Doggy rehab: Massage, aquatherapy and treats on the menu
Credit: Kate Allen Toronto Star
Maddie is getting on in years. She has arthritis. Her once sprightly gait has been reduced to a shuffle, and her neck is stiff. She can no longer make it up to the second floor of her home.
So on a June afternoon she’s splayed out on a mat while skilled hands massage her vertebrae. The osteopathy session, an alternative therapy in which the body is manipulated to help itself heal, will take the better part of 40 minutes and cost $65. Maddie’s caretaker, Rossi Ayres, says it’s worth every penny.
“A lot of people say, ‘Well, she’s 11 years old.’ But you know what? She’s my best friend. She deserves the best.”
Stitches, a Dogo Argentino, works out in an aquatherapy tub after suffering the canine equivalent of an ACL tear
Maddie is a golden retriever. Like a growing number of dogs in North America, she is undergoing canine rehabilitation therapy, an up-and-coming veterinary field that has spawned at least three new clinics in the GTA since 2004.
Just last June, the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College inaugurated their new Hill’s Pet Nutrition Primary Healthcare Centre, a teaching clinic that includes an aquatherapy pool and will school upper-year students the basics of pet rehab.
“Interest in alternative therapies has grown across the health spectrum,” says Martin Fischer of the College of Veterinarians of Ontario, which in 2009 introduced new rules making it easier for clinics to offer rehabilitation and alternative medicine. “(There’s) no reason to expect pets to be different.”
Maddie’s session at the Canine Wellness Centre in Toronto’s east end begins with muscle strengthening exercises. Canine rehabilitation practitioner Tania Costa drags a length of inflatable tubes to the clinic floor and coaxes Maddie across the challenging terrain with treats.
Costa chooses different therapies depending on the dog and the disorder. In the session before Maddie’s, Molly, a 7-year-old Labrador diagnosed with fused vertebrae and a degenerative joint disease, had her back legs rubbed with a laser light wand. Then the dog jumped into the pool for a run on the underwater treadmill.
Costa is also trained in canine massage and acupressure therapy, among other exercises, and has developed a series of core-strengthening exercises for the stability ball that are gamely demonstrated by her two miniature Australian shepherds, Maisie and Otis. Since opening the clinic in 2004, she’s seen demand quadruple to 13 appointments a day this year.
Across town, in Yorkville’s Animal Rehabilitation Centre, practitioner Tracy McKenzie has witnessed the same trend. That clinic’s client base tripled from their first year, in 2005, to their second year. (The clinic is currently closed and is not accepting patients while it undergoes restructuring.)
“There’s definitely an increase in demand,” McKenzie says.
Check out the full story:
Doggy Rehab Invigorating and Fun