Tag Archives: Dog Swim Spa

Walking the talk

For some of my clients, I recommend that they take their dogs to hydrotherapy.  Sometimes I recommend a water treadmill and, other times, a swimming pool is better.

And with some owners, it seems they are reluctant to give it a try.  I think it is because they question whether hydrotherapy for dogs is a ‘real’ thing or they just can’t imagine their dog doing it.

Today, I took Izzy swimming for the first time.  (My previous dog, Daisy, who passed away in 2014, was a regular at the pool for almost the last two years of her life).

Here is Izzy at the Dog Swim Spa.  The lifejacket gave her support and confidence and she did very well.

We are going to make it to the pool at least 3-4 times per year and will increase the frequency of visits as she ages and depending on her physical condition.  It is good variety for her fitness regime at the moment plus these visits will serve as added enrichment.

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

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Kess’ story – Part 2

When dealing with dogs with special needs, one of the key principles is ‘management.’  Management can take a range of forms, but it always involves adapting and changing lifestyle to suit the dog.

In Kess’ case, Ian and Jan accepted that her on-lead behaviour was going to be almost impossible to eradicate.  They adapted their walking routines to suit.

Kess would have a short daytime walk in a quiet area and then a longer evening walk either in a park or very often through the central city of Christchurch. This worked well as there were plenty of people about her but very few other animals.  Ian and Jan felt that they were making some progress with the reactivity and could happily take her into quite busy areas.

Unfortunately, the Canterbury earthquakes which started in September 2010 with another large jolt in February 2011 halted that progress.  Since the earthquakes, Kess’ anxiety levels have remained at very high levels.  She has become much more anxious of strangers which has meant adapting the walking routine.   For the first 18 months, the family continued to walk through the central city at night, following the Avon River around the outside of the Red Zone cordons (for those that don’t know, the central city area was heavily damaged and evacuated).  Jan and Ian quickly learned that hi-vis wear and army cordons were a cause of stress for Kess so avoided them.  Despite these concerns, Jan and Ian found these walks peaceful and reflective.

Post-quakes, Kess’ health issues have also been more of a problem for her.  In my opinion, Kess was already a very sensitive dog and the earthquakes simply added to her load – further weakening her stressed immune system.

She contracted toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease, probably from drinking from a puddle or other contaminated water source in 2012 (cats are regular carriers of toxoplasmosis). She suffered seizures and general ill health for several months.  “We almost lost her.” Treatment was a mixture of veterinary care and natural animal health care and remedies.

Then, in 2013 when the couple were staying in temporary accommodation while their earthquake-damaged house was repaired, Kess had a major episode with pain in her spine which left her immobilised and howling in pain. An emergency trip to the vet and medication followed. In a bid to reduce the medication she had several acupuncture sessions but became resistant to this.  “She has an amazing ability to turn into a solid, resistant brick when she doesn’t want to do something,” says Jan.

This led the couple to look to yet more alternatives. This is when Jan contacted me and we entered a whole new realm of support for Kess’ health.   I used massage, manual acupressure and laser therapies with Kess and she started swimming at the Dog Swim Spa.   Kess was unable to benefit from swimming because she developed a stress reaction to the shower which was a necessity after each swim  in a chlorinated pool.  So , we agreed that swimming be dropped from Kess’ therapy.  But an osteopath was added in 2014 to help release Kess’ back tension.

Osteopathy and massage therapy work very well in conjunction with one another and so the current plan is to keep up with both.

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More recently, Ian and Jan have noticed that Kess’ anxiety levels have been on the rise and she has been out of sorts which included frequently shaking her head and looking distressed.   She also developed an aversion to the laser and its ‘beeping’ noise and so we’ve dropped that from her regime. After ruling out any ear or tooth problems a specialist vet has recommended Kess undergo an MRI examination to rule out any possible deeper issues with her brain, inner ears or throat area.

Because Kess has been anxious, Jan has also been anxious about their daytime walks.  We discussed cutting back on walks in favor of playing in the family’s yard.  And what we talked about was the fact that Kess was never truly ‘free’ because her anxiety condition prevented Jan and Ian from taking her to a dog park or similar off-leash area.  We needed to re-group about Kess’ mental health.

Luckily, the owner at Top Notch Kennels agreed to allow Kess a weekly visit to their large exercise yard.  At last, Kess is able to blow off some steam and be a ‘real’ dog.  At first tentative and keeping close to Jan, within a few visits Kess found her feet and is now running free without harness or lead. Her smile says it all. Jan has noticed an improvement in her personality. “This has been fantastic for Kess – what a joy to see her joy at being free to just be herself and she still runs in mad, crazy circles but so far no more forward-rolls. I do though have to keep an eye on the sheep over the back hedge – I’m not convinced she couldn’t jump the fence with enough speed on!”

Kess looking free and regal, clearly enjoying her off-lead time

Kess looking free and regal, clearly enjoying her off-lead time

Ian and Jan love Kess and are devoted to her, acknowledging that she has been hard work and a significant investment of their time.

“Although our experiences with Kess have been very challenging on many levels she has also taught us many things and caused us to go places and experience things we most definitely would not have without her. We have discovered interesting places and explored corners of the city we had never known. The most special times were our walks through the dark and silent city following the February 2011 quake. We would never have had that unique experience without our very special girl.”

“Most of the time, 99 per cent, she is the most obedient, quiet and well behaved dog we have ever shared our home with. She is just as happy to spend the whole day snoozing on her couch in the sun as she is excited to be going out somewhere in the car. She is very smart, loves to play find and seek with her toys and has a very effective way of communicating to us just what she needs. Someone commented recently that we should have had her put to sleep as there are plenty of ‘good’ dogs out there who need homes but in our opinion every dog deserves a chance to live a good, happy life. When we see love and trust returned in her eyes it makes everything worth it.”

I think what Kess’ story proves is that ‘difficult’ dogs can still be loveable pets (one trainer suggested she be euthanized when their attempts at training Kess ‘by the book’ failed).  These dogs just need more time and effort invested in them; we need more people willing to stick with the tough times – a loving companion and lifelong relationship awaits.

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A sleepy Kess after a recent massage session

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

Doing the dog paddle

If you have ever watched your dog swim, you’ve probably noticed that intense look of concentration on their face.  Research has confirmed that swimming doesn’t come as naturally as, say,  walking, running or trotting on land.

Photo by the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology

Photo by the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology

Dr. Frank Fish, a professor of biology at West Chester University, set out with his colleagues to understand how real dogs perform the dog paddle.

Dr Fish found a large horse rehabilitation pool for filming eight dogs of six different breeds during swimming.  Dr Fish’s own dog was one of the study subjects.

The team analyzed the videos and found that the dogs were swimming with a gait that was similar to a familiar trot on land. When a dog trots, moving at a pace more brisk than a walk, diagonal pairs of legs move together. In swimming, the dog’s legs move in a similar fashion, but even faster than a trot, and the legs move beyond the range of motion for a trot.  (This is one reason why I recommend swimming for many – but not all – of my massage and rehab customers.)

Swimming dogs are, essentially, using a basic movement but with some modification. Also, while the movements that make up terrestrial gaits like trotting can vary from one dog breed to another, the dog paddle gait showed very little variation among the different breeds.

Dr Fish says that dogs can be used as a model for precursors to early swimming mammals.   He hopes to unravel the steps in evolution that allowed four-legged terrestrial animals to become swimming mammals like the dolphin.

In the meantime, get out there and let your dog swim.   For most dogs, it’s great exercise!

Daisy concentrates during her swim at the Dog Swim Spa

Daisy concentrates during her swim at the Dog Swim Spa

Want to know more about physical rehabilitation and whether swimming is right for your dog?  Get in touch with me by completing the information below.

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

Source:  Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology media release

My dog, man magnet

Today I realised that Daisy is a man magnet.

Daisy close up January 2013

I have always known that she loves the company of men.  She prefers to have her hydrotherapy overseen by Chris (the owner of the Dog Swim Spa) rather than his female helpers.  And she definitely has a ‘thing’ for our friend Guy.  She won’t leave his side, even when she hasn’t seen him for months.

But today she proved she’s a man magnet.

This morning, we were walking down the main road and an older gentlemen who was getting back into his car in front of the ATM stopped me.  He handed me a dog biscuit saying ‘This is for your Boo Boo’  (Daisy was happy to eat it for breakfast).

Then, this afternoon, we were at the Styx Mill Dog Park with lots of families and dogs around.  Daisy took a liking to one couple and the husband in particular, a man in his late 50s.   Before I know it, he’s down on one knee in front of Daisy giving her this great big hug and then kissing her on the head!  The look on her face was pure bliss (wish I had my camera with me).

Needless to say, Daisy has had a lovely Sunday and will spend tomorrow no doubt dreaming of her male admirers.

Exercise for small dogs

Sometimes people forget that small dogs have different needs for their care and exercise than larger breed dogs.  Here’s some tips on how to keep your small breed dog happy and active.

  • Walking

Walking is ‘tops’ on my list for exercise for all dogs.  There are added health benefits for the dog owner, too. I recommend twice per day walks.  You need to be careful about the length of walk for small dogs because they may not be able to go as far as you can.

  • Swimming

I’m a big supporter for hydrotherapy for dogs, particularly as they age or have rehabilitation needs.  But, swimming is excellent general exercise for your small breed dog.  Check out hydrotherapy facilities in your area for information on ‘casual’ swims (therapist supervision not required).  In Christchurch, we have an excellent facility for this:  Dog Swim Spa.

  • Ball games – playing fetch

Small dogs can get quite a bit of exercise in by playing with toys and their owners.  This is great inside exercise during the winter months – provided you have a long hallway or room for your dog to play in.

  • Using the stairs

If your house has stairs or you can take your dog to work with you, using the stairs can be excellent exercise for your small breed dog.    Some breeds, such as dachshunds, should not be encouraged to do lots of stair climbing because their long spine makes them vulnerable to stress and strain injuries including slipped discs.    Be mindful of just how much effort a small dog may need to climb a stair designed for full-grown humans.  Aging dogs with arthritis should avoid stair climbing as a major source of exercise – there are better options as described above.

In praise of hydrotherapy

Swimming is excellent exercise for both people and dogs.  I have been taking Daisy regularly to the Dog Swim Spa in Templeton because she has arthritis in her hips.  (I already had Daisy on a glucosamine supplement and I give her regular therapeutic massage and low level laser treatment.)

Daisy went to the vet last week and her vet said she has excellent range of motion in her hips, particularly with extension.  Dogs don’t get the same level of extension in their hips through walking or running (Daisy gets walked twice per day).   So, I am sure the range of motion is the result of her massage/laser treatments combined with this regular swim exercise.

Here’s a video of Daisy at the Dog Swim Spa.  You can see that she doesn’t particularly enjoy getting wet.  I’m told that many dogs who like the water come to the Spa and jump right in.  Not my Daisy!

The Dog Swim Spa was designed and built by Chris Blackwood, who is seen in the video with Daisy.    The Spa takes referrals from many veterinarians in the Canterbury area, such referrals may include specific instructions on the dog’s condition and rehabilitation.