Tag Archives: canine massage

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

Jess has a massage (and I’m interviewed for a podcast)

Jess of Dogs of New Brighton

Jess, a Beardie x Huntaway, is the canine inspiration behind the Dogs of New Brighton podcast. Here she is on my massage table for the first time.

Earlier last month, I was asked to visit with Michele Hollis and Jess who live in New Brighton (east Christchurch).   Together they produce the Dogs of New Brighton podcast.

After I spent an hour with Jess for a relaxation massage, Michele and I sat down for an interview.

Listen to Part 1:  In the first 20 minute segment of our interview, Michele asks me questions about Jess’ session, her reactions during the massage, and my qualifications and background.

Listen to Part 2:  In the second 20 minute segment,  Michele and I have a free-ranging discussion on a number of topics.  I explain in more detail about the use of Fear Free techniques in canine massage and why I use a massage table; I also explain the legal standing of physical therapy on animals in New Zealand and the use of the terms ‘physio’ and ‘physiotherapy’.  Michele asks me questions about the liver dog treats I feed in my practice, our treats and cakes that are made here in Christchurch at The Balanced Dog and I explain our free Birthday Club, too.  I also talk about what I feed my greyhound, Izzy, and we finish our chat about Christchurch and whether it is a dog-friendly city including a discussion of irresponsible dog owners, community standards, and the need to pick up poo.

Jess of the Dogs of New Brighton

Listen to Jess snoring after her massage in Part 1 of my interview with Michele of the Dogs of New Brighton

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

 

A new twist on couples massage

This year, I signed on to become a sponsor of the inaugural 4 Paws Marathon in Christchurch.  This event is the brainchild of a sports medicine doctor who loves to run with his dogs – but found that while his dogs could train with him, they weren’t allowed to join in on race day.

Yesterday was race day.

And I was set up at the finish line working alongside Rachel, a friend and colleague who is a human massage therapist at Bodyworks Massage Therapy.

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The massage tent at the 4 Paws Marathon

We decided to promote our joint sponsorship with the couples massage theme:  human + dog.   By working together,  not only did our services keep ‘in theme’ of the event, but we also showed the mutual respect we have for one another in our respective fields.

Rachel is qualified to massage humans; I’m qualified to massage canines.  Since canine massage is a relatively new field in New Zealand, I appreciated the opportunity to showcase the benefits of the modality in front of the runners and other sponsors at the event.

Here are just a few photos from the day:

Hand holding at the massage tentIMG_4159IMG_4189IMG_4158

We look forward to sponsoring again next year!

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

Demonstrating dog massage

I’ve been practising as a professional canine massage and rehab therapist for 10 years.

Because there are still dog parents out there that are unfamiliar with complementary care options for their dog, especially low impact ones that can be achieved in the home environment, I always look for ways to provide demonstrations – in person –  of what I do.

Last week, I was invited to participate in a pet night at our local PetStock branch.  Izzy, my greyhound, is very experienced at being a demo-dog.  In fact, I think she’s a very successful marketer!

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

I’m thankful

On Thursday, Americans will celebrate another Thanksgiving Day.  There will be lots of food, family gatherings, parties and – hopefully – if you take the time to observe the true reason for the holiday – you will pause and give thanks for what you have been able to achieve and have been given over the last year.

I’m in New Zealand.  We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving (although I wish we did, because I think New Zealand is a great place to live and we are endowed with so much in terms of quality of life.  It wouldn’t hurt us to stop and take a moment to give thanks.)

I am thankful and here’s why:

  • I work in a field that I am passionate about.  Yes, I have worked hard to establish my practice, but I am grateful that the effort has paid off.
  • My customers trust me to work in their homes with their dogs.  I am always aware that, as an in-home specialist, I am entrusted not only with the dog’s care but also access to homes.  You can’t get more personal than that.  I am grateful for the opportunity that these dog owners have given me.
  • My work enables me to travel and meet other people who work with dogs, too many of these dogs are homeless and in need of care.
  • My work also allows me time to visit with my family overseas and we are able to spend quality time together.
  • I have friends, most of whom are also dog people, and they give me support when I need it.  Like recently, when Izzy was hurt and she needed looking after during the work day.  My friend Marie stepped up to do this for me.  (My friends, Izzy and I also do fun dog things together – like beach walks and visits to dog-friendly cafes.)
  • Izzy, my greyhound, is healthy.  Although she is aging, she is aging gracefully and still loves to be my demo dog at workshops and public events.  When the weather is cooler, she also travels with me and visits with the customers.  She’s a true ambassador for canine massage and natural care.
  • People engage with me on Facebook, through this blog, and through the columns I write for NZ Dog World.  I love to write and it is satisfying knowing that people like you are reading what I have to say and to share and take the time to get in touch.

So, on this Thanksgiving Day please take the time to give thanks – even if you are not in a country that officially celebrates the day.

Remember to hug your dog, too!

Izzy resting

Obligatory photo of Izzy, The Balanced Dog’s demo dog and mascot.

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

Love me, massage me

I have started a new campaign that will run through to the end of the year to help me promote the benefits of canine massage.  The Love Me, Massage Me campaign is fairly straightforward:  each of my customers will receive a  printed bandana like this one:

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Tamzin the Pug models her Love Me Massage Me bandana

And then they can post photos of their dogs onto my Facebook page and their own with the hashtag #lovememassageme.  There are no limits to the number of entries per dog.

The winner will receive a massage every 3 months during 2019; there’s also a second and third prize.

Since I teach owners to massage their dogs using a relaxation massage sequence incorporating acupressure points, I’m happy if the dogs are being massaged by their owners and not just me.

I think every dog should be massaged regularly to support health and wellness.

Wish me luck!  #lovememassageme

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

 

Dog massage etiquette – the therapist

I’ve been doing a bit of thinking about dog massage etiquette lately.  That’s because I pride myself on running a professional practice; I have committed to ongoing professional development, and I want my clients to value professional canine massage.

Lucy relaxed at massage

Here is what clients can expect from me:

  • I will be prepared to focus on your dog and his/her issues; this includes listening carefully to what you have to say
  • I will operate only within my scope of practice
  • I will keep notes that, on request, can be sent to your dog’s veterinarian or any other practitioner you choose as part of your healthcare team
  • I encourage and endorse regular veterinary care; I often say that your dog’s vet is its GP (General Practitioner or, in United States terms, ‘The Primary Care Physician’)
  • I will turn up on time and manage my appointments so that clients are not kept waiting and, when I am running late (which happens as a mobile practitioner), I will call you
  • If I ever use an assistant, and they are not fully qualified to the level that I am, you will be told you are seeing an assistant and have the option to opt out and reschedule with me personally if you prefer.  If you agree to use the assistant, you can expect to be charged a lower hourly rate
  • I will always offer suggestions with the best interest of the dog in mind; the decision to take up my suggestions rests with you as the dog’s owner
  • I will keep your records private (your dog’s records are a form of private information under the Privacy Act)
  • Clients often chat to me when I’m working and I appreciate their trust.  Anything you tell me will be kept in confidence.  If I write about a case, it will be described in generic terms to preserve privacy.

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

Spreading the word about dog massage

Dog massage??? What???!!!!

I get this fairly often; it doesn’t bother me.

One of the best ways I have found to give dog owners (and their d0gs) a bit of a taste for what I can do for them is to attend public events.  This weekend, I participated in the first annual Bark in the Park at Ferrymead Heritage Park.  The historic park was opened to dogs and their families to enjoy for the day.

Dogs rodethe trams, had posters printed for them on the authentic printing press, attended a blessing of the animals ceremony and were treated to frozen slushies made with chicken stock.  There was a series of guest speakers, including me.

I was consistently busy throughout the day at my stall as dog after dog came to see me for massage.  Dogs of all sizes, too!

Here are a few snaps from the day:

Every dog enjoyed their massage and owners were surprised at how quickly their dog relaxed and got into ‘the zone’ (as I call it).

Lesson for the day:  don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.  If you are a local Canterbury resident who missed out on Bark in the Park, the event is likely to become an annual one.  And you can always reach me here at The Balanced Dog to discuss your dog and how massage, laser, trigger point and food therapies can help your dog.

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

The blessing and curse of a thick file

I keep paper records in my massage practice; sometimes the time-tested way is the best.  I use diagrams as well as text in my treatment notes, something that is hard to do on a laptop or tablet without wasting a lot of contact time with the client.  I’ve also lost count of the number of times I’ve traced back through notes in discussion with an owner.  Being able to lay out these notes in sequential order is much more powerful than huddling over a computer screen.

And, as the end of the year approaches and I reflect on progress made during the year, I start to take note of the thickness of some of my files.  These are dogs that have been with my practice for a while – usually more than a year and often much longer than that.file-folder

The thick file is both a blessing and a curse.

It’s a blessing because the owners of these wonderful dogs have allowed me to work with their animal regularly, and I get the satisfaction of seeing them make progress and stay healthy through a wellness program that changes as their needs change.  And I also get the satisfaction of playing a part in giving these dogs and their owners quality time together.

It’s a curse because it’s a sure sign that the dog is getting older.  The passage of time becomes more pressing; we are all aware that the dog is aging and slowing down. And as much as we want to keep them with us forever, our window of quality time is closing.

For some of my dogs, this will be their last Christmas.  Their families will ensure it is a good one.

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

The benefits of stretching

Dog doing morning stretches

Vera does her morning yoga (photo by Jenny Hamilton)

I remember watching a yoga video years ago where the instructor described the act of stretching as ‘making space in the joints.’

As a canine massage therapist, I think stretching is essential.  It lengthens muscles in a controlled and safe way to ensure good range of motion in the limbs and it helps to maintain blood flow to essential soft tissues.

As our dogs age, or when they are injured, then often need help with stretching (the same is true of people).  That’s where professional massage comes in – someone to help warm and stretch the muscles, tendons and ligaments.

Owners can also learn to stretch their dogs; it’s something I include in special massage workshops for greyhound owners.  I’ve found that greyhounds, with their sleek builds and racing instinct, often tighten up when in a pet home or when they don’t get regular off-lead exercise.

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