Tag Archives: hydrotherapy

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

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

Winning at Crufts after a broken paw

This year’s Crufts competition was overshadowed by claims of poisoning and unethical conduct amongst competitors.  Unfortunately, this means some of the better, good-news stories have not been given the air time they normally would.

Take Kamba, for example.  A Rhodesian Ridgeback, Kamba had a piece of floating bone in his paw which was diagnosed last year after x-rays.  Kamba hadn’t been using his leg as expected and so his owner looked into the cause.

Kim Hodge and her Rhodesian Ridgeback, Kamba

Kim Hodge and her Rhodesian Ridgeback, Kamba

After the diagnosis, she pursued rehabilitation which included physical rehab and hydrotherapy which occurred from September 2014 with increasing frequency in the weeks leading up to the Crufts show.

Kamba won first prize in both the Post Graduate Class and Reserve Dog Challenge Certificate for his breed at the four-day event.  He beat more than 100 other dogs.

“Kamba loves meeting other dogs and really seems to enjoy doing shows, so it was great to see how the crowd and the judges reacted to him too. Usually, top prizes tend to go to the more seasoned dogs so it was really lovely that Kamba impressed them.”

Source:  Derby Telegraph

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

Teddy’s journey ends

This is a blog post I didn’t think I would be writing for some years.  Unfortunately, some things are just not meant to be.

Teddy, the Beagle who so bravely came back from a front leg amputation last year, passed away on Saturday.  He was only 8 years old – gone too soon.

TeddyTeddy 10_9_14

Cancer took Teddy’s life away very quickly.  For the last 8 weeks or so, Jill had been saying things like ‘he’s not himself’ ‘he’s tired today’ or ‘he hasn’t been right since we changed his medication.’

We discussed diet, a different mixture of supplements, different medications, and different acupressure sequences…

Some days he seemed like his old self, others not.  Sometimes his liver function tests came back as abnormal, then re-tests would show an improvement after changing his core food.

But late last week, things turned quickly.

Teddy vomited up his breakfast on Tuesday and then stopped eating and drinking.  Another blood test showed highly escalated liver enzymes and Teddy was in trouble.  He was booked initially for an ultrasound on Monday but then he had to go to the vet on Friday for fluids and stayed overnight.  The ultrasound was moved up to Saturday.

And the ultrasound specialist had terrible news.  His report reads “These findings are consistent with metastatic neoplasia (likely sarcoma, adenocarcinoma, or carcinoma).  There is hepatic and splenic involvement (with likely metastases to lymph nodes and lungs).  Unfortunately Teddy’s prognosis is grave.”

Jill took a distressed Teddy home and her regular vet came to give him his final injection.  As Jill said, there was no choice.

When I saw Jill yesterday, she just said that in writing Teddy’s last story, she wanted his story to matter.

I’ve thought really hard about this.  I think everything about Teddy mattered.  He was a Beagle that was just a little too large to win in the show ring (despite winning best baby puppy several times).  Early on, Jill discovered that Teddy was born with bilateral hip dysplasia and she set about keeping him happy and healthy (I came into the picture in 2010 after an unsuccessful attempt at hydrotherapy, because Teddy also had neck problems that were aggravated by swimming).

When I lost Daisy last July, it was Teddy who would come and sit beside me in sympathy.

And then last August’s horrible accident and the amputation which was going to affect Teddy’s mobility as he aged.  And he came through it like a trooper.  When I adopted Izzy (my greyhound), I took her for a visit and a 3-legged Teddy was zooming after her as if nothing had changed.

So, what do Teddy’s last days tell us?

I think they tell us that no matter how well we take care of our dogs, and with our best intentions for seeing them to old age, we really have very little influence when the end comes.  We do our best.  And we have to make the right decisions for our dogs in the face of critical or terminal illness.

I’m glad that Teddy came through his amputation so well and that he and Jill had months together that they wouldn’t have had if she had decided to end his life then.  And I’m glad Teddy didn’t suffer for days and days like people suffering from terminal cancer do.

Teddy is one of those special clients that I will carry in my heart for the remainder of my days.  He was My Favourite Beagle.  Everything about him matters.

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

Spa weekends

In my opinion, part of owning an older dog means ensuring you devote time to them for bonding, love, attention and care.

Daisy and I are just finishing a Spa Weekend.

Daisy’s spa weekend started on Friday with a regular acupuncture session.  Daisy gets acupuncture every 5 weeks:

Daisy is happy to lay still while Dr Susanne Anderson places her acupuncture needles

Daisy is happy to lay still while Dr Susanne Anderson places her acupuncture needles

On Saturday, it was then time for Daisy’s hydrotherapy session.  Daisy swims every fortnight (2 weeks) to keep her muscles strong and to keep range of motion in her hind legs:

Swim time

And today (Sunday), it was time for Daisy to enjoy a massage and laser treatment – lovingly delivered by me – her personal massage therapist and DoggyMom:

Massage time

The only thing that was missing from Daisy’s spa weekend was a bath.  But that’s because she had a bath last weekend!

How do you spend quality time with your elderly dog?

Does my dog have arthritis?

Fireplace photo

Arthritis is a common condition in older dogs.  At first, though, owners may not always realise when their dog is suffering.  That’s because dogs tend to hide discomfort and pain from their pack.

Signs that your dog may be suffering from arthritis include:

  • Difficulty sitting or standing
  • Sleeping more
  • Weight gain
  • Reluctance to jump, run, walk or climb stairs
  • Decreased interest in playing or engaging in activities
  • Being less alert
  • Favouring a limb
  • Changes in attitude or behaviour

One day in 2011, Daisy let me know something was wrong.  We were out walking and she slowed down and stopped and the look in her eyes was one of pain.  She had finally let me know that she wasn’t feeling herself.

A series of x-rays confirmed arthritis in her lumbosacral spine and left hip.

Since then, she has responded to rest, conventional treatments, hydrotherapy, and other complementary therapies including my massage and laser treatments.

Quality of life for an arthritis sufferer can be attained – once the owner is aware of the problem!

Would a raised dog feeder help my dog?

A massage client asked me this question earlier this week.   The dog in question is a Boxer (beautiful boy) who happens to be suffering from degeneration in his spine.

Although he is doing well with regular swimming, acupuncture and massage therapy, his owner knows that he is comparatively young (8) and she wants him to have a good quality of life for a long time.  So that’s when we started talking about changes she could make to his physical environment to make things less stressful for him (ramps, steps, etc.)

Would a raised feeder help my dog?

Raised feeders can be a real advantage for a dog with orthopaedic problems or arthritis.  Eating from a raised feeder helps to relieve strain on the neck and back, allowing the dog to eat without dramatically altering their posture and helping them to retain balance.

But – some studies have shown that dogs who are susceptible to bloat have an increased risk from eating from a raised feeder.  The most notable reference for this link is an article by Dr Larry Glickman in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Vol. 17, No. 10.

Gastric dilation-volvulus (GDV) is known by the common term ‘bloat’  and other terms such as ‘stomach torsion’ or ‘twisted stomach.’  Regardless of what name you use, the condition is life-threatening.  Dogs can die of bloat within several hours.   Even with treatment, as many as 25-33% of dogs who develop bloat will die.

In bloat, the stomach fills up with air and puts pressure on the other organs and the diaphragm. The pressure on the diaphragm makes it difficult for the dog to breathe. The air-filled stomach also compresses large veins in the abdomen, preventing blood from returning to the heart.

Filled with air, the stomach can easily rotate on itself, pinching off its blood supply. This rotation is known as volvulus.  The stomach begins to die and the entire blood supply is disrupted.  A dog with this condition can deteriorate very rapidly – meaning a trip to the vet as an emergency.

Purdue University ranks Boxers as the 16th breed most susceptible to bloat (Great Danes are the highest).  So, in this case, the owner decided not to opt for a raised feeder.  Not only is her Boxer on the higher risk list, but he also is a gobbler – making quick work of his food!

This is just one example where it pays to do a little research.  An idea that seems like a good one may not be so.

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.

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