Canine Services for Family Pets

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More than a pampering treatment for your dog, my services offer a vital way to help prevent or reduce pain and mobility issues.

Genetic disease and aging are the top reasons people seek my services.  Any dog that has hip dyplasia, elbow displasia or are genetically predisposed to certain contitions can benefit from routine maintenace treatment.  Most of these conditions will ultimately result in arthritis, either in the affected area or in other joints that are having to take the strain.  If your dog is slowing down on walks or less enthusiatic to play, these may signs of clinical disease.

The good news is that along side treatment from your vet, my service can help your dog live his best life as he ages.  Research has shown that physical therapy along with medical intervention gives the best outcome in these cases.

If you have any questions, don’t hesistate to contact me 07931 523606 anna@whisperingequus.co.uk

Benefits of Regular Complimentary Therapy

A search on pubmed, a web based research paper database, brings up over 14 000 results for complimentary therapy, among them, many papers on the long term effects of massage or hands on therapies. Although the quality of some research may be lacking, there is beginning to be a substantial body of research on the benefits of different types of touch therapies applied to all species.

Many people think of having a massage or treatment as an occasional treat, but the evidence suggests that regular treatment can help reduce stress, help people cope with chronic pain and conditions that cause chronic pain, such as arthritis.

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It seems, though, that there is a general consensus that complimentary therapy should be able to “fix” a chronic condition, or any condition, in one or two treatments. I come across this a lot in practice, people hoping that a couple of treatments will cure them of arthritis pain for good.

It is interesting to me that people don’t expect this of western medicine, they don’t expect to take one dose of statin and have their cholesterol under control, or one dose of blood pressure meds, antibiotics, or even pain relief medicine, but they do expect this of a massage or therapeutic intervention.

I, myself, have chronic pain, for which I find regular Bowen treatments along side targeted exercise helps me cope with my condition, improves my quality of life and my mobility, and reduces anxiety and depressive feelings. If I stop either one, then the pain spiral and emotional turmoil starts again.

For my human patients with chronic pain, stress or anxiety I suggest at minimum monthly treatments, weekly would be best in order to allow an improved quality of life.

For my animal patients with chronic conditions such as arthritis I would suggest monthly treatments to help keep on top of any pain or restriction. Maintenance treatments for healthy horses are best at 1-3 month intervals depending on the intensity and regularity of exercise that they undertake. This will help prevent chronic muscle conditions from occurring in the first place.

It is important to realise that any complimentary therapy can help improve all manner of conditions, but at least a course of treatment is necessary to relieve symptoms and help prevent them from reoccurring.

My mission is far more than reducing pain in as few treatments as possible, my mission is to help you live a life full of vitality, free from stress with improved health and education to make choices that will help you acheive your goals.  If this sounds like something you are interested either for yourself or you four legged friend, then call me on 07931 523606 and we can discuss your requirements.

My Dog Doesn’t Need Treatment, Does It?

McTimoney animal therapy is a gentle, effective treatment that releases muscles and improves spinal range of motion.  It is especially suitable for active, competing or working dogs and can help prevent physical problems related to tight muscles and loss of flexibility later in life.

McTimoney is a truly holistic approach to caring for your animals’ physical well being, each treatment is tailored to suit the individual. McTimoney Animal Practitioners try to find out what might be causing the problem in the first place, rather than treat the symptoms.  During the consultation information is gathered about the animal and the owner, any previous injury, any problems it is coping or not coping with currently, and after watching how the animal moves the treatment can commence.  First realigning the skeleton using the McTimoney technique, and then massaging any tightness or tension away throughout the body.


Does My Dog Need McTimoney Treatment?

Owners can spot signs of discomfort in their dog, below is a list of things to look out for that may mean your dog would benefit from treatment, but is by no means extensive:

  • Your dog may seem more timid than usual or resent being touched in a particular place, this may be a sign of discomfort somewhere in its body.
  • Your dog may tire more easily than usual, especially on longer walks, or may seem less enthusiastic before walks or play less vigorously.
  • Your dog may stop what it is doing and look at its leg/ back or somewhere that it has felt pain or discomfort.
  • Your dog may lick or gnaw at one particular place on its body, where there are no cuts to the skin.
  • Dogs that prefer to use the pacing gait, and have no breed or conformation disposition towards this way of moving, may be uncomfortable through the middle of their back, pacing prevents rotation through this area that occurs when the dog trots, pacing enables the dog the hold the middle of its back stiffer and avoid causing too much movement through the middle of the back if it is uncomfortable.

Dogs that have previously been lame will benefit from treatment once the lameness has been resolved. This is because the dog will avoid using the painful area.  Once the pain has gone, the dog won’t automatically use its body as it had before it was lame.  The dog will continue to use the leg it has been favouring, leading to a weakening of the muscles in the previously injured leg or body area, causing increased overuse and tension in the leg that the dog has a preference for.  At first, the dog will cope with this without any problem, but over time the muscles in one leg will build up while the other loses its tone, this can lead to further tightening of adjacent muscles that attempt to stabilise and compensate for the weaker area.  Pain and inflammation can follow in the overworked muscles, and cause a secondary lameness.  Having your dog treated once the lameness has resolved can prevent this cycle of events from happening in the first place.

Active and Competing Dogs

When competing with your dog, whether agility, flyball, obedience, field trials or even if your dog loves jumping for a ball or playing roughly, can all put strain on the muscles, a small slip or uneven landing can lead to injury.  Keeping your dog’s musculoskeletal system working at its optimum, will give him the best chance of competing at his best and help to prevent overuse injuries.  Getting a check with a McTimoney Animal Practitioner can help to pick up tissue strains and sprains before they become a bigger problem. Treatment can improve quality of gait in the show dog, and gives a sense of wellbeing, which may help your dog relax in the ring.


Whether you compete, work with or enjoy your dog as a beloved companion, McTimoney therapy can help keep your dog comfortable and help prevent injury in active dogs.

  • A reduction in performance during a competition or increased aggression or fear behaviours could be linked to pain or discomfort somewhere in the body, McTimoney animal therapy can help pinpoint where there may be a physical problem and help to resolve this.
  • McTimoney therapy can be used to help rehabilitate animals after an operation or manage a chronic condition.
  • Older dogs can benefit from gentle treatment to help ease compensations for aging joints and muscles.  Although having your dog treated before the onset of these problems can help improve comfort on old age, and prevent age related debilitation.

McTimoney is not a cure for lameness or internal problems, where there may be a suspected underlying medical condition the practitioner will always advise the owner to seek help from a vet.

Case Studies

A 15 year old Border Collie was brought to me, starting to slow on his walks, he appeared to have stiffness through his joints and had become quieter than usual.  His vet suggested that physical therapy might help, and his owner decided to give me a call.  After treatment Jasper was feeling so well that he raced round the house, jumping on the bed, something he hasn’t been able to do for a while.  Dawn said, “I can’t thank you enough for the improvement to his well-being.  His walking is much better and his back isn’t hunched like it used to be.  It’s taken several years off him, thanks again”.

5 year old Staffordshire Bull Terrier,  was usually a very active dog, who loved catching her ball in the air, but had become reluctant to go up the stairs or jump in the car, even whimpering as she did so on occasion.  She was given painkillers by the vet, who suggested that her mobility would continue to decline as she aged, even though x-rays had not revealed any skeletal injury or arthritis.  After the initial consultation, it was clear to me, that the dog had considerably less muscle on the left hind than her right and the muscles over her back and neck were extremely tight and sore to palpate, as a consequence of this, she was using the pacing gait on her walks.  After the initial treatment she seemed much brighter and no longer required the painkillers, after 3 treatments spaced over 6 months, along with rehabilitation exercises I prescribed; that were carried out by her owner; she no longer had issues climbing the stairs or jumping into the car and was back to her old self.

Canine Stretch Exercises for Physical Health.

Studies have found that baited stretches in horses, often known as carrot stretches, can reduce the incidence of back pain and help to rehabilitate a horse that has been suffering from back pain. The same has been found in humans and dogs.

The baited stretches work a bit like Pilates does in humans, the body is gently stretched to activate the long muscles of the back and core muscles of the stomach, without forcing them or causing strain to the joints. Helping to strengthen and tone these muscles, thus reducing strain and asymmetry.
This form of stretching is called active stretching, where the stretch occurs within a movement, rather than holding the dogs’ body in a stretch. Active stretching has proven, in both human and animal sport, to increase power and acceleration. So is great for those competing in agility or flyball. Passive stretching, where the handler holds the dogs legs in a stretch, immediately before training and competing actually decreases performance.
Using a piece of food or a treat move the dog’s head around to his side, while his feet stay where they are! Start slowly and only move the treat a small distance to let the dog get the idea that he needs to keep his feet still, if he moves his feet, be persistent, but don’t hand over the reward until the dog is in the desired position. This may take some patience to begin with, but the dog will soon get the idea. Remember to reward the smallest try and start off slowly. The following photos show me teaching this method to a family member’s dog, Bindi.

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1. Getting the idea of moving her head with her feet still
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2. Moving the head to the side while keeping the feet still.

Bindi is starting to get the idea in the second photo, which didn’t take very long at all. To progress this exercise continue to move the treat further towards the flank as the dog becomes more flexible. I left this session here because she had got the idea, she is young and it was her first session. Don’t forget to repeat this exercise to both sides.

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Next, move the dog’s head between his front legs, by getting his nose to follow a treat. Again, start slowly, you can see the nice stretch over Bindis back, eventually you would aim for her to stretch her head between her front legs and take the treat from behind her front feet.

Ask your dog to stand with his front legs on top of a box, to stretch the back and hind leg muscles. This gives nice stretch over the hind legs. Obviously if you have a small dog, then a smaller step would be needed, make sure the dog is not straining to reach the raised platform, whatever you may be using, also make sure the footing is good and will not cause the dog to slip off.

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Finally, teaching or encouraging your dog to “play bow” on command helps to stretch the shoulder, triceps and back muscles. Bindi shows the early stages of this, aim to make the forequarters lower than the hindquarters in true “playbow” pose, but again, do this slowly over time.

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Repeat these exercises frequently, 2-3 times a week should be plenty, once your dog is proficient at these, then the frequency can be dropped back to once a week.
Look after your back whilst doing this too, you can see that I have my knees bent and back relatively straight to prevent me putting too much strain on my lower back.

And finally… try not to be gulted into just handing over the treats!

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Preventing injuries in agility dogs

Regardless of whether you train for fun, fitness or competition, having your dog pick up an injury can be devastating.  Vets have recently become increasingly concerned about the number of dogs injured whilst training and competing in dog sports.

Careful management of your beloved pet can make all the difference with regards to lowering the risk of becoming injured.

Recent studies have found that keeping your dog within a healthy weight for its breed, height and age is the biggest factor for preventing injuries, especially concussion injuries and the early onset of conditions such as arthritis.

Research into agility has found that  the most common injuries are soft tissue sprains and strains.  A recent survey found that although the majority of competing dogs were uninjured, 33% of dogs in training had suffered an injury, while 58% of those injuries had occurred at a competition.  The shoulders were most commonly injured, followed by the back, stifle (knee), thigh, hip and toes.  The majority of injuries occurred on the A-frame, dogwalk or bar jump.  Training in Flyball on rubber matting was associated with an increased likelihood of arthritis, foot pad and dew claw injuries than those trained on grass, this would probably be similar for agility training, although no studies have looked at training on an equestrian sand surface, where many clubs often train.

If your dog becomes injured STOP.  Do not continue training or competing and seek help from your vet.  Helpful first aid is that anything that feels hot or warmer than usual to the touch should have an ice pack placed against it.  If it is in an area where the dog has less, or thin fur then wrap the ice pack in a flannel to prevent ice burns on the skin.  Try to hold it there for as long as the dog will allow, but no longer than 20 minutes at a time.  Repeat this several times a day until you can see your vet.

There are often signs before an injury happens that owners should pay attention to.  Slower than usual times, knocking poles, slower through the weave or corners are all signs that your dog may not be quite comfortable, or may have a muscle pull or strain.

If your dog is lame, then you need to speak to your vet and get proper treatment for the lameness.  Sometimes your vet may not be able to pinpoint a reason for why your dogs performance has decreased, especially if your dog is not actually lame, under these circumstances you may need to have your dog checked over by a therapist.  Therapists, such as McTimoney therapists, can help to alleviate tight muscles, which in turn can help prevent strain on tendons.  Tendons are more likely to be injured if the muscle associated with it is tight.  Treatment can help increase performance and prevent injury.  The therapist can advise on suitable exercises to help strengthen any weak muscles, this will help improve performance, prevent injury and allow your dog to continue enjoying agility for many years.  Regular treatment, say at the beginning or end of the indoor season, can help to spot any injuries or tight muscles before they prevent the dog from competing.

Following a suitable warm up and cool down routine will dramatically help lower the odds of picking up and injury, as will paying attention to your dogs overall fitness and energy levels, if your dog seems to have less energy than usual it may be necessary to speak to a qualified nutirtionist, veterinary nurse or vet about what to feed to increase vitality or control weight.

Starting out in agility and keeping your dog injury free

If you are thinking about taking agility up with your dog, first think about how fit your dog is.  Discuss with your vet any injuries your dog may have had in the past, and how this will affect his ability to enjoy agility.  If your dog needs to lose weight, then think about increasing your daily walks, walk further or faster, or increase the number of smaller walks in the day if possible, to help your dog to lose weight before starting any fast work.  Walking on the lead is the best exercise for obese dogs.  If you have a puppy, wait until the dog reaches maturity before undertaking any high impact work, such as repeated jumping at speed.  An immature skeleton or being overweight can lead to an increased risk in concussion injuries or affect joint development in the young dog.

While your dog is still unfit you can start to introduce the obedience aspect required for agility, and the agility equipment to your dog, in a safe environment and preferably with an experienced trainer.  They will introduce the equipment slowly and help to increase your dogs confidence.  The dog walk, weave, tunnel, and contact points can all be taught at a walk, on a lead.  For the health of your dog, leave any jumping until his weight is close to normal for his size, breed and age.  Your vet can help advise you when your dog is at a suitable weight to start jumping.

As your dog builds muscle, having him checked over by a qualified therapist can help prevent problems futher donw the road, the therapist will release tight muscles, this will help prevent muscles tears, and tendon strains, they can advise if the training can be pushed on or whether your dog needs to have less exercise for a while, allowing the body to repair and adjust to the increasing demand.

Remember to always warm both you and your dog up properly before starting any training, I have laid out some simple advice about warming up your dog in another article.

Being sensible and following the advise of your vet, trainer and therapist will help you and your dog to enjoy agility and help reduce the risk of any injuries occurring.

Guide to warming up your dog for competition or training

Whatever discipline you compete in or even if your dog is a working dog, the warm up is one of the most important factors in keeping your dog sound for the long term and injury free.  I would advise warming up even when training, whether you are practicing speed and obstacle skills or improving general behaviour training, the warm up will help your dog stay focussed and limber.  Warm up and cool down before and after every training session and competition, even if you are just training in your garden.

More than one study has looked at the effects of the warm up on injury rates, regardless of the sport and has found that dogs need to be warmed up for at least 9 minutes, otherwise muscle injuries are commonplace.

Start by brisk walking for 2 minutes, then trotting your dog for a few minutes (about 3 minutes) then introduce some cantering for a minute or 2, finally introduce some low jumps (for flyball and agility).

Include some active stretches after this, instead of holding your dog in a stretch, active stretching has proven, in both human and animal sport, to increase power and acceleration, while passive stretching, where the handler holds the dogs legs in a stretch, immediately before training and competing actually decreases performance.  Using a baited stretch, where a piece of food is used to move the dogs head around to his flank, while his feet stay where they are!  Move the dogs head between his front legs, by getting his nose to follow a treat, repeat on the other side. Active stretching prevents the muscles from being overstretched before strenuous exercise. Ask your dog to stand with his front legs on top of a box, to stretch the back and hind leg muscles. Teaching or encouraging your dog to “play bow” on command helps to stretch the shoulder, triceps and back muscles.

Finally at the end of the session remember to cool down effectively, 10 to 25 minutes of walking, start at a fast walk, then gradually change to a slower pace.