Various treatments such as physiotherapy, acupuncture, hydrotherapy and massage could all have a role to play in helping a dog with arthritis. This might be as a complementary treatment to drugs or as an alternative therapy.
This article highlights the benefits of canine massage.
Arthritis, also known as osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease, affects the joints and is mostly found in older dogs, but it can affect younger dogs too. In a healthy joint the facing surfaces are coated with slippery, cushioning cartilage designed to reduce friction and impact. When the cartilage within the joint is damaged it can cause inflammation and further wear to this protective coating. Eventually the bony surfaces may be exposed and their constant rubbing can cause additional bone growth resulting in a visibly enlarged joint, pain, inflammation, and further reduced mobility.
If your dog has canine arthritis then you probably already know all this and are now looking for ways to make your dog more comfortable and bring some joy back into their lives. A lot of owners will have tried physiotherapy, acupuncture and hydrotherapy, or their dogs are already taking the maximum dose of painkillers but they may still be finding daily activities uncomfortable to the point where owners are starting to question their quality of life. People often try canine massage as a last resort.
We recommend an initial three sessions of massage close together and we give advice on lifestyle adjustments to support your dog’s progress at home.
Often owners have noticed a marked improvement not just in their dog’s mobility but also in their overall demeanor and well being, even after the first session. I hear comments like:
“I can see she’s a lot happier and more comfortable.”
“He went home and got all his toys out.”
“Their cheeky side is back!”
“People in the park have really noticed a difference when we’re out on a walk, she’s holding her head up and there is a spring in her step again.”
“He’s sleeping better, not moving around through the night.”
The fact that the dog is feeling better is backed up by the dog’s behaviour when they come for their next appointment and the owner gets dragged across the road in the dog’s eagerness to get to my clinic!
So, if arthritis is an orthopaedic condition why does canine massage, a muscle therapy, give such dramatic results?
Muscles pull on bones to create movement and when a joint starts to lose its full function muscles have to work harder to maintain that movement. Muscles consistently doing a job that they were not designed for will result in tightness, stubborn trigger points, wide-radiating myofascial pain and adhesions.
We refer to these as areas of overcompensation but you may see them as general stiffness, struggling to get up or lie down and tiring easily on walks. Maybe they prefer to be alone and isolate themselves at home or perhaps they have become grumpy with other dogs or people.
Those tight, sore muscles will struggle to remove metabolic byproducts from the tissue. This could be why your dog looks so exhausted.
Clinical canine massage uses a range of recognised techniques to relieve those worn out muscles. We use massage methods to squeeze out those toxins from the muscles and allow fresh, nutrient and oxygen-rich blood flow back in to nourish the muscles. We break down painful trigger points to restore the muscular function and employ myofascial release techniques to break adhesions, relieve pain and improve range of motion.
If you have ever had a good sports and deep tissue massage with some myofascial release and soothing Swedish techniques, then you will know that although sometimes it can be a bit uncomfortable the relief you experience is visible all over your face and will show in how you carry your body. It is exactly the same for your dog. Over the course of a session you can see their face relax and one of the sweetest sounds is when they have a big sigh of relief.
Case study: Ky
Ky, a 13 year old Samoyed, was referred to me by his vet. He has arthritis in his shoulder, both hips and wrists. He was on Tramadol to ease his pain and had reached a point where his vet’s only option was to change to a more powerful drug. Luckily, Ky’s vet knew all about the benefits of clinical canine massage as he’d brought his own dog to see me and recommended Ky for an initial three sessions to see if massage could help.
Ky’s movement was very stiff and he was in a lot of pain despite the Tramadol. As joint function decreases muscles overcompensate. He had chronic trigger points, wide-radiating myofascial pain and adhesions in the muscles and fascia which were working extra hard. Ky was very brave as we worked to relieve the pain, free up the muscles and return them to healthy functioning.
After three sessions Ky returned to see his vet, who was so pleased with the results that rather than increasing his medication he was able to take Ky off his regular dose of Tramadol and save it for bad days.
Douglas Paterson of Apex Vets said:
“David (the owner) and I are delighted about the effect that massage therapy has had on Ky (a 13 year old Samoyed with multiple arthritic joints). The addition of regular massage sessions has allowed me to withdraw one drug (Tramadol) from his therapeutic regime, and maintain the same levels of comfort and mobility. This is a fantastic success story for massage.”
Ky’s family are also very happy with the outcome
David Sinclair, Ky’s dad, said:
“Since Ky started massage treatment we have noticed some marked differences in his mobility. The difference to his gait when he walks out of the massage session is the complete opposite as to when he walks in. Ky has arthritis in all 4 of his limbs, he struggles to walk and is in constant pain. But a ‘recovery period’ starts as soon as we get out of the car to go to one of his massage sessions with Catriona. As soon as he realises where he is he literally pulls us up the steps to the front door, and he knows exactly where to go.
Then follows an hour of relaxation and massage for Ky, set with gentle pulling, stretching and massage. Ky really enjoys this and he stays put on the table for as long as needed, occasionally lifting his head if a particularly sore area is being treated. Catriona knows exactly where the sore areas are and uses just the right touch and some soothing words throughout the process. There have been occasions when he has actually jumped into the back of the car without pausing, to go home after a session – something that he is normally unable to do. Usually he has to be lifted in, no mean task seeing as he weighs 30kg. The massage sessions have helped Ky so much that we have been able to discontinue his Tramodol with our vet’s agreement.
In conclusion, Ky enjoys the massage sessions so much, and is like a different dog after one. He walks and moves with much more ease and this seems to last for a few weeks or so. We are so glad that K9 massage was recommended to us by our vet, after we started to think that we’d exhausted all possible treatments.”
What about other therapies?
Hydrotherapy is great when the muscles are ready for exercise. As we’ve already discussed areas of overcompensation can be painful, toxic and debilitating. So before embarking on a hydrotherapy programme I’d recommend a course of massage to free the muscles of painful trigger points and myofascial pain so that your dog can exercise without adding to their muscular stress.
Many vets now offer acupuncture as a pain-relief option. This is a technique known as dry needling where they insert a needle into the trigger point to help it ‘unwind’ relieving pain and tension.
There are many treatments which can support arthritis and you may need to try a variety or consider a combination for the best results in your dog. I do often hear from clients that without massage they would have lost their dogs years ago so don’t give up hope until you have tried it.
I am part of a network of therapists trained to support this condition and you will know within just three sessions if it is going to make a difference to your dog. As with all complementary therapies you will need your vet’s prior approval to ensure that this is an appropriate treatment for your dog. Your clinical canine massage therapist will give you a consent form for your vet to sign.
Further information and links
CAM4animals would like to thank Catriona Dickinson for writing this article.
Catriona Dickinson, K9 Massage Clinic, has been treating dogs and educating owners since 2013. K9 Massage Clinic is based in Stirling with regular clinics in West Lothian, Perthshire and Angus.
Tel: 07715 818194
Catriona is a member of the Canine Massage Guild which promotes best practice and would never treat a dog without prior vet’s consent.
You can download a pdf explaining how to spot the subtle signs that your dog is in pain. Click here.
Catriona also runs workshops teaching a beginners guide to massaging your own dog. Get more details here.
As we highlighted in our Valentine's Day blog, roses can help and heal in lots of ways. As well as culinary uses, there are numerous applications for medical, emotional, and behavioural problems for you and your animals. Here we look at flower and other essences, herbal medicine, aromatherapy and homeopathy.
Flower & Other Essences
Essences: general information
Essences are made by infusing the item’s particular vibrational qualities into water and then stabilising it. There are several different types of essences which have been developed from different habitats or geographical areas. Some of the rose-based ones are discussed here.
There are three different types of Alaskan Essences - Flower Essences, Gem Essences and Environmental Essences. Plants have a very short growing season in Alaska which gives them a lot of vitality. Healthlines, based in the UK, has the full range of Alaskan and other sorts of essence. Here is the main website for Alaskan Essences.
Note – specifically for animals, there is a superb combination essence available in spray or drop form called Animal Care developed by someone who worked in rescue centres.
Alaskan Flower Essence: Prickly Wild Rose
Affirmations that relate to the qualities of this essence are:
"I celebrate life with courage and openness."
"I live each day with joy, optimism and trust."
This essence is useful if you or your animal are feeling:
Prickly Wild Rose’s healing qualities
Interestingly, the physical characteristics of Prickly Wild Rose offer us a visually descriptive representation of its vibrational healing qualities. The flowers exist in a state of openness and vulnerability – their petals are easily loosened from the base of the sepals. They beckon to us with their beauty, invoking in us a sense of interest and wonder.
The thorny branches give protection to these delicate flowers so that they may evolve into the fruiting stage of the nourishing rose hip.
The Prickly Wild Rose Essence supports the recipient to feel safe and to be more open and courageous even when circumstances look dangerous. It brings a sense of calm that allows the individual to blossom.
The essence is particularly helpful for those who have become disinterested in life after what they perceived were past failures and lost opportunities. These feelings can surface more often as we get older. In humans it is useful for a mid-life crisis, when we sense that we haven’t been able to do what we wanted to do in our lives and wonder if we ever will.
Animals have similar feelings, especially at difficult times of transition and as they get older. They can benefit from the boost of love that this remedy gives.
In summary, Prickly Wild Rose can help the recipient let go of past difficulties, look at challenges and accomplishments honestly, and look forward to the future with joy, optimism, and excitement.
Alaskan Gem Essence: Rose Quartz
Rose Quartz is a pink crystal associated with the heart and love. Note that having the physical crystal in your home can bring similar qualities to you as the essence does.
The essence is useful if:
Rose Quartz’s healing qualities
Rose Quartz develops the heart chakra. It helps anchor love into the physical body through the heart centre. It also nurtures us by opening, strengthening and stabilising the heart forces. The individual is consequently able to maintain intimacy with him or herself, others, and the planet.
In effect, the essence allows us to let more love into our lives. As we allow this flow of loving energy to increase, we become less defensive and more open to others.
For an animal who has lost trust in life, and the humans in it, this remedy could gently start to build trust and allow it to build relationships again. It would be particularly useful for rescue animals.
Rose Quartz strengthens the inner architecture of the heart chakra so that both the generation and reception of love can increase exponentially. It gives a feeling of being surrounded with a constant vibration of love and protection. This encourages relaxation and a trust that all will be well.
Bach Flower Remedies: Wild Rose
This is a key essence for resignation and a lack of interest in life. When life feels pointless and you're just trudging apathetically from day to day, Wild Rose helps to rekindle the spirit of joy and adventure in life.
It can be used for deep sadness, resignation, apathy, surrender, failure to make an effort, fatalism, drifting downhill, dullness, lack of interest, no spark or vitality, a sense of monotony, expressionless drone to voice, weariness, a dull companion.
Wild Rose Essence might need to be part of a long-term therapy as the soul conditions inherent in this state are often firmly ingrained from birth, or even before.
These people/animals are boring company – they are uninterested and uninteresting. Their deep depression creates an apathy that casts a pall over every gathering.
In a milder lingering Wild Rose state, these people/animals may engage in frantic activity to compensate for their lack of true interest.
Although usually a chronic state of being, the negative Wild Rose state can sometimes occur as a temporary condition. This might happen after a miscarriage or during a phase of intense work on one's personality.
It may be useful during periods of intensive training for an animal. During these times, Wild Rose will help the person or animal return to their normal energy levels and enthusiasm.
Treatment gradually leads to a new interest in life and the joyful expectation of better things to come. The patient gains a new flexibility and inner freedom and is once again able to let the riches of life flow through him or her – they "come back to life."
Lotus Holistic Flower Essences
Lotus Holistic Flower Essences have been developed by holistic therapist Julie Bowman. They include:
Pink Dog Rose Essence
This balances and heals the heart chakra. It brings in the energy of generosity, kindness and patience. It’s about loving the self and others.
It expands the heart chakra, helping you to breathe deeper with life.
The Helping Hands Combination was successfully used in the Grenfell Tower therapy clinics. It includes White Rambling Rose which will sooth when emotions are running amok and you are left feeling raw.
More information can be found here. The Lotus website is here.
Rose contains chemicals which make it slightly astringent (i.e. it pulls tissue together) and very mildly sedative. The high amount of essential oils contained in the petals as well as in some varieties in the leaf, make rose highly anti-microbial (good at fighting bacteria, viruses and fungi).
Looking at the traditional use of rose, you will find it was used for heartache, heart burn, mouth ulcers, stomach upsets, gall and liver infections and other related problems, gastro-intestinal upsets and infections, for wound application, to strengthen the heart, after 'fainting', to reduce high blood pressure and to lift low blood pressure (it's adaptogenic so it can do both depending on what the body needs), for eye infections and even headaches.
The Common Dog Rose, Rosa canina, is part of the rose family. The rosehips have a wide use in herbalism. With their high vitamin C content, as well as other minerals, they are fantastic as a supplement for humans as well as animals.
This article highlights a wide variety of uses for all parts of the rose - leaves, petals and hips.
Rose essential oils such as Rose Otto and Rose Damask, have a very important place in aromatherapy as they reduce adrenaline through both the olfactory and limbic systems. They have a host of healing benefits for the body and mind.
Rose essential oil relieves stress, fights anxiety and induces relaxation.
During rose aromatherapy, the essential oils move deep into the skin and permeate the air in the lungs. This not only rejuvenates the skin, but also comforts the mind.
It slowly relaxes the muscles, relieves spasms and reduces inflammation.
Rose has long been associated with spirituality. It exhibits the highest vibration of any essential oil, giving it a special affinity with the heart and the emotional spheres of mind, body, and spirit. Rose has no parallel in treating grief, hysteria, or depression.
Rose essential oil is often selected by animals who have problems with excitability - often combined with vetiver (which is super grounding).
See this article for more information.
The rose is red, the violet's blue,
The honey's sweet, and so are you.
The power of love
Poor St. Valentine, martyred on 14th February AD 269, won’t have foreseen the world celebrating romance and love on his feast day centuries later.
Of course, there are many different kinds of love to celebrate, but they all have one thing in common – a release of oxytocin known as the love or cuddle hormone. This helps to form the basis of all our bonding and
social interactions and has also been shown to decrease stress and anxiety
levels when released into certain parts of the brain.
Special animal bonds
There’s even more cause to celebrate if we are lucky enough to have animals in our lives. People are often cheered up when they are greeted with enthusiasm by a friendly dog, for example. We’ve shared a special bond with dogs for millennia ever since they figured out it was worth their while sitting by our firesides to gain a bite to eat and keep warm.
Or was it us who invited them to do a few things around the place……. probably a bit of both!
Either way, it has been demonstrated that touch between a human and
a dog can have therapeutic benefits for both species. Petting a dog can trigger the release of oxytocin in both human and dog and reduce cortisol (although you do need to be sure the dog is OK with you doing it). It can also lower heart rate and blood pressure . The Complementary Medical Association recently highlighted the many studies demonstrating that having a pet dog is associated with improved physical health.
They also boost our psychological wellbeing and appear to reduce symptoms of depression and make people more resilient to stress. See here and here.
Dogs seem to sense sadness or dis-ease in their humans and often attempt to make their owners happy by initiating a cuddle. Some dogs are so
good at this, they are specifically trained as therapy pets.
If you are homeless, the deep bond you have with your dog may well be your lifeline. There are several charities which look after the homeless community and their dogs including Dogs on the Streets and Streetvet.
There's a special festival In Nepal called Kukur Tihar which specifically thanks dogs for their loyalty and friendship.
Horses can heal too
Riding and Driving for the Disabled has successfully enriched people's lives with horses and ponies who seem to instinctively know that they need to be careful with their riders or drivers - even with equines who may be, shall we say, "characters" in their day-to-day lives.
There are also many examples of the emotional support given by horses and their amazing contribution to the rehabilitation of people with a variety of conditions such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, various forms of abuse and addiction to drugs and alcohol.
It’s very likely that friendly interaction with other animals will have similar effects.
And when there’s heartbreak….
Of course, this love is all very well, but if our hearts are broken, a cuddle with the dog can be the perfect antidote. The author Dean Koonz summed it up when he said of his dog:
The natural world
Contact with nature and growing things – like roses – is another way of lifting the spirits and improving mental health. As the TV gardener, Monty Don said:
Without wishing to anthropomorphise, there seem to be demonstrations of love throughout the animal kingdom. Valentine’s Day coincides with the early signs of spring and nature has an extraordinary array of courtship unfolding around this time. The first frog spawn appears. Tawny owls hoot to potential mates. Baby badgers are being born underground. Greater spotted woodpeckers start drumming to stake out a territory and attract a partner.
Great crested grebes embark on their mating ballet dance. They puff up their neck plumage and mirror each other with neck bending, diving and gift giving – waterweed rather than roses!
And of course, nature’s palette becomes increasingly varied as flowers add colour to our lives.
We can show our love for wildlife by feeding the birds, making our gardens wildlife-friendly and supporting one of the many wildlife conservation organisations.
Roses – the classic Valentine’s Day symbol
Roses have been the flower of choice for thousands of years when it comes to mesmerising the desired person and bringing the love so desperately longed for. Roses are the symbol of love all over the world; a unique language. But why is this? Apart from the enchantingly sweet smell that lingers around like a gentle veil of love, roses actually have an astonishing effect on the endocrine system - they can reduce adrenaline by up to 30%. How’s that for being wooed!
Cleopatra is known to have used roses and the scent of other flowers like jasmine to scent not just herself and her bed, but also the sails of her barque when processing down the Nile. This would have mingled with the overwhelming smell of roses from thousands of rose petals which were strewn into the water by onlookers. No wonder Rome was a close
In the language of flowers popularised by the Victorians, a gift of red roses epitomises the joy of Valentine’s Day. They look, and often smell, gorgeous and hopefully evoke a feeling of everlasting love and passion when given and received.
Roses can help and heal in other ways too. As well as culinary uses, there are numerous applications for medical, emotional, and behavioural problems for you and your animals. We look at flower and other essences, herbal medicine, aromatherapy and homeopathy in our blog here.
Please remember that if your animal has had an accident or is seriously ill, first aid remedies may benefit them while you are waiting for help, but you MUST seek immediate advice from a veterinary surgeon. Before going any further, it is also essential to quote advice from the British Association of Homeopathic Veterinary Surgeons, BAHVS. BAHVS members are all conventionally trained vets who have gone on to gain further qualifications in homeopathy which are credited by the Faculty of Homeopathy.
“Homeopathy is a powerful and effective form of treatment, providing the possibility of cure for many serious and chronic conditions. Treatment of such conditions requires a level of skill and experience. Apart from this capability, however, it also offers extremely effective and wide-ranging first-aid applications, which are amenable to use by the caring animal owner.
Specialist knowledge is not required, unless the chosen remedy appears not to work within a reasonable period. In that case, the BAHVS recommends attention from a qualified veterinary surgeon.”
And, with regard to the law:
“The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 restricts the treatment of animals (other than your own) by anyone other than a fully qualified vet.”
Most people will be familiar with using Arnica pills or cream to help with bruising. However, a wide range of other remedies can also be used in first aid circumstances (in addition to their deeper uses when advised by a qualified practitioner to help with other conditions). This blog features an A to Z of the more commonly used remedies from Aconite to Urtica. Week by week we’ll add information to the following list and publish a series of slides illustrating their uses. We’ll give the name you’ll most likely see on the remedy bottle as well as their Latin and common English names.
Look out for us on FB, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
Where to find a homeopathic vet
A list of homeopathic vets is found here.
Where to buy the remedies
Several homeopathic pharmacies sell handy pet remedy kits including Helios, Ainsworths and Freemans. You may also be able to purchase remedies if you are using a homeopathic vet who may have their own supplies.
Aconite - Aconitum napellus - Monkshood or Wolfsbane
This remedy treats shock, both mental and physical and will also assist in the treatment of acute febrile conditions, such as viral or bacterial diseases.
Apis - Apis mellifca* - Honey Bee
Urticarial swellings, oedema and fluid in joints will often respond to this remedy, apart from its benefits for insect bites and stings. It may also help urine retention, if this is physiological.
* Zoological nomenclature later changed to Apis mellifera
Arnica - Arnica montana - Leopard's Bane
This is homeopathy’s great injury remedy. Its use will minimise bruising and speed healing. It also has ‘antiseptic’ properties.
Belladonna - Atropa belladonna
High fevers with head, ear, throat or eye pain are especially helped by this remedy. Very painful abscesses may also respond.
Bryonia - Bryonia alba* - White Bryony
Arthritis, rheumatism, pneumonia, peritonitis or mastitis, when the animal refuses to move, are the main areas of use of Bryonia.
* Nomenclature later changed to Bryonia dioica
Calendula - Calendula officinalis - Marigold
Used as a lotion, this remedy speeds healing of cuts, grazes or open wounds, in addition to helping the animal to fight septic infection of such injuries.
Cantharis ~ Cantharis vesicatoria
This medicine helps most cases of cystitis.
Watch this space - we will be adding more information on the following remedies over the next few weeks:
A dramatic insight into canine behaviour
and the discovery of integrated veterinary medicine
It was my fault....... I’d left them alone when we'd always had a feeling that Basil, our rescue collie cross, was overly wary of our two year old son.
Basil came flying downstairs, ears flat with a crestfallen look on his face just as my son let out an awful scream. I rushed upstairs faster than Basil had come down, to find our son had been bitten on his chubby elbow – no blood, just a hole or two and a heartrending wailing that I couldn’t stop however hard I tried.
A kindly neighbour took us to the hospital where a nurse passing our cubicle just gently rubbed our son’s back and, at last, silenced the cries. To his credit, the doctor decided against antibiotics, but we were told to keep an eagle eye out for any signs of infection.
Thankfully, there were none and our son made a full recovery as well as receiving a deeper insight into canine behaviour than most small children ever get.
It turned out that Basil was starting with an ear infection and, as far as it’s possible to gather information from a toddler, my son had been trying to fuss him. He must have had Basil cornered and the dog lashed out with a single bite as a way of asking to be left alone. Being so young, my son wouldn’t have understood any calming signals Basil may have given to diffuse the situation. We had always been careful regarding their interactions as Basil had very clear boundaries. However, I had taken my eye off the ball. My son was left with a lifelong scar, and we as parents and dog owners were left feeling very guilty.
Something had to be done. As you can imagine, we were given a lot of advice - most of it suggesting that Basil should be put to sleep. Indeed, our vet at the time was adamant that this is what he would do if Basil was his dog. We refused, however, and Basil stayed with my sympathetic parents for a while until we figured out what was best. When he came back home, we had a strict common-sense routine about who was allowed to interact with Basil and how.
This turned out to be a complete success, but our immediate task at the time was to find a new vet.
Forced to think outside the box, I searched Yellow Pages and other sources of information – remember those pre-internet days? I happened to see an advert for a homeopathic vet and reading up to find out a little more, I rang for an appointment. Thankfully it was well worth the hundred mile round trip. Basil responded positively to a more holistic approach and we gained a greater insight into what was going on with him.
It’s possible that Basil had had a bad experience with small children before he was rescued off the streets of London and sent to Battersea Dogs Home where we were to fall in love with that gorgeous face. Or perhaps he was never socialised with uninhibited toddlers. Whatever it was, something in him manifested in this sudden on-off anger switch underpinned by fear.
A constitutional remedy was prescribed for his general physiological, emotional and mental makeup including the fear aggression he demonstrated. Things improved dramatically - although we were always careful to remain sensibly vigilant.
We carried on seeing the homeopathic vet and although we eventually moved too far away for a round trip to be feasible, the homeopathic vet worked alongside our new open-minded local
vet to look after Basil’s health for the rest of his life. Using a more integrated approach with homeopathy as a cornerstone of treatment enabled Basil to live until he was nearly 17.
So, no harm done. Instead, it allowed us as family to gain a greater understanding of our dog and to discover a more varied and successful approach to his health care.
24 years on, our son still has Basil’s scar but has always loved dogs!
And the day Basil came, without bidding, to snuffle his nose into our son’s hands was one of the best days of his life.
Homeopathic vets are fully trained in conventional medicine with further qualifications in homeopathy. Other holistic treatments may also be offered such as acupuncture, hydrotherapy, chiropractic care, osteopathy, massage therapies or herbal medicine. More information and a directory of vets registered with the British Association of Homeopathic Veterinary Surgeons, BAHVS, can be found here.
The turning of the year is an opportunity to glance back at 2019
before eagerly stepping into 2020
At two years old, CAM4animals has witnessed some significant changes in the world of veterinary medicine and has come of age. Despite the detractors, complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is becoming ever more popular as evidenced by the upsurge of enquiries to vets and practitioners along with the growth of casework demonstrating its effectiveness. We celebrated this progress on the two year anniversary of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) position statement on holistic modalities back in November. This is great news, but we need more people training and practicing in the many regulated and effective CAM therapies that are available if practitioners are to meet this increasing demand.
Of fundamental importance to CAM4animals is the belief in an integrated approach to veterinary care that combines the best of complementary, alternative and conventional medicine and therapies. This ensures there is an increased capacity to prevent and treat disease that would not be possible using one system of medicine alone. We underlined this cornerstone of our work here.
Over the year, CAM4animals has:
Fire Dog Kai, a gorgeous Belgian Shepherd Malinois and one of only 15 fire investigation dogs in the UK, launched our blog back in April where we saw how Galen Myotherapy (a form of bodywork) is helping this heroic dog to keep super fit for duty. This marked the start of a regular series of informative blogs and case studies.
A major milestone in the fight to protect the use of homeopathy was highlighted in a blog outlining the exposure of the inherent weaknesses and questionable tactics employed in the so called "Australian Report". This is one of the three main reports that are typically used in the case against the use and effectiveness of homeopathy by its detractors. It's also being examined for serious fraud by the Commonwealth Ombudsman.
Another key blog dealt with the various ways of enabling pets and other animals to cope with fireworks .
This can be a very stressful time for pets, horses and farm animals, not to mention local wildlife and some humans. It's well worth a read in light of the current New Year festivities.
Among a range of things to try, reading calmly to your pet may help reduce their stress and yours!
CAM4animals has participated in various celebrations and awareness campaigns on social media such as World Homeopathy Awareness Week and National Tree Week. Trees and woodlands provide us with various herbal medicines, homeopathic remedies and flower essences as well as being uplifting places to walk and enjoy. We have also supported other organisations in their work such as the wonderful Dogs on the Streets who go above and beyond to help homeless people and their dogs. They too are advocates of integrated veterinary care and are about to build a much-needed sanctuary for dogs complete with a permanent vet station and a hydrotherapy pool.
Giving Voice is a collection of poems illustrating our love of animals
and some of the complementary therapies used to keep them well.
The book was inspired by Ilse Pedler, a homeopathic vet and
Thanks must go to Ilse and the impressive range of contributors as well as BAHVS for funding the production of the book and selling it along
with Helios Homeopathy.
And so, to the future
CAM4animals has evolved into the only consumer-led organisation safeguarding complementary and alternative medicine for animals as part of integrated veterinary care.
Our website is currently being transformed into the go to place for all things veterinary CAM. It will highlight the benefits of CAM, explain how treatments work and help make them more accessible to everyone. It will enable people to find a CAM practitioner and be packed full of case studies along with vet and owner insights. We are currently working with various registered CAM bodies to develop and update this resource for animal owners, farmers, vets, vet nurses and CAM practitioners alike. Look out for the launch of our Newsletter early next year too. Any suggestions for articles are most welcome.
We see ourselves as part of a bigger picture where we promote care for our animals, wildlife, the environment and ourselves. Open-mindedness, kindness, compassion, professionalism, discussion and knowledge will continue to underpin all our work.
CAM4animals would like to thank everyone for their support during 2019 and a happy, safe and healthy 2020 to you all
The mouse had heard a few beasts flump down on the straw in his time, but this was the quietest, the weariest. The donkey’s long ears flopped either side of his face as he landed, framing enormous brown eyes that drooped with tiredness. He peered at the mouse. “Is everything ready?” he sighed, his eyes almost closing with the effort of speaking.
“Ready?” asked the mouse, a little confused.
“Surely everyone knows,” thought the donkey to himself. In his exhaustion he’d almost forgotten it was the very meekness of their journey that was going to make it so remarkable. “You must’ve seen the Star.” The mouse looked blank. “Oh well, not to worry. I’m sure He’s got a plan for this bit.”
“Oh, I never worry about much,’’ squeaked the mouse. “Apart from getting squashed, of course. That’s the downside of living in a cosy stable. But it’s worth it for the free food and a mattress. As long as you keep your wits about you. Though Uncle Lazarus did come to a sticky end when that cow….” The donkey’s exasperated face loomed worryingly large in front of him.
“Ooh! That Star. I did wonder, now you come to mention it. Anyway. What plan? And who’s He?”
“Never mind all the questions, mouse. We need...”
“Oh, but you must call me Simeon,” the mouse interrupted. “What’s your name by the way? And who are these people? Most unusual in a stable. But I suppose the town is a bit busy at the moment.” Simeon muttered to himself as he skittered about in the straw by the donkey’s hooves.
“Stop! Now!” Simeon froze. The donkey sounded serious. “Right. I am Joshua and I have travelled a very long way with this man and his wife. Mary and Joseph? Mean anything to you?”
“Er, no. Sorry Joshua. We mice don’t hear of much beyond the stables, let alone the rest of Bethlehem or The Great Desert Beyond.”
“Well, if you think this is unusual, wait until the other visitors turn up,” said the donkey, his tired old face breaking into a grin.
“There’s more?” Simeon’s eyes widened.
“Oh yes. Only a few sheep and their shepherds to start with. But then there’ll be three very important Kings and their camels.”
“Camels! But they’re stinky and rude! And thinking about it, it was one of them that rolled on poor Uncle Lazarus, not a cow.” This was all too much for the mouse who was by now dashing back and forth in a blind panic.
Joshua opened his mouth to shout stop again but was interrupted by a cry of anguish from Mary. The baby must be on its way. “I can’t find my ring Joseph. I can’t do this without it. I need to hold it, feel it in my hands……”
“There, there, Mary.” Joseph tried to be soothing, but Mary was having none of it.
“Oh, good God, help us.” Joshua clambered to his feet as Joseph began rummaging around in the straw.
‘You can’t say that,” squeaked the mouse. “It’s not allowed!”
“Oh yes I can, believe me, Simeon. Today of all days I most certainly can. Mary’s mother gave her that ring. It means everything to her. She’ll panic without it. What are we to do? It’ll be like looking for a needle in a haystack.” Even wise old Joshua looked as though he was about to join in the commotion.
Suddenly Simeon felt a great sense of calm flow through him making his whiskers quiver with unexpected delight. “I’ll find the ring,” he shouted up to the donkey. “I’ll find it. Needles in haystacks are my speciality.” And with that he disappeared into the straw.
“Well I’ll be blowed,” thought Joshua. “That’s what he’s here for. I wondered where he fitted in. He tried to nuzzle Mary, tell her that it would be alright. But she was too frantic for comfort.
Sure enough, Simeon reappeared in a matter of moments with a band of silver in his mouth. He dropped the ring in front of Joseph who was still frantically pulling at clumps of straw. “Mary, look. It’s here. It seems to have appeared from thin air.”
Mary beamed with relief as Joseph placed the ring in her outstretched hands, light from the Star pouring through the stable door. “It’s a miracle,” she said.
Once again, Joshua flumped down on the straw. He turned to Simeon whose little heart was beating with joy. “It certainly is that,” he whispered to the mouse. “Thank you.”
CAM4animals would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, health and happiness.
If you would like to help one of the wonderful donkey and other equine charities, here are a few suggestions:
The Donkey Sanctuary
Brooke Action for Working Horses and Donkeys
Prince Fluffy Kareem
World Horse Welfare
Bransby Home of Rest for Horses
Hillside Animal Sanctuary
A celebration in poetry of the human-animal bond and the place holistic therapies have in the treatment of animals
The human-animal bond is incredibly strong and has been ever since we began domesticating and caring for animals. Veterinary care is integral to this bond and CAM4animals believes there is a significant role for complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) within this. Giving Voice has been published to honour this - if you would like a copy see BAHVS or Helios Homeopathy.
Giving Voice was inspired, compiled and edited by vet Ilse Pedler of the British Association of Homeopathic Veterinary Surgeons, BAHVS. Trained conventionally, these vets have gone on to gain further qualifications to add to the choice of treatments they can offer their animal patients.
The poems reflect a deep love of animals and pay tribute to the significant role CAM therapies can play in their wellbeing. Contributions have come from vets, doctors, supporters of CAM4animals and other poets who feel strongly that they should have the right to choose such treatment options for their animals where appropriate. Some poems are from established poets, others from people moved to write for the very first time.
There are poems about dogs, cats, horses, cows, a falcon and even a tortoise. Rescued animals feature alongside wonderful descriptions of CAM therapies. And most movingly of all, there are poems devoted to the grief felt when losing a beloved animal.
All profits from the book will go towards supporting the CAM4animals campaign which was established in 2018 to safeguard the use of complementary and alternative therapies as part of integrated veterinary care.
The contributors include
Well established and widely published poets, many of whom are inspired by nature and wildlife including Alison Brackenbury, Geraldine Green, Jane Commane, Kerry Darbishire, Emily Bilman, Rebecca Gethin, Angie Holden, Stephen Payne, Nicola Warwick and Sarah Mnatzaganian.
Vets Richard Allport, Mark Carpenter, Alan Salter, Charissa Smith, Judith Webster and, of course, Ilse Pedler who is also a published poet.
Doctors Julia Chatterjee and John English.
Giving Voice can be purchased for £10 from
All profits from the book will go towards supporting the CAM4animals campaign which was established in 2018 to safeguard the use of complementary and alternative therapies as part of integrated veterinary care.
Brief biographies of contributors
Alison Brackenbury is a well-known award-winning poet who often writes about nature and whose latest work, Gallop, was published in 2019 by Carcanet. Her ‘poems are haunted by horses, unseasonable love, history, hares and unreasonable hope’.
Geraldine Green is writer in residence at the Quaker Tapestry Museum in Kendal. Often inspired by nature, Geraldine is a prolific poet. Her latest work, Passing Through was published by Indigo Dreams this year.
Jane Commane is an editor, writer and publisher of poetry as well as mentor and tutor. Her collection, Assembly Lines was published by BloodAxe Books in 2018.
Kerry Darbishire is a writer, songwriter and poet who finds inspiration from the landscape she lives in and the animals that inhabit it. Dawntreader and A Lift of Wings have been published by Indigo Dreams.
Dr Emily Bilman teaches poetry in Geneva and has had several anthologies published by Troubadour including Resilience.
Rebecca Gethin is inspired by her roots in Dartmoor and the Italian Alps and has had many poems published. She also teaches poetry to prisoners. Vanishings is about to be published by Palewell Press.
Angie Holden is a creative writing lecturer who writes short stories, flash fiction and poetry.
Stephen Payne is a published poet and a cognitive science academic. Pattern Beyond Chance was published by Happenstance Press in 2015.
Nicola Warwick has two poetry collections published including The Knifethrower’s Wishlist. Nicola’s work often reveals human relationships through the lens of the natural world.
Sarah Mnatzaganian is an Anglo-Armenian poet and has been widely published and shortlisted for the Poetry Business pamphlet competition 2016/17.
Richard Allport is qualified in herbal medicine, acupuncture and homeopathy. He too is a writer of short stories and poetry.
Mark Carpenter is now retired and writing lots of poetry, having integrated homeopathy and acupuncture into his small animal practice for several decades.
SFC uses CAM therapies in practice since 1995.
JM practices holistic therapies including acupuncture and has a lifelong love of horses.
Alan Slater uses homeopathy, acupuncture and chiropractic as well as kinesiology for food intolerances and desensitisation. He writes poetry and loves dancing.
Charissa Smith comes from a long line of Hebridean fishermen and co-founded the Australian Holistic Veterinary Association.
Judith Webster uses homeopathy as a cornerstone of her veterinary work. She also farms cattle and sheep on the edge of Dartmoor and writes poetry when she needs to stay awake during lambing and calving.
Ilse Pedler specialises in homeopathy, acupuncture and herbal medicine in a busy small animal practice. She is also a published poet as well as being the poet-in-residence at Sidmouth Folk Week. The Dogs That Chase Bicycle Wheels is published by Seren.
Julia Chatterjee was born in Russia and is both a Doctor of Homeopathy and a writer of poems, fairy tales and stories for children and adults in Russian.
John English was a GP and homeopath who lectured at the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine. Amongst other things, he wrote poems about the remedies to help his students learn - see Enjoy Learning Homeopathy.
Also, JH is a horsewoman who has worked for several professional riders who have used complementary therapies to keep their horses drug free and fit for high level competition.
“Of course, you do know why we run dog agility and working trials as we do.”
Like a thunderbolt, these words ignited an emotion in Julia Robertson that would change her life forever and inspire her to found War Dogs Remembered.
Julia Robertson and her dog Molly representing War Dogs Remembered at Ypres
A chance conversation with a client whose dog she was treating with Galen Myotherapy, revealed the amazing story behind the fun and games of dog competitions and sports like working trials and agility activities. Because, as you run with your dog, encouraging them over jumps and through tunnels, you are doing exactly what dogs were taught to do in the war zone. Exactly. The same. Your dog may have to jump that 6 foot scale or wall to get a clear round in a working trial. Their wartime equivalent had to jump high and swiftly over that wall and into the trenches, probably under gunfire, risking at best shredded paws from the barbed wire at the top of the wall, at worst taking a fatal shot…..When your dog dashes through that clean multi-coloured PVC tunnel, they are echoing all the dogs who ran, crashed and pushed their way through the trench tunnels, no doubt covered in mud and all sorts of horrific debris….. And the long jump that for working trials needs to be 9 foot – the width of a trench. Who knows what dogs had to leap across in the lines as they traversed the complex, endless and disgusting trench system. All in the name of serving us.
A poignant juxtaposition of saving lives and having fun
Brave. Loyal. Lifesaving. Thousands upon thousands of these dogs risked everything and many gave their lives in WW1. At least a third were beloved family pets, donated to the war effort in response to Kitchener pointing his finger out of that poster. Can you imagine stroking the dog on your lap or at your feet who’s gazing lovingly into your eyes, knowing you are about to pack them off to The Front. The war had changed the way you did things. People on all sides were willing to sacrifice their sons, their horses and even their dogs to the war effort.
There are numerous stories of how animals have been, and still are, used in warfare and the sacrifices they make. War Horse gave us an insight into the appalling fate of millions of horses and how many never made it back from the Great War. An American pigeon called GI Joe saved more than 1,000 lives in WW2 when he got a message through saying that a village about to be bombed had actually been recaptured by British forces. He was dispatched as a last resort and arrived at the airbase just in time to stop the Allied air force from bombing their own men.
Dolphins have been used to locate underwater mines as well as rescue personnel and locate objects. The US Navy, for example, is known to have deployed dolphins in the two Gulf Wars and sea lions after the 9/11 attacks.
Along with sacrifice and terror, has also come an honouring. The Dickin Medal was instituted in 1943 by PDSA founder, Maria Dickin, to honour the work of animals in WW2. It is the equivalent of the Victoria Cross and bears the words “For Gallantry” and “We also serve” . GI Joe was presented with the medal in 1946. Our Dumb Friends League provided vital veterinary care for animal casualties from 1912. It was later renamed The Blue Cross Fund after the flags flying above the animal hospitals and ambulances to distinguish them from The Red Cross. There are also many charities paying tribute to the role of animals used in war.
Dogs have served us faithfully in times of war, ever since we domesticated them. They are the only animal that has served throughout while others have come and gone. Their loyalty and range of skills is invaluable in combat. War Dogs Remembered was set up by Julia in 2015 to pay tribute to and raise awareness of all the dogs who have served in the military.
The charity is keen to encourage a show of respect rather than a celebration of this loyal service. Every year, Julia takes part in the Remembrance Parade in Ypres, Belgium, with her Labrador Molly who wears a coat saying,
“Pet dogs like me saved thousands of soldier’s lives”
Molly Robertson at the Menin Gate as part of the Ypres Remembrance Parade in Belgium
The British government was initially against using dogs in WW1, but our desperation grew as the war dragged on and they were eventually drafted in to help. We taught them to do all sort of things, but most of all to save lives – ours not theirs. Those pet dogs – primary sniper targets - walked out onto the battlefield carrying first aid to soldiers who could self-administer to themselves and to their comrades. More gravely wounded soldiers would take solace from these mercy dogs who would wait with them whilst they died.
Other dogs ran messages down the lines, proving much faster and less obvious than a human runner or any vehicle. Early in 1917, Airedale Terriers Wolf and Prince ran 4 km in less than an hour through a smoke barrage over very difficult terrain (as classified by war records) to deliver a message when all other methods of communicating with HQ had failed. These dogs were literally trailblazers. They had been trained by Lt-Col. Richardson who was subsequently asked by the War Office to establish the British War Dog School later that year. Although he had pioneered his work with Airedales, who showed great aptitude for sentry and patrol work, other breeds were recruited according to their suitability for the various tasks needed. Sheep dogs, collies, lurchers, Irish terriers, Welsh terriers and deerhounds were considered especially useful. Likewise, German shepherd and Doberman type dogs were commonly used by German troops. Dogs were also used as scout dogs to sniff out the enemy, ratters and even mascots giving emotional comfort to stressed and injured soldiers.
Dogs were sought from homes like Battersea Dogs Home, police were instructed to round up and send strays, and eventually the government appealed for family pets to be donated. It was a time of worsening food shortages and so the government promised that the dogs would be well fed and cared for in the Army.
Thankfully, the War Dog School recruits were kindly trained with positive reinforcement techniques despite it being a dreadful irony that such a gentle method was being used for something so ultimately tragic. Lt-Col. Richardson said that the most important qualities for the dogs’ handlers were:
“To be of an honest, conscientious character, with sympathetic understanding for animals”
Although many dogs were active through the fiercest bombardments, Richardson’s records were brim-full with amazing testimonials. The fact that the dogs were nimble and so well trained often meant that injuries were avoided.
Dogs were extensively employed throughout WW2 and continue to be used today in conflicts and peace keeping duties around the world.
So, how does War Dogs Remembered fit in?
“We wanted to do more than create a memorial,” said Julia. “We felt there was a need for something more practical that dog owners and walkers could physically connect to and gain some sort of feeling for how much these dogs did, and still do, for us.” This is where the idea for developing a series of dog walking trails came from. In collaboration with Steve Jenkinson of the Kennel Club, a specialist in interactive trail construction, and under the guidance of Isabel George, an expert author on animals in war, War Dogs Remembered is about to open the first of these trails.
“We are so excited to launch the first of many trails here in Oakley Green, Windsor,” said Julia. “It’s right in the heart of the Broom Farm Army Estate in 8 acres of wonderful parkland, so it will be an enriching place for soldiers and their families to go. It’s open to the general public and their dogs to enjoy as well. Following the trail and trying out the obstacles will provide a great opportunity for owners to really connect with their dogs.
“We’re also getting local schools involved in choosing which dogs are to be remembered. Children can get to know each dog as an individual and learn about the brave contribution they made to war. This will enable them to gain an insight into the wider aspects of war and its implications for their world today.
How to help your pets feel safe throughout the firework season
By Julie Moss BSc. Hons, AdvCertVPhys, Dip.APhys.
This article largely relates to dogs, but a lot of information is applicable to any animal that is distressed by fireworks.
A fear response to something scary like loud firework noise is entirely natural and forms the basis of the innate fight or flight survival mechanism that animals, including us, possess. It is a vital reaction and enables us to avoid or negate dangerous situations. However, problems may arise when this response goes wrong and your pet becomes over-anxious or unnaturally fearful. The background to why this may occur is outlined here (Why animals get firework phobia). Some animals seem to enjoy fireworks or don’t even notice them. Others turn into quivering wrecks and it may seem impossible to help them. This blog discusses various ways of helping your pet cope if they have a problem.
The main things you need to provide for your pet are as much normality and routine as possible and a place where they feel safe.
Leaving them alone when they are likely to be fearful is not recommended, as your presence will help them to feel safer and you may need to ensure they don’t injure themselves in panic.
Try to keep everything as normal as possible by getting into a suitable routine ahead of the firework season. Avoid decorating or undertaking renovations in the home around this time as it may make the house feel unsafe for your pet if things are moved or missing.
It is best to start weeks in advance with any new routine to establish a habit of getting walks out of the way during the day. This means you don’t have to linger outside with your dog in the dark for long periods of time and will prevent them being over-exposed to fireworks. It is important to start early so your dog’s toileting routine can be adjusted. Then all that is needed in the evening is a quick wee in the yard and back in again once at teatime and again before bed. This can take time to get right and don’t forget to adjust the routine to accommodate the clocks going back at the end of October especially as firework season is just beginning around this time.
If you haven’t got a walking / toileting routine in place, it’s still important to try and walk before dark and allow your dog the chance to relieve him or herself.
Aim to get your dog tired and content during the day with low impact calm exercise to reduce stress levels later on, such as scent work and foraging activities. See Pickpocket Foragers. You can play games with your dog in the house when the fireworks are going off or do simple training exercises with them if they are can be motivated out of fear in this way. If they are too scared, then just allow them to hide and maybe sit with them if that helps.
For cats, it is also good practice to get into a routine where you keep them in between certain times every evening. Maybe they could stay in between 4pm and 11-30pm and go out later. Arrange their feeding times to coincide with this time and put meals in their den for them. As with dogs, you can make sure they get their access to outdoors throughout the day and play games with them in the evening.
Work out if there is a place in the house where your pet naturally runs to when they are afraid. If not, create one in a suitable place. It is better if you can make it away from windows and exterior walls (possibly on the landing or in the hall) as that is where animals tend to head for. Make a den using something like a dog crate and cover it with heavy sound-deadening fabrics and close the curtains in the room. Leave a radio on fairly loud to cover as much of the louder noises as possible.
Get in the habit of taking them to their den in the early evening and giving them something highly rewarding to do in there such as a stuffed Kong toy or a chew. Take them into the den the same time every night with their treat, even if they come back out again once they have finished it. It just means you have a routine in place and the den doesn’t become associated with fireworks and fear only. Save your tastiest treats to this time!
It is important to remain calm and happy for your dog. Close the curtains and turn on the TV and add a radio in another room in plenty of time to drown out the noise as much as you can.
You may have heard that you should not reassure your pet when they are scared because it reinforces their fear. This isn’t true – comforting can help them. However, there could something about the way in which you reassure them that may have an adverse effect. I will explain.
I used to see anxious people in the vet’s waiting room with their equally anxious pet. They would be stroking them rapidly with shaky hands and repeating over and over ‘It’s ok, it’s ok, it’s ok’. This is something many of us automatically say in this type of stressful or scary situation with the best of intentions, but the problem is that what follows is often not ok at all. The animal goes into the consulting room where they may have to have their temperature taken, joints checked, bloods taken or other scary procedures. They could very easily associate you saying ‘It’s ok’ with the idea that something traumatic is about to happen. The same thing can happen when fireworks go off.
So, I would think about the words you say and the things you do and ask yourself if they could have a negative association with something scary or traumatic. I lived with a dog who would look at me as if I tried to murder her if I said ‘Sorry’ for tripping over her or catching her tail or paw. Obviously at some point I had said sorry to her when something had really hurt her, and forever after she saw those words as meaning she had been hurt or was about to be.
Another nice thing to do is read to your dog. You can tell them a story as you would a child by reading it out in a happy voice, or you could tell the story to them using different voices. If you make it a funny story you are likely to laugh (you will probably laugh at yourself reading to your dog anyway!) and that means you don’t seem anxious or concerned, which will help them feel safer. You could also sing a silly song to them for the same reason. Or just talk to them about your day or something on TV. It really doesn’t matter as long as it helps them feel safer rather than worried.
So, what I’m saying is that it’s fine and in fact may be a good idea to reassure them, but make it constructive and useful. If your dog loves a cuddle and that calms them, then do that. If reading to them works, then do that. But watch your dog carefully and just see what their reaction is to your words and actions rather than just reacting with ‘It’s ok’. Remember we are trying to make things seem as normal as possible, not remind them of other stressful occasions.
Remember to keep calm and breathe normally throughout – this will help you to help them. TTouch body work (see below) can also help you to connect and reassure your pet without having to ‘emotionally’ stroke or fuss them. It’s great for helping you both to relax and stay calm.
Other ways to help your pet
Just in case!
Ensure your pet’s microchip contact details are up to date in case your pet runs off and gets lost. Also make sure they wear a tag on their collar just in case the worst happens. With cats, make sure it is a quick release collar so they don’t get caught up on something in panic.
A TTouch practitioner can help you to find the best way to help your pet through scary events using non-habitual body work and groundwork.
Body wraps, T-shirts and Thundershirts
TTouch body wraps can be a good way of reducing anxiety in dogs and should be put on before the fireworks start to avoid association with fireworks and fear (you could do this as part of your routine as mentioned above). Body wraps should not be left on an unattended animal, should not be tight (just snug) and you should make sure they are still willing to walk around with it on as otherwise, if they are very still, they may actually be overwhelmed rather than calm due to the wrap being too much for them. I once saw a horrible video of a cat that couldn’t stand up wearing one because it was shut down and paralysed by the effects of the wrap and that is the last thing you want them to feel. Take time introducing the wrap to your dog and putting it on them.
Thundershirts can have a much stronger effect than body wraps so, as for the wrap, check carefully that your dog is not feeling immobilised by the effect. You can also use an ordinary t-shirt. Body wraps can be a good introduction to both t-shirts and Thundershirts.
Pheromone products are available from vets in the form of diffusers for dogs or cats. These should be put in place early (at least two weeks in advance) to give them time to take effect before the fireworks start and should be left running constantly. Sprays are also available and could be used in a wider variety of places, for example, in the den you have prepared. However, there is a strong alcohol smell when first used so apply it about 20 minutes or more before your dog goes in that area, by which time it will have worn off.
A behaviourist can advise you how to put a desensitisation programme in place for your pet. This must be done carefully and over time and shouldn’t be done close to or during the firework season. The ideal time is around spring and through summer when the risk of fireworks going off and ruining the good work achieved is not a problem. It enables your pet to first get used to the noise of fireworks in a neutral way and then to see them as a positive thing as the programme progresses. The only difficulty with this is accurately reproducing the noise and spatial effects on small speakers. Remember the actual noise is very thundery with some fireworks and this is felt through the floor and heard differently by your dog or cat. It’s hard to get that quality of sound and the effect of fireworks firing in all directions overhead.
Please be aware desensitisation has to be done carefully or the problem can be made much worse. Seek advice from a qualified behaviourist who ONLY uses positive reinforcement. They are the people to guide you through the best way to work with your dog.
Flower remedies such as Rescue Remedy for general stress or Mimulus for fear are widely available from health shops or chemists. See Bach Flower and Bach Flower Pets. There are other flower remedies available, for example, this blog gives details of Lotus Flower Essences which specifically help with firework fear and its aftermath.
Herbal remedies can also help calm your animal. See Herbal Vets for details of herbal vets and checkout the website of herb companies such as Dorwest Herbs. This link gives suggestions for useful herbs .
Essential oils can help. For example, Pet Remedy is a natural de-stress and calming formulation which mimics the body’s own natural calming mechanisms. It can be used in a spray, plug diffuser, atomiser or in calming wipes.
Zoopharmacognosy is a great way to find out which herbs or essential oils your dog prefers to help them feel safe – the animal selects the herb or essential oil itself.
Homeopathy is another effective way to help your animal feel differently about fireworks. If you visit a homeopathic vet, see BAHVS, they can help you find the right remedy combination for your animal. There are some commonly used remedies which can help, but having the ones your pet needs prescribed for you will be much more effective for the long term.
Body Talk is an easy to do hands on therapy which can help your dog to feel safer and less fearful. See our article here to helping animals to feel more relaxed.
Calming soundtracks such as the ‘Through a Dog’s Ear’ or ‘Through a Cat’s Ear’ series can be really effective to have on in the background. They are especially designed to have a calming influence on dogs and cats. Classic Radio has a playlist specifically designed to keep pets calm and happy.
Desensitisation soundtracks can help, but REMEMBER – don’t try this at the last minute. It is best done the following year from February onwards when your work won’t be derailed by a night of noisy fireworks setting you back when you least expect it or need it.
If all else fails, you could drive around with your dog until the fireworks have stopped.
I hope this has helped you understand your pet’s firework fears a little better and given you some great ideas as to how to help them.
Stay calm and stay safe!