has been believed that typically only small dogs, under about 15kg, fare just as well with conservative management as they do with surgical repair options. This belief is based on a study which showed very positive outcomes for the small dogs and not so much resolution of lameness in the bigger dogs. Some practitioners, however, have been questioning the assumptions since.
Dr Narda Robinson DVM is one practitioner who has been quite vocal about the lack of options many pet owners are given when faced with a CCL injury. She has compiled some good evidence here to endeavour to debunk many commonly held beliefs around why surgery should always be the primary option for sorting out our dogs dodgy knees.
So, when an owner makes the decision to give the surgical option a miss, even on a trial basis, what actually are the conservative options?
- Weight management – The first step is to ensure the dog is at a healthy weight or slightly underweight. Evidence is mixed but several well designed studies suggest that advancing age and increased body weight are two of the big factors influencing the likelihood of degenerative lesions in CCLs and also risk of of full ruptures. Obviously there isn’t much we can do to stop the clock, but body weight is absolutely one of the most manageable risk factors. This makes a lot of sense from a physiologic perspective as fat cells are inherently inflammatory, and become more so as fat accumulates. As such, it’s not only the mechanical effects of extra weight itself, but even more significantly the systemic inflammation that is created when a dog is carrying excess weight that aggravates the situation.
- Rest and control exercise – This one is huge, and plays an enormous role in the outcome whether managing CCR conservatively or with surgery. Complete crate rest was once advised however studies have shown it to be not necessary in most cases. Restriction to a space that minimises excitement, but has room for gentle movement is ideal. Provide good surfaces which eliminate the risk of slipping. Eliminate opportunities for jumping up or down from vehicles, bedding or step/verandas. Incorporating frequent short controlled leash walks which are more aimed at providing mental stimulation – a good sniff is amazing at calming the stir-crazy pent up energy that can build when dogs are relatively confined, is the ideal for 6-8 weeks.
- Reduce inflammation and pain – Finally, the use of anti-inflammatory or analgesic medication as required. In the early weeks veterinary prescribed medications might be required, however there is a fine line to walk as far as the potential for reducing pain to such a degree that the dog becomes far too active for the stage of healing. We certainly don’t want our animals sitting through strong pain, however a small amount of awareness that they aren’t quite 100% can sometimes help during the crucial rest period. This is a topic to discuss on an individual basis with your veterinary professionals, as each dog will be very different and many factors play into this balancing act!
From an osteopathic and allied perspective it is possible to boost the effects of this conservative management firstly by recognising that it is, in most cases, strongly likely that biomechanical restrictions and asymmetrical movement in the dog’s body have contributed to uneven weight bearing through the hind legs and the stifle joint. This asymmetry and dysfunction can be addressed using Osteopathic techniques which are gentle and generally largely pain free. By allowing the dog’s musculoskeletal system to function to the best of it’s ability, it is possible to greatly reduce the overloading of individual joints and enhance the circulatory, lymphatic and nervous system function around the joints and tissues and hence allow the body to achieve optimal healing.
One of the big risks with CCL rupture is that around 50% of dogs will present with rupture to the other CCL within 6 months of surgery to repair injury to the first. This suggests two possibilities. Firstly, the obvious one that during recovery, the ‘good’ knee will be taking more than its fair share of workload. Secondly, the likelihood that there are underlying biomechanical and physiological factors that haven’t been addressed in the first instance which are continuing to compromise the healthy functioning of the joint. Whether post-surgery, or opting for the conservative option, it is therefore crucial to ensure the dog’s body is actually able to work symmetrically, as well as to then formulate a thorough rehabilitation plan to help ensure the dog begins to use themselves evenly. This rehab can begin within the first few weeks post-surgery or during the rest period if managing conservatively.
Allied therapies including dietary changes (examples here and here) and nutritional supplementation and herbs, hydrotherapy, acupuncture, laser, orthoses, stem cell therapy and cryotherapy (cold) are some of the many that may be useful within the management plan for CCL rehabilitation.
Prevention is better than cure! From a preventative point of view, again it is crucial to ensure dogs are able to use themselves as symmetrically as possible and carry as low an inflammatory load in their body as possible. This can be achieved by taking a few routine steps to ensure your dog is as healthy and strong as possible whatever the stage of life.
- Osteopathic preventative/maintenance visits from a young age, to thoroughly examine and uncover any dysfunctional regions of the body and remove these restrictions before they begin to significantly alter the way the dog is moving.
- Regularly assessing dietary needs, both for weight management as well as for minimising systemic inflammation that can develop due to unbalanced or overly processed diets.
- Ensure that dogs are given consistent, relatively controlled activity that builds progressive strength and condition for their daily activities and specific sporting activities minimises the risks of injury significantly – avoid the weekend warrior approach of relatively little or no exercise during the week followed by manic ball chasing or frisbee catching at the weekend. Make intentional exercise a big part of your daily routine so your dog has a good baseline level of fitness and strength to help cope with the inevitable extra fun at the weekends or on holidays.
- Specific range of motion/position exercises are particularly worthwhile for building great proprioceptive and core control in all dogs and can be built from simple routines to very complex movements depending on training levels and the needs of the individual. Chat to your Osteopath or canine conditioning expert for ideas!
- Make sure nails are kept trimmed regularly, both to avoid slipping risk and also to help avoid changes in limb posture which may occur if the dog is feeling discomfort during activity from overly long nails.
If you are noticing your dog has uneven movement patterns or is occasionally showing signs of stiffness or soreness there is plenty you can do at home to improve their comfort by introducing a routine of safe stretches and exercises. I have compiled a comprehensive range of these within my eBook – The Canine Athlete Warm-Up and Cool-down Manual, which is a safe way for you to start exploring better musculoskeletal health for almost any dog. Check it out HERE or get in touch if you’re uncertain how to get started for your specific dog’s problems.
Working with excellent vets in my own local area, I am by no means anti-surgery – a well stabilised knee followed by dedicated and thorough rehabilitation is often the ideal option, however if you would like to discuss options, please don’t hesitate to contact me to discuss whether conservative management might be appropriate for your dog in the task of preventing, managing or rehabilitating a CCL injury.
How to avoid and treat agility injuries for a long and fruitful agility career.
It’s a well known fact that for all the amazing benefits Agility offers dogs and their handlers and the relationship between both, it can be a hard sport physically on the dog (and the handler, but that’s another story!). Injuries can be either acute or chronic in nature, and management of the inherent risks presented by obstacles such as A-frames, jumps and seesaws is an important part of making sure your dog gets to have a long and enjoyable agility career. Factors which add to the risk of agility are the speed at which the dog is travelling, the tight lines often needed to navigate today’s courses and the athleticism required to traverse these obstacles, all of which leave the dog open to repetitive stress on various parts of their body as well as potential falls from or hitting the obstacle.
From a training perspective it is very worthwhile to aim to minimise the repetitive nature of the work the dog does, especially with young dogs whose growth plates are still very susceptible to damage from excess and repetitive pressure. Keeping the work they do varied, while practicing the skills might look like breaking the exercise down into small chunks and practicing each part at a much slower and more controlled pace to perfect the skill, then building those parts to perform the full obstacle. Working on many small varied parts of the greater task, at a slower pace, allows the trainer and dog to refine their skills and communication while avoiding many high speed repetitions of the full obstacle.
As mentioned above, injury to growth plates in young dogs is one worry when involved in intense competitive training, and this is largely mitigated by changing the way the dog is worked at least until physical maturity. Other risks such as sprains, strains, contusions (bruising from hitting an obstacle) and postural changes due to repetitive movements of an asymmetrical nature can be more readily managed or mitigated with the help of Osteopathy and other rehabilitation or wellness options such as swimming.
Osteopathically we look at the way the dog is moving and using their body and then palpate (feel) to identify any restrictions in the joints and any tender points, tightness or weakness in the muscles, ligaments or tendons. When identified, gentle manual techniques ranging from soft tissue work (massage like techniques) through to joint manipulation can be applied to restore healthy and full range movement throughout the body. Ensuring that the musculoskeletal system has full movement not only allows these tissues to function well, it also allows the circulatory and nervous systems which have branches running all through these tissues to function optimally. This promotes healing and gives the dog the best chance of recovering fully from any injuries, as well as helping to avoid injuries in the first place.
Agility buffs, your dogs are athletes! Their bodies are working very hard while having an absolute ball, so make sure you give them the benefit of keeping that body working to it’s best ability and you’ll give them the best chance of a long, enjoyable and injury free time leaping and bounding their way through their favourite pastime.
Specifically for our sporting dogs, but also for almost every other dog – I have compiled a comprehensive range of safe and effective stretches and exercises within my eBook – The Canine Athlete Warm-Up and Cool-down Manual, which is a safe way for you to start exploring better musculoskeletal health for almost any dog. Check it out HERE or get in touch if you’re uncertain how to get started for your specific dog’s problems.
A common problem dog owners find themselves facing is when their beloved dog develops a habit of excessively licking a paw or leg, or sometimes even a body part to the point a sore develops. Often this is put down to anxiety, however it is frequently also triggered by a pain sensation which either becomes chronic. Because the action of licking tends to release endorphins which reduce pain or stress, the dog then continues the excessively frequent licking even when it is exacerbating damage to the area . This frequently feeds into a very difficult to resolve behavioural loop Similar to the way we humans rub a sore muscle or joint, our dogs are simply seeking to find the best way they can to manage the discomfort. So what can we do to try to break this pattern of licking?
Firstly, and particularly if open sores are present we will want the owner to be consulting a vet for investigation for assessment for underlying factors such as parasites, allergies and arthritic joints amongst other sources as well as for topical management strategies, whether that be antibiotics, antifungals, antihistamines etc to help settle the local tissue response. An Elizabethan collar may also be an appropriate strategy to help break the licking habit and protect the skin while the underlying problem is addressed. In unison with Veterinary assessment, Osteopathic assessment takes the approach of looking for restrictions within the neuromusculoskeletal structures of the body, particularly those related to the region which appear to be painful or irritated.
One of the most common sources of lick sores when no definitive underlying problem has been identified is referred pain or nerve pain from a more central restriction or dysfunction in the body. In such cases, we assess the tissues and joints from the spine, limb and associated areas which could be creating a change in the function of the nerves, blood vessels and pain sensitive structures all the way to the tip of the toes. If you’ve ever sat on your leg or slept on your arm and then moved to find your limb initially ‘dead’, closely followed by a strong pins and needles sensation or many other odd sensations associated with nerve and blood flow restriction, you’re sure to be able to picture the sensations your dog is trying to ease. The recent addition of Fascial Counterstrain techniques to my practice has added an extra layer of depth to the assessment and treatment of the very deep neurovascular structures which influence many of the recurrent and chronic pain sensations felt by both us and our animals. By finding these kinds of restrictions in the tissues it is often possible to relieve much irritation around these very senstive structures and eliminate or significantly reduce the symptoms.
Along with individual assessment, it’s much the same for our animals as it is for us, in that adopting a regular preventative movement practice can be extremely useful in unwinding and preventing daily aches and pains. Think of the positive effects of intentional gentle stretching or yoga, and you’ll have a sense of these benefits. If you have a dog who is showing significant discomfort in their limbs or body, especially if paired with uneven movement patterns a thorough consult is absolutely worthwhile, however there is plenty you can do at home to improve their comfort. I have compiled a comprehensive range of safe and effective stretches and exercises within my eBook – The Canine Athlete Warm-Up and Cool-down Manual. Within it you will find a generalised routine for you to start exploring better musculoskeletal health for almost any dog. Check it out HERE or get in touch if you’re uncertain whether this might be a useful way to get started unwinding your specific dog’s problems.
Some may have noticed changes to my logo and business name. These came about after being offered a great opportunity to increase the canine component of my practice. Whilst previously I saw a good amount of dogs in my travels around predominantly equine and human visits, as of the start of January I have been working within the K9 SWiM – Canine Wellness Centre NSW, North Richmond providing osteopathic treatment to the canine members of the family. I am delighted to be able to offer this dedicated time in my schedule for your doggy family members.
The article below appeared in K9 SWiM’s January newsletter and is well worth a read to help understand the work I do with dogs.
Osteopathy has, over the years, become such a huge part of my life. I graduated from UWS in 2003 with a Master of Osteopathy and promptly set about establishing my human practice. Having been a little obsessed with animals since the time I could express my feelings, and having spent my childhood and teen years collecting stray cats, dogs and horses much to my parents hidden delight, it really was no great surprise to anyone that animals would creep into the practice one way or another.
In 2009 I was able to complete, with distinction, the Graduate Diploma of Animal Chiropractic through RMIT in Victoria. This course was the result of an amazing amalgam of Osteopathic, Chiropractic and Veterinary practitioners, with lecturers and tutors from all three fields. Our discussions over meal breaks were educational to say the least! To say this refueled my passion for Osteopathy and it’s potential to make a difference to all creatures, great and small, is a mammoth understatement.
My new qualifications prompted me to take a leap of faith and head overseas to Ireland to focus on the animal side of practice, and I have just after nearly 8 years, returned from a wonderful time living the Irish life while building up strong skills and experience in my practice with horses, dogs and people.
People often ask why on earth a dog might need an Osteopath, and like with horses and humans, the answer isn’t necessarily a quick one.
What is Canine Osteopathy?
Canine Osteopathy is a gentle hands on therapy for dogs which ultimately aims to restore movement wherever in the body it may be lost, and to reduce pain and discomfort resulting from these restrictions. When the joints, muscles, ligaments or tendons, connective tissue or even the vessels and organs of the body aren’t free to move pain and discomfort will often result. Many activities we, and our dogs consider a part of normal daily life, can result in these sorts of restrictions. Degenerative processes due to age, injury, breed predisposition or just bad luck can also create compensation and restriction of free and full range of motion. Helping to reduce the these restrictions can have huge effects on the comfort levels of the dog plus helping dogs gain the most from tailored rehab programmes after surgery and is where Osteopathy holds great value for our beloved animals.
The major goal to Osteopathic treatment is finding and addressing restrictions in movement, the premise being that restricted movement, in any tissue of the body, will reduce the capacity for full health of those tissues. This obviously can result in altered gait, altered ability to carry out normal activities of daily life and predispose the body to injury and/or pain. So with that in mind, the Osteopath primarily uses their hands to find and reduce restrictions in normal movement of the body to allow the natural healing ability to work to its best capacity. That’s the abbreviated version.
The full version is something I’m only too happy to converse at length whenever anyone asks! Even 15 years into my professional life I am still blown away, on an almost daily basis, by how powerful it can be to simply allow a body to move. The changes are often much bigger than even I expect, particularly with animals compared to humans, as they have no preconceived ideas as to what they should or shouldn’t be feeling, and what their pain does or doesn’t mean to their life.
Problems in dogs that Ostepathic treatment can help
So what might an owner see that might give them cause to think an Osteopath could help?
Obvious lameness especially if of uncertain origin
Is your dog suddenly throwing in an occasional hop or obviously favouring one limb?
Crooked posture at rest or in movement
Do they appear to be running like a crab?
Do they always sit and slump to one side or repetitively circle one direction only, when trying to get comfortable to sleep?
Does one limb seem to lose grip or slide out the side when on slippery surfaces?
Difficulty with normal daily activities
Is your dog showing reluctance or struggling to jump up or down from furniture, or negotiating steps?
Are they slowing down and/or avoiding obstacles during agility or jumping?
Changes in temperament
Has your dog started being less tolerant of touch, seeking less social contact or refusing to play with people or other animals like usual?
Growling or teeth baring are late signs a dog is uncomfortable either physically or psychologically.
Recent trauma or surgery
Has he your dog had any falls or slips, or been barreled by another dog in play?
Is your dog progressing as expected with rehabilitation after surgery or showing signs she that they need some help recovering from surgery?
Aging or degenerative processes
Has he your dog been diagnosed with osteoarthritis in any joints of the limbs or spine, either primary or subsequent to an injury?
Are they simply slowing down as she they get older and finding it tougher to get going after rest?
Less obvious signs of pain or altered nervous system function
Has your dog been excessively licking or chewing at a limb or body part?
Are they showing signs of weakness in the back or front end?
Have they been diagnosed by the vet and being managed for neurological conditions such as Wobblers syndrome or Disc Disease?
Some of these presentations are ones which Osteopathy can bring a full resolution to the problem, such as when there is simple restriction after a slip, fall or jarring. Some require ongoing maintenance treatment to help the dog as the process of healing occurs at the rate the body can heal, for example after a successful cruciate repair, or helping a dog who has had an amputation adjust to life without a leg at each corner. Finally some can simply be assisted in maintaining the best function of the surrounding areas of the body, so that the problematic area causes the least impact upon the dogs daily life.
How Canine Ostepathic treatment helped Roly the Jack Russell
Occasionally these cases surprise you and make an almost miraculous turn around, like one wonderful little Jack Russell Terrier “Roly” who presented with full hind limb paralysis. Roly had 3 treatments over the space of a month, and along with veterinary management involving medication to manage pain and bandaging to protect his limbs, and some simple home exercises I prescribed for his owners to carry out, he was up and walking, albeit with reduced coordination. I next saw him almost a year later when visiting his owner to work on one of her horses and could hardly believe when I saw him leaping around the place as though there had never been a problem. He is a perfect example of how sometimes, simply giving their systems the space to heal by removing any restrictive roadblocks can reap huge rewards.
I am very excited to have the opportunity to work with the K9 SWiM team, and have access to the vast skills and knowledge base of the rest of the team, not to mention the ability for my clients to access the hugely beneficial hydrotherapy options.
I greatly look forward to helping your dogs achieve their best physical health in 2018, Initial consultation with you and your dog is generally up to one hour and then subsequent consultations are up to forty five minutes. If you have any queries please don’t hesitate to contact me on 0452 472 959