Tag Archives: acupressure

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

Before and after

Our friend Ben, a greyhound, had an accident on Saturday, 15th September 2018.

From what we can tell, he was chasing a cat who must have taken a hard right turn.  When Ben tried to follow (he was under cover of a line of bushes and trees at the time of the incident), his momentum carried him sideways into a tree.  He emitted a huge cry of pain but was luckily able to walk home slowly before being taken to the vet within 15 minutes of the crash.

His bruising wasn’t immediately apparent because bruising takes time to come up; the vet suggested that he might also have cracked a rib during the impact.

Ben's bruising after photo

Ben the greyhound shortly after the incident

But within a few hours, here’s what he looked like:

Ben's bruising before photo

Ben the greyhound on 15 September 2018

I visited with him on Saturday afternoon and again on Monday (17th September) to laser him thoroughly with specific acupressure and trigger points addressed.  To some extent, the laser helped to bring out the bruising and speed healing.  His mum was also giving him regular rubdowns with Sore No More lotion (which I use and sell in my practice) and also dosing him Traumeel drops which I also recommend to my clients as a ‘must have’ for their First Aid kits.

And today (Wednesday, 19th September 2018), I got these lovely photos of Ben who is happily out running again in the sunshine:

 

It is very rewarding to be able to help dogs using my scope of practice of massage, acupressure, and laser therapies.  It’s even more rewarding when the dog is also a close friend.

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

All dogs matter

 

All dogs matter

I often get asked ‘what type of dog benefits most from massage and laser?’

People think that a certain breed or size of dog has the most problems.  While it is true that some breeds have a higher likelihood of problems due to genetics – obesity or hip dysplasia in Labradors, for example – the reality is that all dogs benefit from touch therapies.  That’s purebreds and mixed breeds, toy dogs, medium and large dogs and extra-large dogs.

People also think that you only massage a dog once they are elderly and showing signs of discomfort.  While of course you should seek help in these instances, you can keep your dog more flexible in the joints and with good blood flow to the muscles by instituting a regular wellness program that includes massage.

And by regular, I only see some of my clients six- or eight-weekly, because we have their dog responding well to their treatments.  They move more freely and comfortably now and only need a ‘top up’ to keep in good shape.

So the other message I have in this post is that your dog’s massage therapy doesn’t have to break your budget.  If you get your dog into a regular massage program, you can easily plan for this expense and accommodate it.   This is so much better than trying to fund the ‘ambulance at the bottom of the cliff’ approach.

I practice on a mobile basis, and so with lower overheads (no clinic to rent, heat and insure), I pass on these savings to my customers.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

 

It’s just old age…

It happened again yesterday.

Someone asked me what I do for a living and I described my dog massage practice and how many of my clients are older dogs with varying degrees of arthritis and other orthopedic problems.

And then he said it.  “My friend has an old dog, he’s almost 10, and we’re pretty sure he’s got arthritis.  But then again, it’s just old age.

I tried to explain that there are many things we can do for dogs with arthritis which keeps them pain free and happy.  And because their pain is managed, they live longer.

Old Dog Buster

Buster, an older dog of 10+ is enjoying a new lease of life thanks to a combination of pain medication, massage, laser and weight loss

The message still wasn’t getting through…and then he described his friend’s dog:

  • he’s getting more aggressive; he even bit my friend one night when he went to feed him
  • he doesn’t run around much any more
  • he doesn’t come to greet me when I visit; he used to

I did my best to say that his friend needed to get his dog to a vet for an examination and that I would be too happy to see him for an assessment.  Behavior changes often occur when a dog is in pain.  And, just because the dog is older doesn’t mean the issue is arthritis.  We would need a working diagnosis from a qualified veterinarian.

He took my card; I hope his friend calls.  I can’t stand the thought of another dog who is in pain and doesn’t have to be.

It’s not about old age; it’s about the right care.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

Hi from Kenny

I’ve been taking a break from my massage practice this week, doing some additional study (and enjoying every minute of it.)  One of the things I love about my clients is that they understand the need for me to have a break, but they also like to update me about their dogs…

Here’s one of my emails:

Just thought I would send you a quick message!

I hope all is going well on your holiday.

Kenny is doing as well as can be. He has had 2 panting episodes over the past week, one was all day Saturday and one started in the evening on Tuesday and lasted a few hours. We popped the thunder shirt on him which did seem to calm him a little.

He sends his love and wanted to tell you he is loving the sun and warm weather we have been getting here and he even had a bath the other day which felt amazing!

Kenny

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

Teddy’s journey – the bandages come off

Teddy has had two consultations this week to assist his recovery.

On Monday (a day after discharge), Teddy was at home resting near the log burner and constrained in either his crate or a playpen area that Jill had set up for him.  His pack mates – sister Verdi (shown in the background) and his mother, Maggie were a little confused by the new situation.  Verdi was showing some signs of dominance – growling at Teddy.

Teddy sleeping with compression bandage

Teddy’s amputation incision was covered in a compression bandage to help with swelling

Jill was using an ice pack on the incision area four times per day to help with swelling and pain relief (Teddy was also receiving pain relief through a Fentanyl patch which delivers pain medication through the skin and also Previcox, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug.)

On this day, I performed an acupressure sequence on Teddy to help his body recover from the anesthesia.  We also measured Teddy for his Walkabout Harness.

Teddy received a replacement Fentanyl patch on Tuesday.

I returned on Friday to see Teddy – with his bandages removed.  This is the first time I’ve been able to view his incision up close.

Teddy's incision

Teddy on the massage table, ready for a light treatment

Teddy was very tired on Friday and favoring his right side by sleeping mostly on his left.  This is not surprising since the comfort of the compression bandage and padding on his surgery site had been removed.

We will treat Teddy conservatively and manage his comfort in the early stages of his recovery.  Consequently, I only worked on Teddy in the above, resting position.  I gently massaged over his hips and back and he received cold laser therapy over his hips and his left forepaw (which has some arthritis).

Teddy was deeply asleep after his session – a sure sign that he needed the time out and that rest is the best thing for him.

Teddy has always been a receptive dog for massage and I expect him to be even more so post-amputation.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

Megaesophagus

Megaesophagus is a condition where the muscles of the esophagus fail, similar to a limp balloon that has inflated several times and lost its elasticity:Limp balloonWhen the condition is present, the esophagus doesn’t contract normally and food can’t make it down into the stomach to be digested.  Food can ‘pool’ in the esophagus causing regurgitation.  Worse, the undigested food can be inhaled leading to a condition called aspiration pneumonia.  Megaesophagus can affect puppies and adult dogs.

Vets normally have to diagnose the condition from its range of symptoms which include:

  • Regurgitation of water or food
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss that is sudden
  • Frequent clearing of the throat
  • Sour smelling breath
  • Difficulty in swallowing or frequent swallowing
  • Aspiration pneumonia

Megaesophagus is a condition that can be managed, but it does take a dedicated and vigilant dog parent to do this.

Dogs with the condition have to eat and drink in a device called a Bailey Chair.  The chair allows the dog to sit in an upright position for an extended period of time.  A megaesophagus dog needs to be fed in the chair and kept upright for at least 20 minutes to allow gravity to take the food and water into the stomach.

Dogs with megaesophagus have special nutritional needs, too.  Since dogs with this condition can’t drink normally, they often need water added to their meals and to receive high moisture treats that are thickened with gelatin or other ingredients.

A megaesophagus dog needs a diet that is calorie rich and nutritious but without too much fibre.  Raw foods are a special risk to these dogs because of their sensitive digestive systems.  There’s also a risk of bacterial contamination, particularly if even small amounts of raw food are aspirated.

Prescription medications like Carafate liquid can also help these dogs because it provides a protective coating for the esophagus.

It’s also important to think holistically for these dogs, with support with Bach flower remedies, herbs and supplements.   In my practice, I work with the dogs to keep their digestive systems healthy through massage and acupressure and nutrition.  The spleen, liver and stomach all need support when a dog has megaesophagus.

In older dogs with arthritis, having to sit in a Bailey Chair presents additional challenges that require holistic veterinary care.

The good news is that megaesophagus doesn’t mean a death sentence.  It does mean that your special dog will need special care and attention to maintain its health throughout its lifetime.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

Palliative care for dogs

In humans, palliative care is provided to patients to help relieve symptoms of chronic or serious illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s disease or cancer.  This type of treatment includes pain relief but also stress relief to enhance quality of life.

Palliative care is also available for dogs and is a viable alternative to immediate euthanasia when the vet and the family feel that the dog still has quality of life and any pain can be managed.

As a canine massage and rehab practitioner, I get involved in palliative care cases.  Some dogs are at the palliative care phase when I am called in.  Others have been my clients for a while and their life situation has changed.  Using acupressure, massage and/or low level laser, I’m able to help with pain management and give the dog a bit of TLC.  I often play relaxing music for the dog to make the time even more special.

In my experience, palliative care can be a very positive, transitional phase for the family.  It’s a time to say goodbye. If there are children in the household, parents are able to explain what will happen when a dog is put to sleep and the children learn to understand the vulnerabilities of a dog who is old or who is ill.

It will never be easy to say goodbye, but thanks to quality veterinary care and a greater understanding of pain management, more owners can opt for a palliative care phase for their dog – so they can enjoy as much time together as possible.

National Holistic Pet Day

Today, 30 August 2012, is National Holistic Pet Day.

This is the day to celebrate all of the ways we can care for the ‘whole’ dog – their physiological health and their mental health.

As a canine massage therapist, I’m naturally a supporter of holistic approaches because I help treat dogs with acupressure, laser and massage therapies.  I also help dogs with rehabilitation programmes, even measuring dogs for mobility carts when necessary.  I also like to use bach flower remedies.

Here are a few ways to celebrate National Holistic Pet Day:

  • Treat your dog to a massage
  • Take your dog to the local hydrotherapy pool for a fun swim
  • Walk your dog in the fresh air and enjoy each other’s company
  • Take advice on feeding biologically appropriate dog food to your dog
  • Brush your dog’s teeth (and keep it up!)
  • Take your dog to a homeopathic or holistic vet for a check up
  • Look in your cleaning cupboard and throw away all of those chemical cleaning products – buy natural based products as replacement or even learn to make your own cleaners using natural products like vinegar and baking soda

Whatever you do – enjoy National Holistic Pet Day together.  The best thing you can give your dog is your time.

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

The cost of veterinary care

Last night on consumer television programme Fair Go, there was an item about the high cost of veterinary care in New Zealand.

The makers of the programme compared costs for common veterinary procedures in cats and dogs – thinks like dental cleanings and microchipping.  And for those of us working in the companion animal field, it came as no surprise that there can be a huge variability in costs.

I remember when I was studying pet nutrition, our first assignment included a question about the cost of the first year of a dog’s care.    We had to itemise all costs for  everything from food to flea treatments to veterinary care.  And like so many other living costs in New Zealand, our prices were higher.  That’s what happens when you live on comparatively small islands in the middle of the Pacific!  In fact, my tutor said that our costs were the highest of all others in the class from around the world.

However, the Fair Go programme basically advised viewers that the way to control their costs was to shop around.  While I agree with this point – to a point, there’s a lot more that you can do to keep the costs of your veterinary care –  and your dog’s overall care – reasonable.

And I’m also a big supporter of the adage – YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR.  In every aspect of my dog’s care, I aim to purchase quality products and services. They may not be the cheapest – but I’m satisfied that they are the best.

In my opinion, you should:

  • Adopt a preventive healthcare approach first

As soon as your dog comes into your life, vow that you will do the best you can for them.  This means choosing high quality, nutritious foods (‘you are what you eat’) and giving your dog the right amount of exercise.  Ensure your dog doesn’t become overweight and clean their teeth.

For teeth cleaning, there’s the old-fashioned approach which includes giving dogs raw meaty bones.  There are also good dental chews on the market and toys like rope chews act as dental floss.  There’s also some very good toothbrushes and toothpaste you can buy because not all dogs get enough cleaning from the items that they chew.

  • Build a relationship with a vet

If you go all over town chasing the best price, no single veterinary practice will have a full picture of your dog’s health history.  Shop around and then try to stick with the same vet.  Be honest about your ability to pay and if the practice knows you, they will be in a better position to offer you a payment plan or a reduction in price. You probably won’t have that as an option if the veterinary practice has never seen you before!

If you are unhappy with any service that a veterinarian provides you (including cost) you should raise your concerns with the practice first to see what solutions are available.  Then, if you’re still not happy, go out and find yourself another vet that you can work with.

  • Complementary therapies for longevity and quality of life

Complementary therapies like my massage, acupressure and laser therapy practice have a role in keeping your dog healthy (and the vet bills down).   I  offer advice on rehabilitation and exercise programmes that can help reduce your dog’s dependence on pain medication, for example.  I’m an advocate for therapies such as hydrotherapy and acupuncture, both of which I use for my own, aging dog.

  • Shop online

There are many outlets where you can find pet products at a more reasonable price than a traditional pet store or veterinary practice.  These include sites like Trade Me, but also online pet pharmacy My VetI also source and sell products online through my company – Canine Catering and, because I’m a smaller operation with lower overheads, you will pay a lower price.

(In general, retail costs are higher because there are more costs for doing business.  They have shop assistants to pay, rent, and bills for heating, maintenance and electricity. )

I hope these tips give you a broader perspective on the costs of caring for your dog.  If we save money, we have more money to spend on our families which includes our pets!