You knead this


It was another terrible weekend of indulgence for the bewildered beasts. Whilst they’re a mite confused, I’m jealous and mildly miffed.


When I first got my boy, Bear, I was cognisant of the fact he’d be susceptible to hip issues due to the likely mix of breeds he was. I wasn’t as concerned for Maddy, given the hardy nature of the Kelpie, I presumed she’d be as sturdy as Uluru, but not long after we met, she was cutting up rough after extended sessions at the park or beach. Some mornings she’d slide off the bed with what appeared to be bad cramps in her legs. To her credit, she limbered up like a champ and soldiered on trying to convince us that a morning walk on 3 legs was just fine.

Being mildly pig-headed and a little old-fashioned, I just kept an eye on it, whilst my friend took her to the vet to get a professional opinion. Apparently, she melted as he laid hands on her, so he was either handsome or very like me, or both. His assessment was a possible tendon issue in her knee and offered cortisone with a view to surgery if it didn’t improve.


He was probably right in his assessment, but I felt the treatment would lead to surgery, given cortisone and 6 weeks without a park was guaranteed to destroy the yard, if not the entire house and other than putting the hound in traction, suspended from the ceiling in a padded cell, I couldn’t see a sound way to sort out this Kelpie’s knee.

So, it was with much fate, we learned that the National College of Traditional Medicine needed willing volunteers to assist them in assessing their student’s dog massage skills. We arrived at the local Uniting Church hall to a hoard of hounds, barking, sniffing, peeing and parading around under the eager eyes of the students. I was introduced to the crew attending to my two and they asked a raft of questions to ascertain diet, exercise regimes, living conditions and other factors, followed by an observation of their gait. Without my prompting, they were able to identify that Maddy had issues with her front left and back right legs.


The first session was best described as a familiarisation due the fact that neither had experienced this level of massage before. They weren’t entirely convinced at being coaxed to relax and accept the pressured hands of the examinees. I felt sorry for my short straw holders and did my level best to assist by awkwardly lying down between my two dogs like a spider impersonating Ceasar, in the hope they’d chill a little harder. There were some windows of brilliance, compliance and acceptance, on my part, and I was relieved to see my 2 actually responding accordingly. They got some decent stretches and tissue manipulation, I got some cramps and a dead leg.


Ultimately, this is what the real world will be like for many of these students, they’ll need to build rapport with the dog and get them in a mood and state conducive to therapy, all the while dealing with a variety of challenges and interruptions. I know they get intense education on the bio-mechanics and essential body systems and functions, but there’s no amount of training that’ll replace this hands-on experience dealing with the range of mongrels, mutts, pure breeds and off-lead owners that define the dog-owner collective. There’ll be dogs as floppy as spaniel ears and others with the attention span of a red-cordialled kid.


Despite the inherent ants in my Kelpies pantaloons, she’s responded really well to the massage sessions. In the weeks following her first session, there was notable improvements as she wasn’t stiff and sore and her morning spring had been restored to her step. We’ve probably had a 45min sesh every 3 months since and now the marvellous Madge is even in her gait, has no mobility issues in the mornings or after park plays and beach bashes, so I couldn’t be happier.


Ironically, Bear has always scored a great report card from all who’ve massaged him, apparently he’s lovely, well-balanced and really fit, he’s now my mentor.


Seeing as I know less than I’d like to think and I truly believe you deserve to hear from someone with more clout than me, I spoke to Ashlie Williamson, College Administrator at the NCTM and asked her about the massage:


 “The treatment of massage is very safe when professionally applied.  It is asking the body to behave as it should by assisting the release of contracted fibres that resist movement. Massage draws blood to the area and allows for greater flexibility.


Many people are seeking out qualified practitioners as the word is spreading about the wonderful benefits of professionally applied massage such as Canine Myofunctional Therapy (CMT). Our course has been designed for all those with a love of dogs and an interest in improving their health and wellbeing, performance and longevity with the gentle but powerful therapy of massage. Massage is a part of our Myofunctional Therapy courses as it increases blood supply and elimination of toxic waste before it builds up in muscles.  This allows for greater flexibility.  The reduction of tension, improved circulation affects the entire anatomy to include nerves, organs and muscles. All of our students have to complete a Certificate in Canine Anatomy and Physiology to have a greater understanding of the impact they are having on the Canine body with each treatment.


All of our students that have graduated from CMT or gone on to study Canine nutrition or massage therapy for Horses are all listed on our website. Please note that our website is currently undergoing some upgrades to bring it into the 21st century, Very exciting! All students graduated from each state in Australia and international students will also be listed after the upgrade is complete.


We have a fair few of our students that are a part of rehabilitation centres or vet practises and so do not need advertisement. I will also add that all of our Graduated and Insured students are all listed on the SAENA website (Small Animal & Equine Naturopathic Association), it is a great website to check that professionals out in the field are up to date with their accreditations.  


Obviously, some dogs require more than massage, and like us there’s a full range of treatments. Something that piqued my interest was stories of dog chiro’s, which I also asked Ashlie about:


The rules for animal chiro have changed a lot over the years, as twenty years ago and beyond you did not need a specific qualification to practise, many would just do a human course and then start practising on animals, vets will often refer to this method as “backyard” practitioners. The amount of injures and unqualified practitioners caused much conflict. Since then the rules have been changed due to Sandi Rogers the founder of NCTM and the Board of the Naturopathic Association to have proper training specific to certain animals to be put in place.


Qualified Animal Chiro/ Osteo have to be a qualified Vet nurse or Vet to then complete on top of their studies a chiro/ osteo course. A lot of vets then train in England or Denmark to get specific Canine training. Once qualified they have to be insured and the qualification recognised by an Australian Association. To confirm if Canine chiro/ osteo are qualified and insured it is best to check on the listed practitioners on websites that are a part of the Naturopathic Association like:  SAENA (Small Animal & Equine Naturopathic Association) or the IICT (International Institute Complementary Therapies)”. 


As you can see, there’s some really effective treatments that can aid your dogs limbs, muscles and tendons.


So, if you find you have a dog with some mobility issues, by all means, consult your vet, but never under-estimate the power of what is essentially physio for dogs as part of your treatment plan.


Laura from Rural TLC in Greater West Melbourne mellowing the yellow-eyed madness
Laura from Rural TLC in Greater West Melbourne mellowing the yellow-eyed madness