3 Alternative Therapies for Working Dogs | Dog Therapy
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Dogs Need Therapy Too: Our Favourite 3 Alternative Therapies for Working Dogs

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by Mike Simmonds

We, at ProDog, are in celebration of dog therapy appreciation day on the 11th April! Being total cheerleaders for anything doggo well-being related, we wanted to share with you the what and the why of our 3 favourite complementary treatments, which will serve to enhance your four legged besties health, well-being and performance.

Working dogs are just like human athletes, sports people and manual workers. The demands on their body, day in, day out means they benefit immensely from physical therapy. Nutrition is the cornerstone to supporting canines in maintaining peak performance [check out the RAWbellion for all you need to know on the topic of cutting edge diet for dogs] But there are also a number of complimentary therapies which when combined with quality raw natural nutrition will go a long way to supporting transformation and healing.

Hydrotherapy

In Greek, the word “hydrotherapy” means “water healing.” Hydrotherapy allows muscles and joints to be worked without putting strain and pressure on them. The resistance created by being immersed in water generates buoyancy so that weight is supported and thus gravity is taken out of the equation.

This wondrous water therapy was originally created for race horses. Herbert Warren in California, invented the original Aquatred hydrotherapy system in order to prepare horses for the intensity of racing without putting stress on their tendons and ligaments. Now it’s widely embraced as a physical therapy for humans, and dogs alike. After all, the same principles of gravity apply whichever species you are.

The Why

There are a number of scenarios hydrotherapy can help with. If doggo is recovering from, or about to embark on surgery this type of therapy is great for conditioning pre and post op. Perhaps pup is experiencing degenerative joint disease, arthritis or paralysis, recovering from a stroke, requires cardio workout as an older dog, needs to shed a few pounds or simply needs general conditioning to keep in shape without taxing the body. If so hydrotherapy could be your answer.

The key benefits of water therapy:

  • Joint, tendon and ligament support
  • Improve lymph drainage essential to clearing toxins from the body and supporting the immune system
  • Boosts circulation improving skin and coat appearance
  • Encourage better digestion
  • Strengthen, balance and coordination.

The What

There are 3 common forms of hydrotherapy; under water treadmills, whirlpools and dog pools.

Underwater Treadmill

Exactly as it sounds, a treadmill immersed in water allowing doggo to exercise with the assistance of water buoyancy. Converting the high impact exercise of running into low impact. Favourable for weight loss, strength and conditioning work, joint issues and arthritis.

Whirlpool Therapy

This is a water based massage therapy and hugely beneficial for post surgery or injury recovery. A fantastic pain relief treatment using nothing but water and air. Warm jet streams in the water pool allow for deep gentle massage releasing stored tension, trauma and re-energising the body.

Dog Pools

Perfect for pooch suffering from arthritis or degenerative joint issues. A therapist will stay alongside your dog in the water to assist and monitor their movements. The aim is to generate an increased range of movement for specific problem areas.

If you’re sold on the idea of hydrotherapy for your furry friend, here are our tips for how to get started. Always go and visit the hydrotherapy centre before booking a treatment.

Inspect the facilities, talk to the staff don’t be afraid to ask questions about qualifications, training, water quality checks and insurance cover. Have a conversation about your dog’s individual condition and ask for treatment advice, it’s vital you have faith in your dog’s therapist and peace of mind your beloved pal is in safe healing hands.

Acupuncture

Used for over 2,500 years, acupuncture comes from traditional Chinese medicine. A practice of using tiny needles to stimulate nerve-rich areas of the skin surface in order to influence tissues, gland, organs, and various functions of the body.

The Why

Acupuncture for dogs is fantastic for the treatment of:

  • Joint pain and stiffness, whether caused through arthritis or just through ageing
  • Back problems/pain
  • Incontinence in bitches
  • Lameness of unknown origin, ligament injury, muscle spasm
  • Rehabilitation from surgery, especially Orthopaedic surgery
  • Epilepsy

There is some evidence (although less concrete) to say that acupuncture can also ease symptoms of allergies, behavioural problems, skin complaints and bladder disease.

The What

There are 2 perspectives when it comes to acupuncture. The Chinese medicine approach focus on balancing the body by allowing the life force energy (Qi) to flow freely. When Qi is blocked this results in illness and ailments of the physical body. Acupuncture needles serve to release energy flow thereby restoring quality Qi, balance and in turn physical health.

The western scientific approach takes the view that the needles assist in releasing certain neurotransmitters in the body that have pain-relieving effects, and can release tension, muscle spasms, stimulate blood flow, and therefore aid healing.

Both approaches use the same acupuncture points, the same needles and the treatment process is the same. The perspective is not really important in terms of the treatment itself, but is important for you as a thinking hooman in terms of choosing a practitioner who’s ethos resonates with you, and who you believe has the right healing qualities.

In the UK, a referral has to be made through your vet to a veterinary acupuncturist. Dogs will only be able to undergo acupuncture if their vet agrees it might help. Because it’s classed as a veterinary treatment you may also be able to claim for this therapy on your insurance if required.

Canine Massage

Massage is now a widely utilised treatment, part of a standard healthy lifestyle for many many people. We hoomans love a massage and our canine friends are no different.

Animal massage has been carried out in one form or another throughout history. It can even be traced back to Caesar’s war dogs. It’s documented that Julius Caesar travelled with massage therapists who worked on him and his dogs.

Modern animal massage was used primarily for horses until the late 20th century when our smaller furry friends got in on the act and the popularity of canine massage grew. Regardless of which brand of being you are, horse, dog, or human, massage is widely researched and studies document clearly the huge benefit to health and well-being of the practice.

The Why

Canine massage can be used for healing and recharge of the body for those dogs who have an intense physical lifestyle or are in pain or recovering from injury. It can also be used as a relaxing treatment to encourage the nervous system into rest and repair mode, improving emotional well-being, as well as boosting the immune system.

Benefits Of Canine Massage Therapy:

  • Resolves or reduces lameness
  • Increases blood and brain oxygenation
  • Provides pain management for orthopaedic conditions
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Resolves or reduces soreness/stiffness
  • Addresses muscular imbalances
  • Rehabilitates muscular injury e.g. strain
  • Reduces irritation to sensory nerve endings found in fascia
  • Induces parasympathetic nervous system response (reduces anxiety/stress)

The Changes You’ll See in Doggo

  • Able to walk further and enjoy walkies
  • Happier to be petted, examined or groomed
  • More sociable with other dogs and hoomans
  • Improved performance, agility, flexibility, speed, coordination
  • Increased vitality
  • Improved temperament
  • Better movement, gait and posture
  • Reduced anxiety, reduced behavioural issues
  • A visibly younger more active doggo, engaging confidently with their surroundings again

Chances are after a visit to the doggo masseur you’ll get loads more slobbery kisses too in appreciation………. From you dog that is not the therapist …………

The What

Clinical canine massage is a non-invasive therapy, results usually begin to be seen in 1-3 sessions. A registered therapist will use 4 disciplines of massage encompassing over 50 techniques; myofascial release, remedial sports massage, deep tissue massage and Swedish massage.

A Good Quality Clinical Canine Massage Will Include:

  • Gait Analysis
  • Postural Analysis
  • Superficial Palpation
  • Full Consultation , Medical History and ADL Assessment
  • A discussion with the owner on expectations of the therapy
  • 45-50 minute massage therapy session
  • Full diagrammatic feedback to owner
  • Home care plan and other recommendations

Look out for a therapist with a minimum of 2 years training, who is registered with the Canine Massage Guild. A practising professional therapist should also attend continuing professional development (CPD). As with all therapies, the most important element is your confidence in their knowledge, skill and ethos, so don’t be afraid to ask for a chat before booking a treatment.

The best part about massage and one of the reasons we love it, is it’s something hoomans can learn for themselves. When shown basic Swedish massage techniques by a professional, you’ll be able to do an in-house pamper session for your canine bestie anytime.

Mike Simmonds

Our IT guy who uploads all our content written by our awesome team

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