What Does Holistic Treatment Mean to You? Might it be:

  • A holistic doctor or vet, able to prescribe medications/drugs but also looking at the whole patient, in terms of diet, lifestyle, job, exercise, and/or
  • Conservative plus alternative treatments? e.g. your doctor/vet includes acupuncture, herbs, iridology in their collection of skills.

From a Physio’s Perspective

Definitely looking at the whole client… e.g. if your dog has a sore leg, we do not just treat the leg. Firstly, we take a detailed history. A good history is vital, it’s like ‘detective work’… for instance, why might your dog have a sore leg? Is it mainly the knee, hip, ankle, or other?

Is it recurring, is the lumbar spine involved, is it referred pain, is it muscular, neurological or perhaps something needing further investigation (CT scans, X ray, blood tests), is it due to the wrong exercise, overuse, compensation for an injury elsewhere, did it start with a small accident months ago that you’ve forgotten about, or a big accident years ago that you think is no longer relevant?

Next we do a thorough examination of the whole body, looking at gait, muscle tone, strength, stiffness, look for compensation, repeating patterns and injuries, investigate lifestyle… exercise (regular/ daily/once a week?), companionship, home environment (slippery floors, comfortable bed, up and down stairs 100 times a day), meals… what do you feed? How much/little/how often, is the dog over or underweight, age of course is relevant, also job…. is the dog a quiet companion, assistance dog, police dog, an athlete, a show dog, racing greyhound, couch potato, or needing to be able to run 7km with owner?

Holistic treatment offers a wide choice of modalities depending on the practitioners training, skill and what might suit the client:

Joint mobilisation, massage, stretching, acupuncture, laser, ultrasound, exercise prescription specific to the problem, dealing with factors such as home environment, lifestyle, weight control, the dog’s”job’ and owners’ ability to do homework and their expectations…. and if a client is not progressing as well as possible, or there are suspected underlying problems, we consult with fellow professionals e.g. other physiotherapists, vet specialists, animal behaviourists, trainers and nutritionists.

Case Studies for Holistic Treatment of Animals

1. Young Female Kelpie with a Recurring Urinary Tract Infection

The vet suggested she’d been neutered at too young an age, vet had prescribed medication… not working.

Physio history and exam: lumbar (low back)pain, owner says she jumps all the time, tries to escape backyard, recently jumped high, fell backwards, limped for a few days after. Diet mainly dry biscuits for urinary tract problems.

Treatment: Treated lower back pain and with physiotherapy, core stability exercises (yes, dogs need them!) and acupuncture( also hoping this would help bladder control), suggested swapping dry biscuits to wet and raw diet, also supplements and herbs from canine nutritionist, also thought she might be bored, so arranged for more frequent walks also a few gaps in fence to see through (aim was to stop the jumping). Happy to say success after 3 treatments.

2. 8 Year Old Labrador – Very Stiff, Sore, Hard Feel on the Right Side of Her Body for 6 Months

No cause, didn’t make sense, asked owner about possible causes, second visit owner supplied more information, dog had been hit by a car 6 months ago, no broken bones so didn’t think relevant to mention.

Treatment: Good massage, stretching, hot packs…owner to continue at home..excellent result.

3. Elderly Dog Stumbling, Tripping Over Front Legs, Owners Worried About Neurological, Degenerative Disease

Observed gait and considered it was due to weakness in hind limbs, so most of the weight was shifted forward onto front legs, making it very difficult for dog to be able to step forward without losing balance.

Treatment: Specific strengthening exercises for hind limbs, balance exercises (lifting up one leg at a time, stepping over obstacles)… good result.

4) Labrador With a Very Stiff Neck, Head Held Low

Woman suspected her partner of hitting him and hurting his neck.

This lovely big boy had a very wobbly, unsteady ‘drunken” gait, suggesting an underlying cause. I asked the owner to see a vet specialist asap, who ordered tests which showed a malignant tumour.

Treatment for this dog was palliative care, pain control and lots of TLC for the remainder of his 3 weeks of life… very sad.

Merry xmas to you and your furry family, give them lots of love and cuddles.