Cats get sore too.

It’s a misconception that cats get out of all sorts of scrapes just fine. 

Think about how athletic even the laziest of lap cats is, leaping fences and walls, running round the house at 90 miles an hour, springing onto and off of furniture. There’s no telling what kind of mischief cats get up to while their owners aren’t looking.

I have 2 cats, both aged 10 now, and tend to treat them as and when they need it, which works out to be about 3 or 4 times a year.

My cat Indie

You should get your cat checked over by a vet if they become withdrawn, unusually aggressive or have some dramatic personality change, as this can be an indicator of pain or disease.

However there are times when we look at how our cats move or sit and think about whether they could benefit from a treatment. 

Cats should hold their tails up when they walk, I see lots of cats walking with lowered tails before treatment, who then revert to carrying their tails high again after treatment. This can be a sign of tight hind quarter muscles. Of course if your cat is dragging their tail or it seems limp with no reaction when handled then it’s best to get a vet to check this over first. 

Repeatedly sitting lop-sided can also be a sign of musculoskeletal issues, as can sitting slouched with the weight over the front legs and head lowered. 

So, what does it matter if you see these signs in your cat? 

Musculoskeletal injuries cause the cat the place more weight on an unaffected limb, even when the original injury (whether that be a scrape, bruise, strained muscle, tendon or ligament) is healed the cat will continue to move in this way. This sets up a pattern of compensation within the body. Over time the compensating limb will tire or the cat may begin to get an overuse injury such as a muscle strain in the compensating limb, so the cat compensates again, by placing more weight onto a different limb, but because the brain thinks the first limb still hurts, it puts even more strain on the new compansating limb. Over time this pattern can develop in the body and cause lameness, or even lead to arthritis in the overloaded limb. 

Getting treatment can improve the mobility, altheticism and comfort of your cat, it can also prevent this cycle of injury and compensation, allowing a better recovery and lasting comfort for the cat. 

Listen to your horse! 

At the moment I’m starting my horse under saddle which is going really well. He stands like a rock at the mounting block and is taking it all in his stride. 

But the last time I’ve ridden he was starting to fidget at the mounting block, put his ears back and throw his head when mounted, shaking his head and getting annoyed if I gently shifted position. Was he just bored of the process? Was he deciding a ridden career wasn’t for him?

Thinking back, his bed had been scattered that night, Badger is usually messy in his stable, kicking his bedding around, so I didn’t think too much of it, but when I looked back in his stable I could see scratch marks up the wall.

He had probably gotten cast.

So I treated him and left him to rest for a day or two before riding him again. 

After being tested he was back to being his usual quiet, steady self. 

Getting cast can cause musculoskeletal discomfort, getting your horse treated can help prevent unwanted behaviours, especially in a young horse being trained under saddle. 

Fit enough to ride?

Does horse riding make you fit, or should you get fit to ride? 

During the course of my work I ask owners to trot their horses up for me, I only need to see the horse move over 20 to 30 meters and usually only ask the owner to walk and trot once aling this length. I’m often surprised at the number of owners who are struggling to catch their breath after running this short distance. 

Research suggests that fit riders will be able to say in better balance with their horses, putting less strain on their musculoskeletal system. Even heavier, better balanced riders are less strain on the horses’ body than lighter, novice riders. 

If the rider is serious about keeping their horse in the best condition possible and wants to avoid injury to themselves or their horses, then getting at least basically fit should be their main aim. 

Apart from putting strain on the horse, unfit riders are more likely to fall off and get seriously hurt. Even simple tumbles can be more serious when the rider has less fitness, core strength or overall strength to rely on. 

As we age, we need to be thinking more about getting fit enough and strong enough to ride.  Increasing  trunk and leg strength, cardiovascular capacity and flexibility will have good repercussions on our riding, increasing our reactions and the ability to stay on should anything unexpected happen.

I am finding that making even as little as 10 or 20 minutes a day to exercise can have positive effects on the body. For busy people exercise DVDs are excellent or there are now many good apps to exercise at home. Try Yoga, Pilates or Thai Chi to develop strength and all important flexibility. Walking or swimming are excellent low impact activities that done regularly will improve cardiovascular health. 

Trying to get fitter will improve your health, help you to sleep better and therefore help you fight the effects of stress. Not only that, but you will become a better and more effective rider, helping to prevent injury to both you and your horse. 

What EXACTLY is it I do?

A phone call from a client a few nights ago promoted me to write a quick post about what I do. 

The client was cancelling their appointment because their friend had said they needed to get a back person out who did both soft tissue AND bones, and that I didn’t do that, so they wanted to get someone else out. 

Obviously it is the right of the client to get out whoever they choose to be most suitable for their needs. However, it promoted me to think that I’m not explaining myself very well, I’m the first to admit that I’m not great in this area. 

You see, I’ve been studying and practicing what I do in various forms for around 10 years! In that time it’s obvious to me what I do, but I forget that others haven’t been on this journey with me. When I tell people “I’m a McTimoney Practitioner”, I forget that they may not understand what that means, in fact many McTimonry practitioners hold many other qualifications from saddle fitting to physiotherapy and a whole host of others in between, so everyone is fairly unique in that regard. 

So what IS it that I do? well after a thorough examination, I first “adjust” the spine and pelvis (and a few other joints in the body).

So why’d I put ‘adjust’ in inverted commas? 

Well, I put a small amount of force to a very particular point on a very particular bone, at great speed, and allow it to ‘spring’ back, this appears to stimulate the nerves, adjacent muscles and surrounding tissue to release any tension or spasm held there. 

After I have systematically realigned the skeleton I will then use a range of soft tissue techniques, such as massage, acupressure, trigger point therapy and myofascial release, to free further tension from the more superficial muscles. 

This way I can affect the skeleton, the deep paraspinal muscles, the deep muscles AND the superficial muscles, and any surrounding tissue such as the myofascia. 

So there we have it, what I do in a nutshell. Of course, there’s much more to it than that, but that’s just the start! 

And after a quick phone call to the client to explain what I do, she decided to keep her appointment with me. 

If you have anymore questions, write them in the comments below, thanks for reading. 

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.

How to bath a horse in winter. 

My young cob has been playing with his friends in the field and came in soaked with sweat the other night, his winter woollies coming through is keeping him toasty. 

He’s also itchy, very greasy, and has scurfy skin, he suffers from mild sweet itch which has been playing havoc with his skin and coat the last few weeks, despite my best efforts to protect him. Most of all this he stinks! If it was summer then washing him would help alleviate some of these problems.  However as it’s now November so that seems a bit mean. 

Enter the dry shampoo bath. Using baby powder sprinkled over a bone dry coat, then rubbed into the skin using a rubber curry comb. 

The powder then needs to be brushed out, best to do this with a body brush, keep going until no more powder can be seen in the coat. 

If you have a dark horse you can use cocoa powder instead, which will blend in better if you can’t get it all out. 

You will be left with a gleaming, shiny coat, the dry “shampoo” removes excess grease, scurf and stains without stripping the coat or removing the weatherproofing. 

Gleaming after his dry bath. 

Why I’m Happy That My Horse Is Fat

Seems like an odd heading for someone who despairs at seeing overweight animals struggle to do their jobs, however, bear with me on this one!

As some of you may know there have been many challenges getting Fox back to health, one of those have been his inability to keep weight on and to keep him warm, I’ve never known such a cold horse.

When he first arrived he would burn through calories due to being on a heightened state of alert, with his adrenalin levels through the roof (read about that here).  He also had stomach issues, he would chew wood, show clear signs of stomach pain if hungry (our field at the time had very poor grass, especially in winter), wind suck, grind his teeth, act “wild” and would refuse to be caught or became difficult to handle.  These are all clear signs of a horse being driven mad by pain, most probably, stomach ulcers.

His digestive system seemed to be in a state of stress (because he himself was stressed) and it was difficult to keep weight on him because of this.  Last summer we moved to a much better field, and along with lowering his stress levels and feeding to keep his system free from pain, his digestive system has actually become more efficient.  He now comes in some nights during the summer to have hay, this really settles his stomach down, as too many days out on grass can cause some inflammation.  He has a handful (literally) of Timothy Chop (very low calorie grass based, molasses free, chop made from a low sugar grass variety.) with vitamin and mineral supplement, and grass in the day time.

So how did we achieve this?  First, I should say that if you are experiencing any of these problems with your horse then you should speak to your vet about it, we decided not to go down the scoping and antibiotics route for the ulcers as we could see that simple management made him more comfortable and was not necessary.

First he got ad lib hay in winter, being hungry would cause a flare up of his signs, so it was imperative to keep something fibrous in his system at all times.  In spring and autumn when the grass is rich and growing quickly, this can also cause issues with horses that have ulcers, so we offered him hay or meadow grass blocks to help line his stomach.

If you are riding your horse make sure you give some hay (half a section would be fine) or some non molassed chaff of some type BEFORE you ride and never ride on  completely empty stomach. Although new research has immerged that chaff with “sharp” ends may cause mechanical damage (scratching) to the stomach wall, if the horse already has ulcers or inflammation of the stomach lining, this may exacerbate the problem. 

Fibre forms a matt over the acid layer and prevents it from damaging the sensitive tissues that surround the top third of the horses stomach.  Doing this will prevent your horse from getting crabby when ridden and prevent the ulcers or inflamed stomach lining from getting worse.  NEVER feed pony nuts or any type of mix before riding, even if they say they are high fibre, in fact if your horse has stomach issues you should avoid feeding these at all.  If your horse competes, there are other ways to get a higher energy fibre based food or balancing these with small amounts of cereal, speak to an equine nutritionist.

I also used liquorice powder as a supplement, this has mucilage properties, coating and soothing the digestive tract, it also has been shown in laboratory tests to kill some of the bacteria that are responsible for the continuation of stomach ulcers (in humans).

A word of warning when using liquorice, or slippery elm, or marshmallow root, that they are very high in sugar, which is what gives them their mucilage properties so only feed a teaspoon full twice a day for five days or a week, and don’t ride during this time as your horse may become a hyped up monster, don’t worry, stopping the supplement will reverse this.  We found that Fox was particularly susceptible to its effects so I prefer to warn people who may try it. Horses with intolerance to sugar due to laminitis, cushings or metabolic disorder should use these webs with caution.

When he needed higher energy food in the winter, to keep weight on, we found that feeding non molassed sugar beet (thoroughly soaked of course) and Alf Alfa chop or Alfa and straw mix (all non molassed) to be a great conditioning feed which prevented inflammation in his gut, we ended up swapping the Alfa for the Timothy Chop because his field mate was allergic to the Alfa.  Grass nuts were given instead, if the timothy chop wasn’t keeping enough weight on him with the addition of micronised linseed meal if the weather was really nasty. Although this last winter he kept his weight great being fed only adlib hay in the stable, non molassed sugar beet, linseed meal and the occasional meadow grass block on very cold days. 

This consistent regime over the course of 3 years has turned a skinny, wind sucking, lunatic into a fat, content, calm and happy horse.  This spring/summer will be the job of keeping the weight off!

Pain and loss of mobility are not necessarily a part of aging.

Keeping your dog fit and healthy into old age is the priority of most loving owners. However, did you know that the pain and loss of mobility that many dogs experience, sometimes quite early in life can be avoided or held off until later in life.

I have many older dogs that are brought to me for treatment because they are suffering from pain, stiffness and arthritis. This is great for the dogs, treatment can help ease the symptoms that many of us feel as we age, but did you know that having your dog treated on a regular maintenance schedule twice a year can help prevent these signs until later in life, if they occur at all.

Arthritis cannot be reversed either by physical therapy or veterinary treatment, the best we can hope for is that careful treatment including muscle strengthening, weight management, physical therapy and pain control we can ensure our dogs have a good quality of life as they age, but why do some dogs become plagued with joint injuries, while others seem to age remarkably well.

The Pain Spiral.
It is important to understand how injury can affect the body in the long term.

When an animal injures themselves, no matter how minor, the following chain of events will occur. Say your dog took a tumble while catching a ball or crashed into another dog while playing, accidents such as these can cause minor muscle strains or bruises that your dog will recover from quickly. However, it is hardwired in our dogs to subtly change the way they move when they have pain in their bodies.

For instance, once the bruising and muscle strain have occurred, the dog will walk by putting less weight on the injured area or leg, even if the pain is minor and doesn’t cause overt lameness. This helps to rest the area and allow it to heal.

Now for the important bit, the dog will continue to move with this altered gait, even when the pain has gone, with less weight being carried on the now healed leg, and more on another leg. The mechanism that helped the body to heal, can now cause further injury if this compensatory pattern isn’t addressed.

At first, the dog is fine moving like this, but over time the muscles that are being overworked will begin to get tight and tired, the muscles that the dog has been guarding will begin to atrophy.

The dog now has to try and guard the sore, overworked muscles, but the brain has shut down communication through the nervous system to the area that was originally injured, so the dog will compensate by moving weight to a different leg, putting the pressure it is trying to relive in two other legs onto one leg. Often it is at this point that the dog may begin to appear intermittently lame, reluctant to play as it used to or become slower on walks, he may glance at the painful area, be more prone being bad tempered or show other changes in behaviour or temperament.

You can see how this cycle over time can cause increased pressure on joints in limbs that are compensating, this is often the cause of early arthritis in dogs.

Preventing This Cycle.
It is important to prevent this downward spiral of pain and lameness before irreversible changes occur within the joints or ligaments. Regular treatment with a properly qualified practitioner such as a McTimoney practitioner can help remove these minor strains and effectively “reset” the body into it’s most efficient way of moving.

For this to happen the dog should receive regular treatment throughout its life, this will help to prevent the onset of damaging compensation cycles and help prevent mobility issues as the dog ages. Regular treatment doesn’t mean monthly, usually twice yearly is enough to keep the musculoskeletal system working in good order. The other advantage to regular check ups with a professional is that any underlying or more serious issues are likely to be picked up sooner and referred back to the vet in order to get treatment, which would give a better prognosis for recovery. This is especially true of very active dogs, or those that compete, who may pick up minor injuries, but mask them due to the excitement of competing and training.

Getting your dog treated on a maintenance schedule will help prevent minor injuries from becoming more serious and help prevent mobility issues later in life.


FlyBall is a high impact sport where injuries can occur, mainly in the shoulder, back and stifles.  The picture below shows hyperflexion of the carpal joint, or wrist, that occurs when a dog hits the box at speed.  To help prevent injury warm your dog up for 10 minutes before training or competing.  Keep your dog a healthy weight, this will help lower the risk of concussion injuries.

Having your dog treated during the competition season can help to indentify any tight muscles that have developed that could lead to injury if not recognised early enough.  Treatment can also help if your dog starts to produce slower times or doesn’t seem to be enjoying himself as much as usual.

Pacing gait in dogs, what does it mean?

In general dogs will move by using a walk, trot, gallop or pacing gait.

The walk is a four time gait, with each leg landing before the next foot leaves the ground.  The trot is a two time gait, with diagonal pairs of legs landing and pushing off at the same time, as seen below.

The pace occurs where the legs on one side of the body land and push off at the same time (see below).  Dogs can pace in walk or trot (a walk type pace or a trot type pace).  Some breeds of dog are more likely to pace than others, for instance labradors and retrievers are dogs with a natural pacing gait.  Dogs with long legs and short backs, especially crossbreeds, will pace to prevent the back feet from stepping on or interferring with the front feet in trot.

The pace is an efficiant gait, many owners may observe their dogs pacing towards the end of a long walk, or if the dog have been particularly energetic whilst playing.

dog paceIf, however, the owner were to notice the dog pacing most of the time in walk and trot, this could be a sign of discomfort or even pain in the muscles through the middle of the back.

The reason a dog will pace when this happens is that when trotting there is considerable rotational movement through the middle of the back.  If the muscles here are sore the dog will pace to avoid that rotational movement, stabilising and splinting the centre of the back.

As long as there is no problem with arthritis in the spine or a problem with the vertebral discs then getting your dogs back treated by a specialist, such as a McTimoney therapist, can help relive this discomfort.  After treatment the dog is less likely to pace (although there may be an adaptation period while the dog realises that trotting no longer causes discomfort) and the dog will appear to have much more energy.