Category Archives: complementary therapies

I didn’t want to say anything…

Most of my regular readers know that I work as a canine massage therapist and helping elderly dogs and those recovering from injuries is very rewarding for me.   Many of my clients use massage for their dogs as a way of staving off the need for non-steroidal inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), or at least to keep the dosages of these drugs as low as possible.

So here’s a wee story of something that happened to me this week.

I was working on a dog who I have been seeing for 18 months.  He’s a lovely Labrador and he is starting to have the aches and pains of old age.  With a regular 5-weekly regime of massage, he’s been pain free.

Because I know this boy well, I could pick up that he was tight through his hind legs – a muscle called the biceps femoris.  When I said ‘he’s tight down here’ to his owner, she replied, ‘I didn’t want to say anything…I wanted to see if you’d notice.’

This happens fairly often.  Some people like to test me to see if I actually know what I’m doing (some owners remain doubtful about complementary therapies) but most of the time it is because owners doubt if the changes they observe are real.  When you live with someone with a chronic health condition and see them on a daily basis, it is often hard to pick up changes in their condition.

In this case, it was the latter.  This lady wasn’t confident that she was really seeing her dog running stiffly.  He was tight, but was moving freely when he left after his massage.

Success for the week!

What’s the lesson here? It’s unrealistic to expect a massage therapist to ‘solve’ a dog’s problem in a single visit.  Dogs have to get used to the therapist and massage is a new experience for them.  So, the first visit is usually a time when they aren’t as relaxed because they are uncertain.

Because I keep notes on every massage session, I can refer back to these to track a dog’s condition.  This is no different than what your vet does.  When I am familiar with a dog and their unique characteristics, I’m much better able to pick up changes and act swiftly to help.

Please consider your dog’s therapist as a member of your healthcare team and part of your dog’s preventative healthcare regime.  It’s much better than the ‘ambulance at the bottom of the cliff.’

Kathleen at work with Zara (another client).  copyright June Blackwood

Kathleen at work with Zara (another happy customer) copyright June Blackwood


Understanding homeopathic remedies

In my last blog post, I explained how I was going to start treating Daisy with homeopathic fragaria and calc renalis to support good dental health.

So now I’d like to remind everyone how homepathic remedies are made.

This diagram outlines the process, but doesn’t fully explain how the remedies are made.  (I was sent this diagram a long time ago and I’m not sure of the original source for it).

Homeopathic dilutions diagram

Step 1:  Make a mother tincture

The first step is to create a mother tincture out of the plant source.   The plant material is cut up and crushed and left to soak in an alcohol and water solution in a dark place for some time.  The period of soaking is long enough to draw the properties of the plant into solution.   When the maker of the remedy understands that the mixture is ready, they will strain off any residual plant material.  This is the mother tincture.

Step 2:  Potentization

One drop of the mother tincture is put into a vial and then nine drops of a solution of alcohol and water and shaken vigorously.  This results in a 1X potency.  With one drop of the 1X potency and nine drops of the diluting solution and another good shake and you have 2X potency.

For the potency of 1C, this process is done 100 times.  (C is the Roman numeral for 100).

In most cases, homeopathics start with a 6C potency.  Other common potencies are 12C, 30C and 200C.  I’m most familiar with the 30C potency which is often the starting point (it’s what I’ll be using).  However, when there’s an acute condition that requires a bit more energy, I use 200C.

It’s also important to understand how your homeopathic remedy is made.  My homeopathic vet prefers that the remedies are made by hand by an experienced homeopathic pharmacist.  Major commercial brands like Weleda, on the other hand, use a manufacturing process for potentizing.

Homeopathy is a really interesting discipline and just one of the complementary therapies available to help your dog attain and maintain optimal health.

Special needs pets

On Friday evening, Prime showed a BBC documentary on owners of special needs pets.  It was great to see this issue being covered on New Zealand television because there are owners here who need support as they care for special needs pets.  I love working with special needs dogs in my massage practice and the owners of these animals are special people, too.

This is  Ollie, a Dalmatian who is unable to walk on his own.  However, he is not in pain and is very alert and happy.  His therapy regime includes massage and acupressure, laser therapy, and regular acupuncture treatments.  His strength in his front legs is improving and he has a mobility cart to help him with rehab.

Ollie in his mobility cart.

Ollie’s mobility cart was purchased from Doggon’ Wheels and imported into New Zealand because his owner could not find a supplier locally.  We measured Ollie for his cart and the cart was made especially for these measurements.

Will my dog’s massage be covered by our insurance – Part 4

Petprotect is another insurer in the New Zealand marketplace. It offers three levels of policy coverage:  Value care, Regular care, and Extra care.  This company’s policies are underwritten by IAG New Zealand Ltd.

The company has policy limits for some select breeds of dog.  For the purposes of this article I have used the company’s limits for their standard dog policies.  As with any insurance policy, you need to review the company’s coverage, policy limits,  and premium structure and weigh this up against your own circumstances.

This company has an easy-to-use website, with the ability to download application forms, direct debit forms, and claim forms.  The company responded to my email about coverage on the same day that I sent it (the best response time out of all four insurance companies I have contacted).

As with other insurers, having proper documentation from your vet and complementary therapy provider are important.  (Good news, I meet these requirements as it is my standard practice to record a health history of the dog and details of each therapy session.)   The company will want an itemised invoice and clinical notes to support any claim.

The maximum benefits for each policy apply to treatment, medication and surgery costs which are provided by a registered veterinarian.  This includes acupuncture treatments if these are supplied by a registered vet.  The company is willing to extend its coverage to complementary therapies such as physiotherapy which are provided by practitioners other than registered veterinarians – but only in some circumstances.

Alexandra McMillan of the company explains, “The veterinarian would have tried several options before referring the pet to somewhere else and the clinical notes from the veterinarian would reflect this.  This is a very hard area to outline as we don’t give pre-approval and we have to sight the clinical notes before processing any sort of claim.”

Petprotect’s policy structure is listed below:

Policy type Maximum benefit Excess (per event) Level of reimbursement
Value care $1,500 $50 70%
Regular care $3,000 $50 75%
Extra care $6,000 $50 80%

Will my dog’s massage be covered by our insurance – Part 3

Today I met staff at Ellenco Pet Insurance Ltd to discuss their coverage of complementary therapies.  Ellenco has the honour of not only being 100% New Zealand owned and operated, but also the insurer with the longest record of providing pet insurance in New Zealand – 21 years.

Jenny Ellenbroek, Manager at Ellenco, says, “Our main concern with complementary therapies is that the owner has taken the pet to their vet for a diagnosis and the vet has referred the pet for complementary therapy treatment.”

“We are very concerned that some pet owners are taking their pets to therapists who have no proper training or education and encourage pet owners to check qualifications carefully.”

As with providers Pet-n-Sur and PetPlan (previously reviewed), Ellenco will ensure that the vet has noted the need for therapy on the pet’s file and that the injury/illness occurred during a period when the pet was insured. The company may ask for notes from your therapist, so you need to ensure that your therapist keeps records of each treatment.  (Good news – I again meet these requirements)

Ellenco’s website is easy to navigate and is apparently scheduled for an upgrade which should increase functionality.  The company rep responded to my website enquiry within two days (a good response time).  He referred me to Jenny almost immediately to ensure he was giving me the ‘right’ answers about coverage and requirements for claims.

Below is information on Ellenco’s cover for alternative therapy, including physiotherapy.

Reminder: There are now several providers of pet insurance in New Zealand and so it pays to check on limits of coverage and premiums to ensure you buy the one that is likely to meet your needs.

Ellenco policy type Level of rebate for alternative therapies Limit per policy period
Base 70% $250.00
Ultra 80% $300.00
Premier 85% $400.00
Ellenco also offers a Jade Plan.   Under this policy, there are no limits for complementary treatments and a maximum refund per policy period of $12,000 applies for traditional veterinary care.

Will my dog’s massage be covered by our insurance – Part 2

I have continued to track down information about pet insurance in New Zealand and, more specifically, whether massage therapy is covered.

There is more good news, this time from Petplan.

Petplan has 30 years of experience in the UK providing pet insurance, which is one reason why their brochures can be found in many vet surgeries in New Zealand.  A good number of our vets go overseas for experience and so they become familiar with pet insurance products (which are more popular in other countries – but are growing in popularity here).

Petplan policies are underwritten by a third party, Allianz New Zealand Insurance Limited.   The company responded to my enquiry through their website in approximately two working days – not a bad response time – by sending me a copy of their policy wording.  This document is lengthy and takes time to get through, but the company also takes telephone calls through its customer service number to ask any questions about the coverage – so don’t be put off by the legalistic (insurance) wording.

Dogs must be between 8 weeks and 8 years of age to be insured for the first time, with the exception of defined ‘select breeds’ who must be covered before they reach the age of 5.

As with Pet-n-Sur (previously reviewed), the essential part of the process is to ensure your vet has placed a note on your dog’s file that they recommend physiotherapy.   Petplan will want to make sure that the physiotherapy is for a specified illness or injury.  You are then able to select your provider, making them aware that they must be willing to fill out the relevant portions of the Petplan claim form.

Petplan considers complementary therapies as part of its overall reimbursement limits for veterinary care and so the limits for reimbursement are comparatively quite high.  As with most insurance companies, pre-existing conditions are not covered.

Reminder: There are now several providers of pet insurance in New Zealand and so it pays to check on limits of coverage and premiums to ensure you buy the one that is likely to meet your needs.

Here is a breakdown of the company’s coverage by dog plan (which includes all veterinary care including physiotherapy treatments):

Budget Dog Plan Standard Dog Plan Supreme Dog Plan
$9,000 per year $14,000 per year $18,000 per year

Will my dog’s massage be covered by our insurance?

I’ve recently had a couple of clients ask me this and so I’ve begun to investigate the various New Zealand pet insurance firms and their coverage to ensure I am giving clients the right answer.

The short answer is:  it depends.

I’ll add  information in other blog postings  as I receive it.  First off the blocks is Pet-n-Sur, a 100% New Zealand owned and operated firm.  I was very impressed by the speed in which this company responded to my questions and I notice that they are recommended by a number of SPCA branches.

Elana Vorster is Pet-n-Sur’s Claims Manager.  She says, “Our  Silver, Gold and Platinum policies all provide coverage for alternative therapies which are things such as physiotherapy, acupuncture and homeopathy.  The payment limits are comparatively lower than for traditional veterinary care but they give the client the opportunity to try alternative therapies to see if they work for their dog.”

Ms Vorster says Pet-n-Sur will check the pet’s health record at the vet to ensure that the vet has recommended physiotherapy and that the dog’s injury occurred during a period where your insurance was in place (e.g. not a pre-existing condition).

Your vet does not have to specify a provider for the physiotherapy services – so you are free to choose someone you are comfortable with.

When you bring your dog for massage treatment, you should have a GST receipt to show what treatment has been given and your therapist should also keep records of what was done during the treatment in case these are requested as documentation to support the claim.

The good news:  I already meet these requirements.

Every massage client is given a GST receipt at the end of their therapy session and I keep records on each and every dog I treat.  More importantly, I’m happy to provide any insurer with evidence of my professional training and certifications.

Below  is information on Pet-n-Sur’s cover for alternative therapy, including massage.

There are now several providers of pet insurance in New Zealand and so it pays to check on limits of coverage and premiums to ensure you buy the one that is likely to meet your needs.

Pet-n-Sur policy type Level of reimbursement for alternative therapies
Maximum payable per year
Silver 70% $150.00
Gold 80% $250.00
Platinum 85% $350.00