Tag Archives: dog 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

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

Responsible dog ownership

In the USA, it’s National Responsible Pet Ownership month (it’s also Pet Dental Health Month).  How can we explain what it means to be a responsible dog owner/guardian/parent?  There are 4 key areas to consider.

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Choose the right dog at the right time

Making the decision to add a dog to your family is an important life choice.  If the dog needs tons of exercise like a Siberian Husky, and you live in a small apartment and work long hours, then probably not the best choice.  If you are about to start a new job, or are in a new relationship, as examples, then probably not the best timing because you can’t focus your time on integrating your dog into your household.   In New Zealand, there seems to be a lot of people who decide to move overseas; if this is a possibility for you then maybe bringing a dog into your life isn’t the right choice unless you are prepared to take the dog with you (which is an expensive exercise requiring a lot of planning and preparation).

A dog is a lifetime commitment.  Ask yourself – do you have what it takes for the next 10-15 years?

Invest in wellbeing – prevention is better than cure

Be prepared to spend money on things like regular vet checks and vaccinations.  Flea control is another cost that is often overlooked until there’s a problem and by then, the fleas are established in your carpets and causing problems.  Choose a high quality diet (“you are what you eat”) and feed only healthy treats.  Keep your dog fit and trim.

Also important is investing is your dog’s mental health.  Avoid behavior problems by working on training, having enriching activities and toys available in rotation, and regular exercise.  Dogs need sleep, too.  So think carefully about the need for commercial daycare.  For most dogs, these facilities tend to overstimulate dogs and can create other behavioral problems if the dogs is left in these situations every day of the week.

As a professional canine massage therapist, I highly recommend massage as a technique for wellbeing and not just rehabilitation after injuries because it helps relax the dog and keeps their bodies moving efficiently.  It can also identify suspect lumps/bumps early so they can be checked by the vet.  Spend the money for a regular professional massage or take a class to learn basic massage which you can do yourself.

Compliance – obey the law

Licensing costs and leash laws are commonplace.  Cleaning up your dog’s poos is expected. We can all do our part by complying with local regulations.

Carry ID

In New Zealand, microchipping is mandatory.  It’s also advisable to have an identification tag on your dog’s collar with your phone number.  In 2011, when we experienced our large earthquake in Christchurch, many dogs went missing.  Those that had microchips registered on the national database and/or had identification tags found their way back to their families much faster.  Some never made it home.

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!

In one week, I’ll be drawing the winners for my Love Me, Massage Me competition.  I’m on a mission to raise awareness of the benefits of dog massage for dogs of all ages and conditions.

Customers have been given a bandana for their dog and encouraged to submit photos of their dogs going about their stuff – regular activities and fun activities.

Here are a range of the photos that have been taken since the competition began in October.  As you can see, dogs of all ages, sizes and breeds – proving that all dogs can benefit from massage.

Listen to what your dog is telling you…”Love me?  Massage Me!”

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