What causes dogs to get pain?

Any dog can suffer from pain and injury. This includes working, racing, agility, and companion dogs. The causes are many:

  • Breed weaknesses: e.g., hip dysplasia in German Shepherds and Labradors, patella luxation in small breed dogs.
  • Repetitive strain injuries: e.g., running up and down the stairs, jumping off sofas, running on hard and slippery floors, fetching the ball.
  • Trauma: e.g., in falls, road traffic accidents, fights.
  • Sports injuries: e.g., in agility, racing, fly ball.
  • Age: e.g., wear and tear of joints.
  • Surgery

How can osteopathy help dogs?

The aim of osteopathy is to find the cause of your dog’s pain and to manage their health holistically, which means we also consider other aspects of their life such as environment, general health, behaviour and diet.

Canine osteopathy can help treat the joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. It can help improve your dog’s performance.
Canine osteopathy uses hands-on techniques to help:

  • reduce your dog’s symptoms
  • improve their overall health and performance
  • reduce chances of re-injury

Osteopathy can be used alongside medication and surgery, to help speed your dog’s recovery. One can also use osteopathy as an alternative method to help reduce the need for medication or surgery.

When would osteopathy be suitable for my dog?

It’s not always easy to tell when a dog is in pain. The signs can be subtle:

  • Personality or behavioural changes (grumpy, depressed, less “obedient”, for instance refusing to sit when asked as it might be painful, just not themselves).
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Reduced levels of daily activities, such as reluctance or refusal to walk upstairs, jump in the car or even just go for a walk.
  • Changes in their gait when walking or running. General movement appears restricted, muscle wasting.
  • Whimper, growl, or bite when touching a certain area.

What to expect during an appointment?

We want to know their symptoms, medical history, and lifestyle but also their character and temperament to make an accurate diagnosis and to get an insight of how to best approach treatment with your dog. A dog that is given time to settle is more likely to relax into treatment and have a positive experience.

We will also write down what you tell us in your records. These will be treated as confidential in accordance with standards of practice set out by the General Osteopathic Council and the Data Protection Act 1998.

The actual assessment will begin with an observation of the dog through gait cycles: walk, trot and canter (if possible). We might ask your permission to video it for a more accurate assessment and as reference point to assess progress. If you have any footage yourself, please bring it with you.

This will be followed by general palpation of the dog’s entire body, looking for imbalance, tension, strain patterns and injury, and by orthopaedic and neurological examinations. At this point an osteopathic evaluation can be made. I will explain my hypothesis and management plan and will answer any question that you might have. Treatment will follow to restore or improve function and movement.

Occasionally, the dog may have to be referred to the vet for further investigations before commencing with treatment.

What does the treatment involve?

It generally involves different osteopathic techniques such as mobilisations, manipulation, soft tissue massage, lymphatic drainage, stretching and strengthening.
I also use, when needed, a low-level Omega laser, which promotes optimal wound healing, pain relief, healing of soft tissue injuries (muscles, tendons, and ligaments). Low level laser is safe, non-invasive, painless, side-effect free. (Omega Laser Treatment read more here.)

Generally, dogs enjoy treatment, though when working over a painful area, we work sensitively. All techniques are modified to account for the dog’s pain.

Is osteopathy safe for my dog?

Osteopathy is suitable for the majority of dogs that have musculoskeletal issues. However, it is a legal requirement to gain veterinary consent before giving osteopathic treatment.

Sometimes the dog may experience some minor discomfort post treatment, which may manifest as a change in behaviour or short-term increase in pain or stiffness. To minimise the risk, I may give post treatment advice, such as hot or cold compresses, or suggest minor home adjustments where necessary. Any post treatment discomfort should alleviate in 24-48 hours. Therefore, if they are a working/racing dog it is recommended they are not worked for this time scale.

During treatment your dog will not be muzzled, unless there is a history of biting, or if the owner has concerns. The owner may be asked to hold the dog in a safe way during treatment.

How long will my dog’s appointment be?

  • The initial appointment will be between 45 minutes and an hour and will involve a full case history followed by treatment.
  • The follow-up appointments will be approximately 30 minutes.

It is important to create a bond with the dog to give them a positive experience so we might need longer. Equally, dogs are very good at telling us “they’re done” and that’s all they need, so the session might be a bit shorter. Over treating to fill the time is counterproductive.

Is my dog’s treatment covered by my pet insurance?

Most pet insurance companies cover osteopathic treatment as long as the osteopath is fully qualified, insured and the vet has given permission.