“Everyone thinks they have the best dog in the world and none of them are wrong”
In celebration of dogs everywhere, here is a gallery of a tiny handful of our supporters' canines. They have all been helped by Complementary and Alternative Medicine – some of it life-saving (look out for the interloper!)
Our perfect pooches have benefited from the modalities below either as complementary to conventional treatment or as an alternative (before drugs or surgery).
Herbal Medicine and Supplements
Most are raw fed
And don’t forget our Dog Blog Stars Fire Dog Kai, Lizzie and Ralphie
These are interesting times on Facebook and Twitter. Those of us running our social media profiles watch as our supporters push back against some pretty vitriolic views of a small group of known homeopathy denialists including some vets resistant to considering other options to drugs.
One thing needs to be made clear about where CAM4animals stands. We are NOT anti-vet. Quite the opposite. We are also NOT "anti-vax". Many of us have to vaccinate in order to compete, but we are mostly anti over-vaccination (in line with WSAVA guidelines). We are devoted and sensible pet owners and farmers who want to work closely with our vets to achieve the best possible health for our animals with the minimal amount of chemical intervention.
In order to do this, we all understand that sometimes pharmaceutical products are necessary BUT, some animals may not respond to this option or have shown severe adverse effects. It is therefore useful to know that there are other options available either after you’ve tried drugs or before you go down that route because you have knowledge of your animal’s history. Responsible pet owners want to have a conversation with their vet about this and we are confident that any vet worth their salt will also want to have this conversation.
All of our supporters know that various holistic modalities can work for their animals and sometimes they don’t, just as drugs can work and sometimes, they don’t. Our supporters also know that there is a time and a place for pharmaceutical intervention; emergency care is an obvious example. But, following emergency care, and even before the vet gets there, a modality such as homeopathy can be very useful. You can address the shock of an accident while waiting for the vet and remedies are well known by homeopaths to speed up healing following surgery. This is integrated care at its best. It can also empower the vet nurse who is handling the situation either till the vet arrives or during surgery after-care. (Look out for our blogs on this topic.)
We are all familiar with the dog with arthritis who does well on Green Lipped Mussel or Omega 3. These sort of products are available on many vet surgery shelves. They are often used successfully before conventional treatment is needed, staving off the day when Metacam or similar has to be used to prolong quality of life. Similarly, homeopathy, acupuncture, herbs, hydrotherapy or the bodywork therapies can be invaluable in these situations. This demonstrates well how alternative, conventional and complementary care would be used in treating one animal at different stages of the disease.
What if this drive to ridicule holistic veterinary practitioners eventually gets a hold? The result is that young vets might be turned against CAM particularly by being fed inaccurate information about the effectiveness of the Big Five - acupuncture, homeopathy, herbs, chiropractic and osteopathic care. As a result, not only have our new vets lost a whole tool-kit of options available to them to achieve the best possible outcome for their patients, but we lose the skill pool of veterinary CAM knowledge used to develop popular and commonly used products. We also stand to lose the understanding of raw feeding and the usefulness of the Big Five in integrated veterinary healthcare. This leaves the responsible animal owner not only with just pharma options, but also a complete absence of knowledge on alternatives. This is a future CAM4animals will fight hard to resist.
So, to be very clear…. CAM4animals recognises the need for pharmaceutical intervention. We also support the use of alternative healthcare, particularly because it protects the veterinary skill pool able to provide the knowledge and research needed to ensure a future for complementary and integrated healthcare.
Can we please have a halt to the ridiculing of the responsible animal owner by anti-CAM vets and their sceptic supporters. This is not helping to engender a good relationship between vets and their paying customers. We also call for a halt to the aggressive demands by anti-CAM vets for their customers to provide information and evidence of alternative medicines. There is a large body of evidence available and there are also fully trained colleagues for specialist help. Ideally, CAM should be comprehensively covered in vet and vet nurse courses. In the meantime, here are some good places for both vet and animal owner to start finding out accurate information.
Our blog here! – we are working to provide accurate and well-informed information on all forms of CAM.
AO The Association of Animal Osteopaths
ABVA The Association of British Veterinary Acupuncturists
BAHVS The British Association of Homeopathic Veterinary Surgeons
BAVH The British Association of Veterinary Herbalists
BVCA The British Veterinary Chiropractic Association
CMG The Canine Massage Guild
HRI The Homeopathy Research Institute HRI
MCA The McTimony Chiropractic Association
It wasn’t until I had the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream and keep a few cattle and sheep that I started to think a bit harder about nutrition. Simplistically, I believed that cattle and sheep lived in fields and ate grass – let’s face it, a three-year-old child could tell you that! My livestock had the good fortune to be kept in this way, but not the cattle at the nearby dairy farm, where the poor creatures were on very nearly a zero grazing system (not at all uncommon). I felt strongly that this was wrong and was chatting to the herd manager one day when he asked me why I fed my dogs biscuits. Well, to say this was a lightbulb moment would be putting it mildly!
It was also interesting that my large animal vets were telling me NOT to worm my sheep and cattle, but rather to look at faecal samples for parasite eggs. On the other hand, my dog vets were telling me to deworm and flea treat them monthly. How did this make sense?
Another turning point was the opportunity to attend the Homeopathy at Wellie Level course, introducing farmers to using homeopathy as part of their stock management. This course absolutely blew my mind. I’d been interested in homeopathy for ages, largely due to hearing vets talking about what rubbish it was ~ I am rather contrary! It made so much sense to work WITH the body rather than against it, wherever possible, and I have seen astonishing results with my livestock, my dogs and myself.
I have been incredibly fortunate to have had my eyes opened in these ways. It makes me very sad that my professional governing body, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, is so un-supportive of vets who are open minded enough to explore the whole gamut of ways to help keep animals well – that’s all their guardians want, and surely the animals themselves too. I am lucky to work closely with vets who focus on the importance of real, species appropriate foods and to have my own animals treated by vets offering acupuncture, homeopathy and many of the other treatment modalities frowned upon by the RCVS.
My own experience certainly isn’t statistically significant, but losing my first dog aged nine who was absolutely riddled with cancer and having been fed on kibble, compared to losing my second dog aged just short of 17 and having been raw fed, not vaccinated (but regularly titre and worm tested) and rarely having any pharmaceutical medicines, convinces me that I have followed the right path, and I am determined to do what I can to encourage others to do likewise.
I am looking forward to popping in here from time to time to give you more Vet Nurse stories and information. Meanwhile, you can find more information here:
Morag Sutherland RVN, APDT, ABTC
Morag is a Registered Veterinary Nurse and a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (UK) and the Association of INTO Dogs. Morag has a special interest in nutrition for dogs and horses, particularly in how it affects their behaviour. She is co-owner of Gelert Behaviour Training, which offers dog and other pet training services, as well as regular workshops, talks and events across the Midlands, including Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.
Dogs can go through life coping with underlying physical conditions and many of these go undiscovered for many years. Many of my canine physiotherapy patients originally come for behavioural therapy where we discover the behaviour problems are a result of hidden pain.
In part one we looked at behavioural signs of hidden musculoskeletal problems and how they can be misunderstood. In part two we will be looking at postural signs that can indicate an underlying problem which may be causing your dog difficulty. Most people assume that if their dog can run and jump they do not have any musculoskeletal problems. Surely if they were in pain they wouldnt do that would they?
Well yes, they would, and they do. As we discussed in part one, dogs are amazing creatures with four legs, which means they can shift weight off the bad limb/area and carry on. This is how they manage to go on for many years without anyone realising. They can do this until the other limbs suffer from the extra strain, which is when they become obviously lame. However, there are signs much earlier on, if you know what to look for.
Watch your dog in different situations and notice whether they are pointing one or more feet out to the side or in towards the opposite leg. Are their feet very close together or far apart when they stand still? Do they seem to be leaning to one side slightly and leaning more on one limb at the front or back? Do they keep their hind limbs forward under their body rather than slightly behind them when they stand? Are the nails scuffed or excessively worn or long on any of the toes? Are any of the pads worn to one side? Look at your dogs footprints when they are wet, walking in snow or sand. Are they even?
These things can all indicate under or over-use of a limb and can indicate increased or reduced weight bearing. It can also tell you if they are not picking certain feet up cleanly or if they have altered they way they stand on a particular limb.
Look at them at different times or in different positions as sometimes things are more obvious than others, for example, when they are tired.
Jake before and after a walk
Look closely at your dog from in front, behind and above. Do they have bigger muscles on one side than the other? Use your hands to feel both sides at the same time. Do they feel bigger on one side than the other? Common places to notice this are over the hindquarters and the shoulders.
Again, these observations can tell you that they are using one side more than the other. look for subtle differences to catch the early signs. See if you can feel the bony areas around and between the muscles slightly on one side more than the other.
Muscle wastage on the right limb, which is the side of the weaker hip.
Notice coat changes. These can creep in very gradually or be dramatic changes that come in quite fast. taking regular photographs of your dog can help you see if something is new or not.
Does the coat feels brittle, dry or scurfy in specific areas and different in others? Are there areas of fur that constantly stick up or out? Are there swirls or partings where the hair changes direction or lies flat or raised? Is it harder to run your fingers through the coat in certain places?
These signs can all indicate signs of strain in nearby or underlying soft tissues where circulation may be compromised or there is muscle tension. The patterns may not be where the problem is but they could tell you your dog is using their body in a way that is putting it under strain. Combined with the other observations we are looking at, they can give you extra information and clues.
Note the swirls and partings in the coat along the length of the spine.
Lying and sitting
Does your dog always lie on one side? Do they always sit on one side? Do they always get up using the same leg first? If you are training your dog do they seem ‘stubborn’ or ‘slow’ when you ask them to sit, lie or stand? Do you have difficulty getting a tidy, even sit? Do they take their time getting up or down? Do they fidget?
Maybe they cant use one or more of their limbs properly. Perhaps there is a joint problem preventing them from flexing and extending their limbs to the extent needed to sit or lie correctly or get up efficiently.
Lying with one hind limb positioned to make getting up easier. Just the paw pads are in contact with the floor for easy push off whilst sparing the more worn hip on the right side.
Filming your dog can tell you a lot. If you have a slow motion function on your phone you can use that. If not you can run normal film through one of the many slow motion apps available. Slowing it right down can help you see small signs as your dog moves. It can also be really useful to show your vet to illustrate what you are seeing as these things are rarely picked up in a vet consult room,especially if the signs are subtle.
Can your dog turn both ways easily? You can use widely spaced weave poles to check if your dog can do this. if you do agility does your dog tend to go wide one way on weaves, or both ways? Do they struggle to come round for jumps or obstacles from the right or left? Do they always turn one way during everyday activities? Look closely.
Can your dog get in and out of the car or on and off the sofa easily and cleanly or do they catch their hind limbs or pull up with their front limbs? Can they climb the stairs slowly? Many dogs run up and down to minimise the discomfort and may ‘bunny hop’ through most running and jumping exercises (using both hind limbs together to push off).
Does your dog pull on the lead? This may be because its uncomfortable to load the hindlimbs, causing them to lean forward and be unbalanced
Leaning on the forelimbs causing pulling on the lead.
Does your dog not want to do things they used to? Have they changed their patterns? Maybe they are choosing to lie in unusual places or on unusual surfaces? Do they seem more nervous or afraid than they used to? Have they always been nervous or afraid? Have they stopped interacting with other dogs or have they always been reluctant to do so? Are they growling at the groomer now? Have they always growled at the groomer? Do they seem afraid to go for a walk or stop and refuse to walk part way through? Many so called ‘stubborn’ dogs actually are having problems doing what you want them to do.
As I said at the beginning, dogs can go for many years of their lives with a hidden condition. So if they have always struggled with handling or interactions with others then it is worth getting them checked over thoroughly. Even if they ‘have always been like that’. If there are sudden changes we tend to suspect a problem easier than if the problems have always been there but vary in degrees of severity. Remember dogs can be struggling with these issues from a very young age, even as a very young puppy. As they grow up, people then think its just how they are, as musculoskeletal issues are not considered unless dogs are older. So, its possible that a dogs life and happiness could be completely changed if a condition was discovered at a very young age, the pain was managed and the dog could feel comfortable and capable of everyday activities without painful repercussions.
I hope this gives you some pointers as to signs of hidden problems in your own dogs.
Julie Moss BSc. Hons., AdvCertVPhys, Dip.APhys.
Julie is a canine behaviourist, veterinary physiotherapist and TTouch Practitioner. She started Best Behaviour in 2005, which has since become part of her new venture, Canine Mind and Body Balance. She has a special interest in integrative veterinary care, where CAM therapies play an important role in truly holistic animal care. Her passion is working with older animals to give them back the best quality of life possible and she is committed to education and enabling people to recognise early signs of lameness in our dogs.
Seven years ago, a very special puppy was born in Hilbrae Rescue Kennels after his Mum was taken in by the centre in Shropshire. Kai the Belgian Shepherd Malinois was adopted by Mat Dixon and so began the start of a wonderful and very unusual relationship.
Although Kai is nimble and sure-footed, the nature of his work means his body gets a battering and he can suffer aches, pains and stiffness as a result. A chance meeting at Crufts a year ago resulted in Kai receiving Galen Myotherapy sessions with founder, Julia Robertson. Galen Myotherapy is a unique and highly specialised manual and exercise management therapy for dogs. It uses appropriate, effective and targeted massage techniques and exercise to manage chronic muscular pain, reduce inflammation and to maximise muscle function. Perfect therapy for a very active fire dog!
Mat and Kai at Crufts demonstrating Galen Therapy with Sue MacLennan
Galen also considers the needs of the whole dog, and the relationship they have with their owner.
Mat, who has always had a deep bond with Kai, admits he was sceptical at first, thinking he was keeping Kai nice and fit and allowing him to live life to the full. “I thought there was little need to consider anything else,” he says.
However, during his initial session with Julia, she advised him not to take Kai running with him to the degree he was currently. She explained that Kai was happy to run with Mat simply to be with him, but that this was not necessarily the same as it being good for him to run the distances they were covering especially on top of all the other physical work Kai did. Mat says that he hadn’t appreciated this view but could see it made sense.
Following this revelation, Mat realised that much of his leisure time with Kai was previously spent engaging in exciting play, tugging and jumping on and off things, and chasing and jumping up to catch balls. Mat could see that so much frantic activity on top of Kai’s busy working day was not helping his dog to relax and was actually over-stimulating for them both.
This prompted Mat to attend a Galen Myotherapy course for owners where he learned how to perform two simple hands-on techniques, along with an insight into canine functional anatomy that enabled him to find tender areas on Kai. Also, by spending quiet time on the special mat used for their at-home Galen treatments, Mat has found that he’s built a much calmer and empathetic relationship with his dog.
Julia feels that Galen Myotherapy is an investment in this special dog. “It costs a considerable amount of money to train working dogs, particularly specialists like Kai,” she says. “Routine care like this enables these dogs to stay well and enjoy their working lives for longer.” Mat agrees and believes that keeping Kai healthy - physically and mentally - will extend his working life as a firedog. When he’s operating in the most demanding and hazardous situations, holding an injury may place him in even greater danger and might even shorten his working life. The routine Galen Myotherapy is keeping Kai more mobile and flexible and he can now rely on his body more.
An unexpected bonus of receiving Galen Myotherapy is an increase in Kai’s ability to focus at work. Firedogs such as Kai are problem solving dogs. They can be used where no man, machine or technology can work. Traces of flammable materials are measured in parts per million. It is now known that dogs can smell in parts per quadrillion – that’s 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000!
“The problem here is that dogs are sensing material where even the lab equipment can’t. You have to learn to trust your dog,” says Mat. Now that his empathy and understanding of Kai has improved, this is even easier for Mat to do.
You can follow Firedog Kai on Facebook at “Fire Dog Kai” and on Twitter @WMFireDogs
For information on the courses run by Galen Myotherapy for dog owners, vets and potential therapists click here.