Tag Archives: dog massage

4 Paws Marathon – Covid edition

Today was the second annual 4 Paws Marathon. Thanks to Covid-19, this event was different than last year. Firstly, we were wearing masks which would have been unheard of a year ago.

Because of Alert Level 2 requirements, the race director was forced to cap entries at 100 people (and dogs) and to request that no spectators linger at the start/finish to manage the numbers attending. And social distancing was expected during the race briefings.

Even with all of those restrictions, it was still a great spring day and, alongside Rachel from Bodyworks Massage Therapy, we again offered couples massage: runner and dog.

We met runners who had just completed there first-ever marathons which made it extra special because their dog came too. And some people attended the first event last year and challenged themselves to go a longer distance. For example, one lady did the 10 kms last year and completed the 15 kms today.

I always aim to support dog-friendly events because our dogs are family – and we want to spend our free time with them. Plus this event helps me to promote canine fitness and wellness – the cornerstones of my practice.

My favourite photo of the day – great perspective from my massage table. The finish line is in the background.

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

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.

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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

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

Warmth and gratefulness at Christmas

I began my business over 10 years ago because I believed in the need for in-home care for dogs.  Gifts at Christmas from clients are always a surprise because I feel like I’m just doing my job.  But all are appreciated.

In this post, I share some of the gifts given to me this Christmas – and the thought that has gone into them is obvious:

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

Greetings

Gretel is a red Staffordshire Bull Terrier who receives regular massage and laser therapy.  Yesterday, her Mum took this video to show me how excited she gets when I arrive.

Gretel is a tight bundle of energy and enthusiasm and her Mum has been training her to pass her Canine Good Citizen test.

She’s a joy to work with.  If I had a tail, I would wag it when I arrive, too.

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

World Animal Day and an anniversary

Today, 4 October 2019 is World Animal Day.  It is also the 10th anniversary of the launch of my canine massage practice – the first certified canine massage practitioner in the City of Christchurch.

To mark this important day, here’s a short video of current client, Pepper.  Pepper is a Border Collie cross who was rescued from a roadside in the South Island.  He’s had some discomfort in his neck and hindquarters which is resolving nicely using massage, acupressure and laser therapy.

Pepper needs to be active – both physically and mentally – and this toy helps him to do that.

And in a blast from the past, here’s a link to the local coverage of the company launch.

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

Top reasons for using dog massage

I’m often asked why people should employ a professional dog massage therapist.

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In the 10 years I’ve been in professional practice, these are always the top reasons:

Care for an older dog

The dog whose been the love of your life is slowing down, possibly with a diagnosis of arthritis and medication from the vet.  This is often when I get the call…

A change in behaviour

The dog is doing something it hasn’t before; the family doesn’t know why.  And possibly they’ve been to the vet about it or possibly they haven’t.  We always need to rule out a physical reason for the behaviour and once I’ve seen the dog for myself, I often give the owners a list of questions to ask the vet.

General health & wellbeing

I love these enquiries!  They are from owners who tell me that “there’s nothing wrong with their dog” and they want to keep it that way.  Can I come and have a look and work on a fitness programme for them?  My answer is always yes!

Recovery from injuries and/or surgery

A dog on crate rest or restricted exercise gets all jammed up.  And many will need an exercise and rehab program.  My rehab programs always include ideas for mental stimulation and enrichment – key concepts behind my Fear Free practice.

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