Tag Archives: physical therapy

The importance of a greeting

The Balanced Dog is a fully mobile practice. Working in home gives me much better information than if I practiced in a clinic setting. Clinics are not a normal environment for a dog and so they often don’t act normally when they are there. A common issue is that the owner reports lameness but the dog isn’t lame in the clinic – because their nervousness overrides any pain signals and the muscles are tighter than normal.

Another benefit to me and the dog when I arrive is that I am often greeted off-leash, as Dalmatian Velo did with me on Saturday.

In the act of greeting me, I got to watch Velo’s gait (a relaxed doggy on a Saturday morning at home) and I was able to confirm also that he’s being kept warm in his jumper.

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

Perspectives on budgeting

In the 11+ years I have been in professional practice, I’ve met a lot of great dogs with equally loving families. Yet, when it comes down to discussions with their veterinarian, often the only ‘budget’ that is mentioned is that of the financial budget.

In this post, I’d like to discuss budgeting because I think there are a total of four (4) budgets. These are the financial budget, the time budget, the physical budget and the emotional budget. Dog owners may, at any time, face a crisis in one or more of these budgets.

The Financial Budget – how much money can you spend to keep your dog healthy and happy? This typically becomes the budget of concern when a major procedure like surgery is required and that’s why veterinarians discuss it the most. Whether by an accident or illness, some owners are caught without enough money in the bank or pet insurance to cover the necessary treatment.

In other cases, a dog may be diagnosed with a medical condition which requires regular medication. Since medications for dogs are not subsidised by the Government (as they are in human health in New Zealand), some medications can be quite expensive. As our dogs age, it’s very common to develop mobility problems associated with arthritis, for example. Not only does this condition require medication, but also changes to the home environment, equipment ranging from harnesses to ramps to mobility carts, and professional help with canine fitness and physical therapy.

Veterinarians are often asked to euthanise a pet when the family cannot afford the cost of their dog’s care. This is referred to in the profession as ‘economic euthanasia.’

The Time Budget usually becomes an issue when a dog requires care at home. Dogs that require crating post-surgery have to be taken out to the toilet on lead on a regular basis, for example. Many pet parents can’t work from home because of the nature of their jobs; some employers may not be supportive of the need for regular breaks to return home to care for a dog or to allow the dog in the office…

I see the time budget become an issue in my practice because of the exercises needed to improve a dog’s strength, balance and flexibility. I specialise in in-home care and, while I always aim to make these exercises easy to do with items in the home, some owners struggle to have the time to undertake them on a consistent basis. Just this week I had a regular client ask, “do I have to do these every day, because they take another half-hour on top of our walk…?”

An owner’s physical abilities is also a budget of sorts. Let’s call this the Physical Budget. A large-sized dog that needs lifting because of an injury or longer-term mobility problem is going to be a challenge to an older owner or one who is slight of frame themselves.

Finally, there’s the Emotional Budget. The bond with our pets is quite strong and caring for a dog with major mobility or other health issues results in caregiver stress, just as it does with human caregivers. Unfortunately, without extended family or close friends who can provide some relief, I’ve seen owners who are totally depleted in energy and enthusiasm for life because of the toll of taking care of a geriatric or unwell pet.

Owners of dogs with severe behavioural problems often find that caring for them takes an emotional toll, as well.

Let’s remember that a pet owner in crisis may not have finances at the top of their list – and so a deeper conversation about pressures of care is required. I find that my in-home service, with clients in their own home and more relaxed and willing to talk, is of huge benefit to getting the best results for their dog, working as a team.

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