Category Archives: dog care

Understanding one another

Like us, dogs have their own forms of verbal and non-verbal communication.  Getting to know your dog and being a careful observer of their behavior helps you to develop a deep understanding of your dog.

We know that our dogs are great observers of our behavior, too.  That’s how they learn our cues, moods, and habits.

Having a good understanding of one another pays benefits when you have a dog who is getting older, or has disabilities.

Take Izzy.  She is an ex-racing greyhound and we’ve known for some time that she has arthritis in her carpus (wrist) and toes.  I picked up on the arthritis quite early.  I had noticed that almost every time I looked at her over the course of about a week,  she was licking her left foot.  A visit to the vet for an x-ray confirmed early signs of arthritic changes.  In response, she started getting rub-downs with an anti-inflammatory gel, I started her on additional deer velvet supplements (in addition to her glucosamine and chondroitin supplement) and I also increased the frequency of her visits to a local hydrotherapy pool and her massages.

Over the last year, we’ve also been battling corns  – something that plagues sighthounds in particular but has been aggravating her arthritis and was the main cause of her progressively becoming more lame.  I knew we were having a corn problem because she would limp only when crossing the road over chip-sealed road (intolerance of rough surfaces is typically the first sign).

As she then developed two corns on the same toe, her lameness became constant and our walks shorter, with a pram when she needed it.

Izzy had a flexor tenotomy surgery last month and this has helped greatly in managing the corns but of course the arthritis is still there, she is that much older, and she’s had months of reduced/shortened walks because of her lameness.

Now the bright side.  She is getting fitter and stronger and I’m carefully increasing the amount of activity she has.  Today, she didn’t want to go out initially for an afternoon walk and so I put her in her pram.

We got as far as around the block before she let me know she was ready to get out and walk.  (This is signaled by a high-pitched bark)

I know Izzy is getting tired when her head drops and she starts taking more and more time sniffing bushes, grass and trees.  These are signs that she is tiring and the excess sniffing is both a diversionary behavior and, at times, a sign she is stressed and uncomfortable.

That’s when I put her back in her pram.  She gets plenty of stimulation and enrichment by watching the world go by.  She also loves the attention she gets from passersby – both on foot and in cars.  (Shortly after I stopped this video, the couple who approached on foot spent at least 5 minutes talking to her, giving her treats and chatting about her care).

I am always grateful when people stop to talk to us about ‘what’s wrong with her’ and to ask about greyhounds and their welfare.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

I wish we’d known about you sooner

Earlier this week, two dogs in my practice passed away.  As I was leaving one house for the last time, my human client said,  “I wish we’d known about you sooner.”

I know it was said in context of a thank-you and while I wanted to reply, “so do I”, I opted instead to thank them for allowing me to work with their dog over the last couple of weeks to make him more comfortable.  There was no need to make them feel more vulnerable (or guilty) at such a sad time.

The time for end-of-life and palliative care comes all to soon with our dogs – because they don’t live as long as we do.  My real passion is health & wellness care, helping dog parents play ‘the long game’ through preventative health care and, if necessary, rehabilitation.

So I’ll finish this post on a high note.  I also saw Blue this week.  He’s been a regular since October 2017 when his Dad picked up a brochure for my practice at one of my partner clinics.  He figured that since he used massage therapy for his health, Blue would benefit from it, too.

IMG_5532[1]

In the years I have been working with Blue, he’s developed arthritis and had one severe episode of breakthrough pain which saw him at the vets and prescribed NSAIDs.  But since then, he continues to be a bright and happy boy.  Ever so playful, usually meeting me at my car with one of his soft toys in his mouth.  He is well looked after and taken for enriching activities including fishing trips to the Mackenzie Country and walks through the Heathcote Valley.

To me, Blue is a great example of health care – not sick care.

We’ve talked about when his time comes and what his Dad will do without his stellar presence in his life.  But that day wasn’t today; I hope it won’t be for a while yet.  And I hope I’ll be there to help him if his care becomes necessarily palliative.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

When Should You Neuter Your Dog to Avoid Health Risks?

10 year study on neuteringSome dog breeds have higher risk of developing certain cancers and joint disorders if neutered or spayed within their first year of life. Until now, studies had only assessed that risk in a few breeds. A new, 10-year study by researchers at the University of California, Davis, examined 35 dog breeds and found vulnerability from neutering varies greatly depending on the breed. The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science.

“There is a huge disparity among different breeds,” said lead author Benjamin Hart, distinguished professor emeritus at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. Hart said there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to health risks and the age at which a dog is neutered. “Some breeds developed problems, others didn’t. Some may have developed joint disorders but not cancer or the other way around.”

Researchers analyzed 15 years of data from thousands of dogs examined each year at the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital to try to understand whether neutering, the age of neutering, or differences in sex when neutered affect certain cancers and joint disorders across breeds. The joint disorders examined include hip dysplasia, cranial cruciate ligament tears and elbow dysplasia. Cancers examined include lymphoma; hemangiosarcoma, or cancer of the blood vessel walls; mast cell tumors; and osteosarcoma, or bone cancer.

In most breeds examined, the risk of developing problems was not affected by age of neutering.

Breed differences by size and sex

Researchers found that vulnerability to joint disorders was related to body size.

“The smaller breeds don’t have these problems, while a majority of the larger breeds tend to have joint disorders,” said co-author Lynette Hart, professor at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

One of the surprising exceptions to this was among the two giant breeds — great Danes and Irish wolfhounds — which showed no increased risk to joint disorders when neutered at any age.

Researchers also found the occurrence of cancers in smaller dogs was low, whether neutered or kept intact. In two breeds of smaller dogs, the Boston terrier and the shih tzu, there was a significant increase in cancers with neutering.

Another important finding was that the sex of the dog sometimes made a difference in health risks when neutered. Female Boston terriers neutered at the standard six months of age, for example, had no increased risk of joint disorders or cancers compared with intact dogs, but male Boston terriers neutered before a year of age had significantly increased risks.

Previous studies have found that neutering or spaying female golden retrievers at any age increases the risk of one or more of the cancers from 5 percent to up to 15 percent.

Discuss choices with veterinarians

Dog owners in the United States are overwhelmingly choosing to neuter their dogs, in large part to prevent pet overpopulation, euthanasia or reduce shelter intake. In the U.S., surgical neutering is usually carried out by six months of age.

This study suggests that dog owners should carefully consider when and if they should have their dog neutered.

“We think it’s the decision of the pet owner, in consultation with their veterinarian, not society’s expectations that should dictate when to neuter,” said Benjamin Hart. “This is a paradigm shift for the most commonly performed operation in veterinary practice.”

The study lays out guidelines for pet owners and veterinarians for each of 35 breeds to assist in making a neutering decision. Read the full list here.

Source:  UC Davis

Izzy’s Words of the Day

Izzy is my greyhound and Poster Dog for The Balanced Dog, my practice in Christchurch, NZ.

During our lockdown (quarantine) for Covid-19, Izzy hosted Word of the Day on my Facebook page. Each word was selected for their relevance to canine health, fitness and welfare. I hope you enjoy this compilation.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Researchers find CBD improves arthritis symptoms in dogs

A team led by researchers at Baylor College of Medicine in collaboration with Medterra CBD conducted the first scientific studies to assess the potential therapeutic effects of cannabidiol (CBD) for arthritic pain in dogs, and the results could lead the way to studying its effect in humans. Researchers focused first on these animals because their condition closely mimics the characteristics of human arthritis, the leading cause of pain and disability in the U.S. for which there is no effective treatment.

Cannibus study

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Published in the journal Pain, the study first showed both in laboratory tests and mouse models that CBD, a non-addictive product derived from hemp (cannabis), can significantly reduce the production of inflammatory molecules and immune cells associated with arthritis. Subsequently, the study showed that in dogs diagnosed with the condition, CBD treatment significantly improved quality of life as documented by both owner and veterinarian assessments. This work supports future scientific evaluation of CBD for human arthritis.

“CBD is rapidly increasing in popularity due to its anecdotal health benefits for a variety of conditions, from reducing anxiety to helping with movement disorders,” said corresponding author Dr. Matthew Halpert, research faculty in the Department of Pathology and Immunology at Baylor. “In 2019, Medterra CBD approached Baylor to conduct independent scientific studies to determine the biological capabilities of several of its products.”

In the current study, Halpert and his colleagues first measured the effect of CBD on immune responses associated with arthritis, both in human and murine cells grown in the lab and in mouse models. Using Medterra tinctures, they found that CBD treatment resulted in reduced production of both inflammatory molecules and immune cells linked to arthritis.

The researchers also determined that the effect was quicker and more effective when CBD was delivered encapsulated in liposomes than when it was administered ‘naked.’ Liposomes are artificially formed tiny spherical sacs that are used to deliver drugs and other substances into tissues at higher rates of absorption.

Halpert and colleagues next assessed the effect of naked and liposome-encapsulated CBD on the quality of life of dogs diagnosed with arthritis.

“We studied dogs because experimental evidence shows that spontaneous models of arthritis, particularly in domesticated canine models, are more appropriate for assessing human arthritis pain treatments than other animal models. The biological characteristics of arthritis in dogs closely resemble those of the human condition,” Halpert said.

Arthritis is a common condition in dogs. According to the American Kennel Club, it affects one out of five dogs in the United States.

The 20 client-owned dogs enrolled in the study were seen at Sunset Animal Hospital in Houston. The dog owners were randomly provided with identical unidentified medication bottles that contained CBD, liposomal CBD, or a placebo. Neither the owners nor the veterinarian knew which treatment each dog received.

After four weeks of daily treatment, owners and veterinarians reported on the condition of the dogs, whether they observed changes in the animals’ level of pain, such as changes related to running or gait. The dogs’ cell blood count and blood indicators of liver and kidney function also were evaluated before and after the four weeks of treatment.

“We found encouraging results,” Halpert said. “Nine of the 10 dogs on CBD showed benefits, which remained for two weeks after the treatment stopped. We did not detect alterations in the blood markers we measured, suggesting that, under the conditions of our study, the treatment seems to be safe.”

Source:  Baylor College of Medicine via Phys.org

Beyond Izzy’s pram (managing dogs through to old age) Part 10 – other veterinary procedures

Today, we have reached the final rung on our ladder.  It’s time to discuss Other Veterinary Care.

Arthritis management diagram

Sometimes, more extreme measures have to be considered and this is where our ‘Other’ category comes in.  Specialist procedures are undertaken by qualified veterinarians.

They may include:

  • hip replacement – for dogs with severe hip dysplasia, sometimes a hip replacement is the last option remaining – a procedure undertaken by a surgeon with rehabilitation to follow
  • Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections – this involves taking blood from your dog and spinning it in a centrifuge to separate out the plasma portion of the blood.  This fluid is then injected back into tendons and ligaments to stimulate the healing process.  PRP injections seem to be the best hope for chronic tendinopathies that are hard to shift with other treatments.
  • Stem cell therapy – in this procedure, adipose (fat) tissue and some blood are collected from your dog and processed on-site through a special procedure to release and purify the stem cells. The purified material is then injected into arthritic joints and intravenously to help repair damaged tissues directly and through circulation through the bloodstream.

Our dogs are benefiting from the research into regenerative medicine techniques; as our human population is living longer, they also suffer from diseases like arthritis for longer.  Regenerative techniques, once proven, offer hope for chronic pain sufferers.

Depending upon your location, access to specialist procedures may be limited particularly because of the investment required for specialist equipment and training.  If you feel that your dog’s condition isn’t being managed sufficiently with a mix of the other modalities mentioned in this series, then you should discuss specialist options with your vet who can refer you to a practice.  (Be prepared to travel and for the costs of specialist expertise.)

I hope you have enjoyed the ageing dogs series.  There is a lot we can do to help our dogs age gracefully and with a good quality of life.

Finally, a ‘plug’ for my practice, The Balanced Dog.  You may have noticed my logo in all but two of the rungs on the ladder.  That’s because my integrative practice focused on Fear-Free, in-home care, offers:

  • In-home assessments
  • Gait analysis and health history review
  • Hour-long consults with an interview process involving the dog’s health and behaviour – to ascertain symptoms of discomfort, pain and anxiety
  • Individual canine fitness and exercises programs
  • Weight loss recommendations and coaching
  • Food therapy
  • Complementary therapies including canine massage, acupressure, low-level laser therapy, flower essences and supplementation recommendations

All new clients must submit a copy of their dog’s veterinary records and certify that their dog is under regularly veterinary care.  Remember that we can go up and down the ladder as we re-evaluate a dog’s condition and care needs.

Got questions about this post?  Please feel free to post a message or contact me through my practice, The Balanced Dog.

 

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Collars risk causing neck injuries in dogs, study shows

A study led by a canine scientist at Nottingham Trent University looked at the potential impact of pulling on the lead and the related pressure on the neck, using a variety of of collar-types and styles.

Young Woman Walks Her Dog In California Park

The collars and a slip lead were tested on a canine cylinder neck model with a pressure sensor.

A range of forces were applied to the lead representing different interactions—a firm pull (40 Newtons) strong pull (70N) and a jerk (141N) – with the contact area of the collar and the pressure on the neck being recorded.

The study, which also involved the University of Nottingham, found that with all the collar types and styles tested—even those that were padded or had a wide fitting—the pressure exerted on the model neck would be sufficient to risk injury to the dog.

No single collar tested provided a pressure considered low enough to reduce the risk of injury when pulling on the lead, they found.

Lead jerks on the collar may occur when dogs on extendable leads abruptly come to a stop, when a dog lunges on a lead, or is ‘corrected’ by the handler.

The researchers argue that as all collar types will pose some risk, dogs should be trained to walk on a loose lead without pulling, or walked using a harness which applies no pressure to the neck.

“All types of dog collar have the potential to cause harm when the dog pulls on the lead,” said Dr. Anne Carter, a researcher in Nottingham Trent University’s School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences.

She said: “While collars provide a means to identify a dog or demonstrate ownership, they are also frequently used as a connection between handler and dog and to facilitate control, restraint or movement.

“Even the ‘best’ type of collar is putting too much pressure on the dog’s neck if they pull on the lead and this is risking injury. We suggest that collars should be used to display ID tags and dogs should be walked on a harness or loose lead that avoids any pressure on the neck.

“It is not recommended that collars be used as a means of control for any dogs that may pull on the lead.”

Study co-author Dr. Amanda Roshier, from the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, University of Nottingham, said: “Using sophisticated engineering tools, we simulated collar pressures that dogs may be exposed to on the lead and how this varies with different collar models, and the force exerted by a handler. Our tests aimed to give practical insight into how the choice of collar and its use impacts the welfare of dogs.”

Rachel Casey, Director for Canine Behaviour and Research at Dogs Trust, said: “It’s a common problem for owners that their dog pulls on the lead, when excited to get out on a walk. The findings of this research highlight the extent to which all collars exert pressure on the sensitive tissues of dogs’ necks when there is tension on the lead. It is for this reason that we recommend that owners attach a lead to a well fitted harness—particularly if their dog is likely to pull on the lead during a walk or if they use a long line during walks.

“Walks are also made more pleasurable for pet and owner if dogs are taught to walk calmly on a loose lead. Taking a bit of time to teach your dog that he or she can get to the park without pulling, will save a lifetime of pulled arms as well as avoiding possible injury to your dog. We have a range of resources available online on how to teach your dog to walk on a loose lead using a reward-based approach.”

The study was undertaken at the Wolfson Labs, in the Faculty of Engineering with support from bioengineer Professor Donal McNally, also of the University of Nottingham.

The research is reported in the journal Vet Record.

Source:  Nottingham Trent University

Beyond Izzy’s pram (managing dogs through to old age) Part 9 – medications

Today, I’m talking about medications and their role in your dog’s care.  Medications are the 7th rung of our ladder…

Arthritis management diagram - the ladder

Medications are prescribed by your veterinarian after they have examined your dog and are confident on the match between the medication and your dog’s conditions.  For dogs with multiple health problems, it’s incredibly important to use the same veterinarian or to declare all medications you are using with every vet to ensure there are no adverse drug interactions.

As with healthcare for people, we now have more drugs than ever to support and treat health conditions in our dogs. Although we have been talking a lot in this series about arthritis, aging dogs often develop other health conditions.  These include things like urinary incontinence and kidney disease, as examples.

My English Pointer, Daisy, took Propalin syrup for many years because of urinary incontinence (she would leak urine, usually while asleep).  Thanks to the liquid form of the medication, I was able to gradually get her to the lowest effective dose – and that’s something I really liked because I didn’t want her to be over-medicated.

Words of advice #1:  Always ask if your dog’s medication comes in a liquid form.  Many pet parents struggle to give their dog a pill, whereas liquid is often easier to put over food or down the throat.  And, as noted above, with a liquid medication you have greater ability to adjust dosages than with pill formats.

Medications have a huge role to play in the management of arthritis, an inflammatory disease that causes pain and discomfort.  The most common group of drugs used to help patients with arthritis are the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).  These include:

  • Rimadyl
  • Carprieve
  • Metacam
  • Previcox
  • Trocoxil
  • Pentosan Polysulfate

Other pain medications which are not in the NSAID class include:

  • Gabapentin
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl
  • Ketamine
  • Amantadine
  • Paracetemol

It is fairly common for me to meet dog parents who are concerned about giving their dogs medications because they’ve heard that they can have side effects.  That concern is valid to a point, but not to the point that you allow your animal to live with enduring pain.  Pain is an animal welfare issue.

In addition, I have never met a person who said that they would withhold arthritis medication from their aging mother, father or grandparents because they were worried about side effects.  If it’s good enough for your human loved ones, this approach is also good enough for your dog.

Words of advice #2:  Adopt a trial approach to pain medication.  I’m not talking about ‘free samples’ here – I’m talking about a medication trial that lasts a few weeks to see what effects they have on your dog and to help you get accustomed to the idea of giving them medication.  Many veterinarians will endorse this approach.  After a consultation, your vet will prescribe several weeks worth of pain medication.  Your job is to follow the dosage instructions and to watch your dog’s behavior…

By the end of many pain medication trials,  it is common for me to hear that the dog is bouncing around again, walking for longer distances, eating more robustly, etc.  That tells us how much pain they have been in and justifies prolonged usage of the medication.

Remember, arthritis is a degenerative disease.  It’s not going away – and so neither is the pain.

During New Zealand’s Covid-19 lockdown, a woman contacted me about her dog who, she said, prior to lockdown had been reluctant to walk on an intermittent basis. But since she was home more and walking him regularly, she had noticed that some days he wouldn’t walk at all and on others, he’d want to head for home a lot sooner than planned.

She described his behavior to me and, since I was unable to work with clients at the time, I suggested she talk to her vet about a pain management trial.  Vets were classified as essential services during the lockdown.

She took my advice and when I followed up with her, she told me that her dog was a puppy again.  He’s going for x-rays now because in post-lockdown, the vet is able to admit the dog for x-rays.  The images will tell us the extent of his suspected/likely arthritis.  And we’ll use massage, laser and exercise to manage him along with the medication.    (Remember, we can go up and down our ladder)

 

Izzy the greyhound in her pram

In closing, I’ll bring this post back to Izzy.  She has corns and arthritis and, based on our experience with NSAIDs after surgeries, they weren’t an option for her for longer term pain management.  Her stomach doesn’t tolerate them.  Our vet suggested gabapentin, which she takes twice each day.

The pain management is part of her daily regime which includes, of course, rides in her pram when she is too tired or sore to continue walking.  We review Izzy’s health and degree of lameness on a regular basis with our vet before getting a refill of her gabapentin.

Over time, medication needs can change.  If one medication doesn’t work, there is usually something else that the vet can prescribe for your dog.

 


Got questions about this post?  Please feel free to post a message or contact me through my practice, The Balanced Dog.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

In a world with Covid-19, an in-home pet service offers peace of mind

Balanced Dog Facebook banner

If Covid-19 has taught us anything, it is that your home is where your heart is…where your dog is… and where you are in control.  You control who comes in and who doesn’t, and you also have complete control over cleaning of surfaces and airing of rooms.

For this reason, I think more than ever, the pet services that can offer an in-home service offer true value.

Each in-home service should provide you (the customer) with a comprehensive Covid-19 safety plan which has details about their equipment cleaning, personal hygiene and contact tracing procedures.  Since in-home services are 1:1, it means that you and your dog are kept at a distance (literally) from the service’s other customers and this reduces your risk of exposure.

For distancing purposes, you can also set up your home in a configuration that works for you and your dog – while still keeping your social distance from your groomer/therapist/trainer.  Again, this is a win for you and also a win for your visiting professional.  Distance = safety.

And when your service provider has left your home, you know exactly what areas of your home to clean; I recommend using a main room that has easy access to your front or back entrance door.  This means that your visiting professional doesn’t need to walk through other rooms – further restricting the areas you will want to clean when they have finished.

I know that some pet services can’t be provided in-home.  But many can.   We live in uncertain times.  Control of your surroundings can keep you and your family safe.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

Beyond Izzy’s pram (managing dogs through to old age) Part 8 – adding complementary therapies

This is the post I’ve been wanting to write – the 6th rung on our ladder is complementary therapies – my specialty!

At the outset, I need to say that you will find some professionals/websites who believe that you need your vet’s permission to use complementary therapies.  That is not correct.

While you should always make your vet (and any other member of your healthcare team) aware of what treatments you are using with your dog, you are your dog’s guardian.  The decisions you make about your dog’s healthcare are up to you – provided of course that what you are doing for your dog meets accepted ethical standards and is within the law.

(Read further to navigate the interface between traditional veterinary care and complementary care….)

Arthritis management diagram

In my experience, the reasons why dog parents are interested in complementary therapies varies.

  • I meet people who have a mistrust of medications (which will be the subject of Part 9 in my series) and they want to lower their dog’s dependency on them
  • Others have used complementary therapies successfully for their own healthcare and seek to do the same with their pet
  • Some just want to ensure that they have done everything they can for their dog and feel that they have reached the maximum benefits with traditional veterinary care alone
  • And others see complementary therapies as a cheaper option than traditional veterinary care and seek it instead of going to the vet.  (There’s a difference between complementary and alternative!  I will not take clients into my practice who cannot provide records to show that their animal has been under the care of a qualified veterinarian.)

Key Point 1:  If you meet a complementary therapist who speaks badly about veterinary care, or actively encourages you not to go to the vet, then my advice is simple: walk away.


As a pet parent, I have used various complementary therapies with my dogs over the years.  These have included:

  • acupuncture
  • acupressure
  • massage
  • laser therapy
  • supplements
  • hydrotherapy
  • TCM food therapy
  • homeopathy
  • flower essences
  • herbal medicine
  • medicinal mushrooms
  • crystals
  • animal communication

It’s important to understand the modality of the therapy and what it aims to achieve.  Every practitioner should be able to give you a clear understanding of what they do with your dog and whether their therapy is a match for your dog’s situation.

Key Point 2:  Ask the practitioner about their qualifications and commitment to further study.  Have they attended specific training in their modality?

Be cautious of claims such as  “I mentored with…”  Mentoring is not structured training with examination, case studies, or a standard that the student must meet to become qualified.

While online study is useful for continuing professional development (and I use this mode myself), I am wary of ‘core’ qualifications which are achieved online exclusively.  A professional tutor or trainer should have been able to communicate with the student and seen their work firsthand and you just can’t get this quality of instruction through videos alone.  Moreover, if a practitioner is prepared to pay money to travel to achieve their qualifications, it gives you added assurance that they were prepared to invest in their career.

Key Point 3:  Look for other signs of professionalism like professional affiliations and, if the modality is regulated where you live, are they compliant?

Professional associations exist to support their professions with continuing education requirements, peer support, group insurance policies for liability/indemnity and networking.  In the dog care field, there are developments happening all the time.  Modalities need to adjust as new information comes to hand.  So if your practitioner isn’t connected to any associations, you have to ask why…

Key Point 4:   Ask your vet for recommendations, but ask questions about why they recommend a practice, too.

Many veterinarians are not familiar with complementary therapies or understand the range of what is available in your area so their ability to refer may be limited.  You should do your own research about what’s available and cross-check it with your vet’s recommendations/referrals.  Also, with more practices taking a corporate approach (the days of the independent vet practice are numbered if not gone altogether in many areas), they also enter into preferred supplier agreements which have a financial motive behind their referral.

Key Point 5:  Look for a robust intake process to any complementary practice.

A practitioner should take time to understand your dog’s health status and your concerns.  Satisfy yourself that these are in-depth questions and that the practitioner is not simply ticking boxes.  Every dog is different and so the approach for complementary therapy should be suited to each individual dog.

Key Point 6:  Treatment shouldn’t happen behind closed doors – you should be there!

As your dog’s guardian, you should be present when anyone is working with your dog.   Not only should you witness what the treatment entails, but also your dog’s reaction to it.   As a Fear-Free certified professional, my approach relies on watching the dog’s non-verbal communication and reactions and going at their speed.  A session should not just be about ‘get this done in 30 minutes.’

Key Point 7:  Understand the costs

Just as with veterinary care, complementary care incurs costs.  Make sure you budget for your dog’s care – from buying supplements to more hands-on therapies.  In this, I would say that while drug-based solutions can often kick in rapidly, the effects of some complementary therapies – such as supplements and homeopathics – take a bit of time to build in the dog’s system.  Factor in the time it takes to see results when you are budgeting.

And finally, if you aren’t seeing results with a complementary therapy within a reasonable amount of time, then stop and re-evaluate.  Remember that we can go up and down our ladder and that our dogs are aging at a faster rate than we do.


Got questions about this post?  Please feel free to post a message or contact me through my practice, The Balanced Dog.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand