Tag Archives: Fear Free

Continuing education in pain management

In some professions (like mine) unless you choose to belong to a professional association that requires it, there is no requirement for continuing education (“CE”) or lifelong learning.

Long before I became Fear Free certified, I pledged that I would invest time and resources each year to additional study and I list everything I’ve done on my website to give my clients transparency and assurance.

This weekend has been a study weekend for me.  I’ve just finished a course in the Effects and Management of Chronic Pain in dogs and cats.  Chronic pain presents challenges for a number of reasons including:

  • recognition by the owner that their animal may be in pain
  • scoring of pain and tracking of improvements – a communication challenge across practitioners (owner, vet, massage/rehab therapist)
  • trigger points, myofascial pain syndrome, and compensation in movement which must be resolved to manage the pain (this is where my skills, in particular, are important)
  • setting realistic goals for the dog’s future activity

I was pleased to see the course endorse things I already do in my practice, such as having owners keep a journal of their dog’s movement and pain.

What I particularly liked is the description that arthritis is not an old dog’s disease – it’s a young dog’s disease because development of osteoarthritis is typically secondary to a conformational issue.   For those of you who wonder why I insist on gait analysis, this is why!

I cannot emphasise enough that we need to use our observational skills with our dogs because they are non-verbal communicators.  This video from Canine Arthritis Management ‘In Silence’ puts this important issue into perspective.

So in signing off, I use the words of basketball coach John Wooden, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

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

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At the vets

Today, Izzy was at the vets for her fourth Synovan injection for arthritis.

Izzy isn’t afraid of the vet, but she isn’t comfortable on the hard floor, either.   She’s used to carpet, a nice cushioning dog bed, or my bed – and because it’s winter, the hard floor can also be cold.   Physical discomfort is a form of stress.

My Fear Free solution has been to bring a cushioned mat with us to the vet for each visit and the mat has the added benefit of providing a surface that isn’t as slippery – also useful for a dog with arthritis.

Izzy can wait in comfort in the waiting room and the mat makes the exam room less stressful, too.

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

Quiet, please, I’m Fear Free!

Last weekend, my business took a stall at the Dogs Day Out – a dog-friendly event at a local heritage park which included an organised walk.  I love supporting dog-friendly events because we have so few of them (something, over time, I hope to change).

These events become a good way for local dog-related businesses to showcase their products and services in a way that is focused on the community and not profit-making (unlike some of the commercial pet expos).  These events are also a way for me to highlight my Fear Free certificaton as well as my approach to natural dog care.

Fear Free certified canine massage therapist

The Balanced Dog’s stall complete with Fear Free certified signage and helper, Leonie

At these events, exhibitors often have time to chat once we are all set up and before the public arrives in droves.  I enjoy seeing the range of products and services that are on show.

Unfortunately, this event also taught me how far we have to go in terms of veterinary professionals understanding fear free handling and interaction.  Fear Free is about managing fear, anxiety and stress in our animals by focusing entirely on their needs and responses.  You need to understand emotional health as well as physical health.

So imagine that the stall next to us was a veterinary practice which opted to use balloons as part of its decorations.  Towards the end of the event, as I was still massaging dogs and talking with members of the public – the stall next door was dismantling itself in preparations to leave.  Someone decided the best way to discard their balloons was to pop them one after the other in rapid succession – like a car backfiring.

Can you guess how many dogs responded negatively to these noises (including the one on my massage table)?

Fear Free is so much more than spraying Adaptil in your clinic and playing soft music.  It’s about being prepared to take it slow and work with the dogs at their pace.  So many dogs are stressed by loud noises like fireworks, it should be common sense that popping balloons is not acceptable.

As my mother has said many times, common sense isn’t common.

Ask me about Fear Free handling! I’d love to tell you more.

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

Marketing Fear Free

Fear Free certification is something that is still new to the veterinary and complementary professions.  I saw an ad recently on Facebook for a Fear Free certified veterinary practice looking to hire and I’ve amended it to explain a bit more about what I stand for.

Where do you want to take your dog?

If you want your dog treated where…

  • dogs are allowed to rest on a comfortable, padded massage table – or the floor if they are more comfortable
  • appointments are booked hourly so there is no need to rush
  • you see me – a  fully qualified therapist with a commitment to ongoing professional development
  • I adjust my pace for each dog, so anxious dogs may take longer (but it is worth it)
  • and yummy dog treats and food diversions are used on a liberal basis

…then please book your dog into The Balanced Dog.  I look forward to working with you in the Fear Free way.

Bailey and Neisha May 2018

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

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