K9 Trail Time Interview with an expert – Millhaven Canine Rehabilitation

At K9 Trail Time we are always looking for ways to improve our dogs’ health and fitness and for many years now we have used hydrotherapy as a form of rehabilitation and exercise for the team. So who better to talk to than a small team of hydrotherapists working for the health and well being of dogs in their area about how hydrotherapy can benefit our canine companions.

Tell our followers a little bit about what you do, how you got into it, how long you have been doing it and your experience / or qualifications?

Millhaven Canine Rehabilitation is run by two couples who are passionate about dogs and have a range of qualifications and experience; each bringing their own skills to form a strong team of therapists offering hydrotherapy and related services.

Harriet: I have been a qualified hydrotherapist for 5 years, having completed my ABC Level 3 Certificate in Small Animal Hydrotherapy in 2013. My partner Richard and I were inspired to train in this area as we attended regular hydrotherapy with our Chocolate Labrador, Milo. I started my career by volunteering at a local centre and after a few months took the leap to full time hydrotherapist, also assisting the students on their level 3 certificate. We have 2 very active Labradors who use both the pool and water treadmill for fitness, so I am passionate about hydrotherapy not only for rehabilitation but as part of a healthy lifestyle for all dogs. Richard and I spent time working alongside each other and it was always a dream of ours to be able to open our own centre – which came true in November 2017.

Harriet with a client dog in the pool

Garth: My wife Joanna and I became interested in hydrotherapy when our adopted elderly Staffy, Eddie, needed treatment for elbow dysplasia. The amazing physical improvements that were achieved while we were taking him for hydrotherapy encouraged us both to pursue careers in small animal rehabilitation. I completed my ABC Level 3 Certificate in Small Animal Hydrotherapy during 2015 and since then I have also completed a Level 4 qualification in Canine Merishia Massage and Level 5 Diploma in Hydrotherapy for Small Animals. I am currently also completing the Canine Conditioning Academy Instructor Course which specialises in conditioning programmes to help build a dog’s total fitness. Both Jo and I have previously worked for a few other hydrotherapy centres; then in 2017 we had the opportunity to open our own and are now lucky to be able to work together in our dream job.

Garth with his own dog, Enzo

What does a day in the life of you consist of?

There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes during an average day in a hydrotherapy centre, and a lot of time and thought is put into providing the best treatment possible for each dog that comes into our clinic.

Maintenance of the pool and water treadmill is imperative, and each day starts and finishes with testing the water to ensure it is properly sanitised. This is also monitored throughout the day, as having a safe environment is vital for the welfare of our clients. Each morning we also clean the pool and surrounding area ready for treatments, read through patient notes and discuss our cases for the coming day. We see a wide range of conditions in both the pool and treadmill, and every day is different. We treat post operative dogs, those with degenerative orthopaedic conditions such as hip and elbow dysplasia, dogs with neurological conditions, elderly dogs and pups, dogs who simply swim for general fitness, and athletic dogs coming to us for conditioning and to enhance their overall fitness for competition work. We are constantly assessing each dog from the moment they walk through our doors to the moment they leave. Talking to the owners is also a very important part of our role and we always strive to ensure that they are as happy as the dogs. We also keep detailed notes of each of our patients’ sessions so that we can monitor their progress, and re-evaluate treatment plans for all dogs regularly to ensure that they are receiving the most suitable treatment and getting the most out of their time with us. This means our evenings are often spent writing up notes and producing progress reports for clients’ vets. We all find that we never really ‘switch off’ from the job and are always thinking of ways we can improve things for a particular patient or what we can offer to our clients overall. Despite our busy schedule we always make sure we find time to take our own dogs for some fun and fitness time at the pool!

Garth and Jo with a client dog in the Hydrotherapy Treadmill

Share with us your proudest moment so far

Working in canine hydrotherapy is incredibly rewarding and we are proud of the things our patients achieve every day, however big or small – making it very difficult to single out one proudest moment as there are so many to choose from! One of our proudest moments would definitely be finally opening the doors of our business after many long days and months of work building our purpose built therapy centre from the ground up. Welcoming our first client was the most amazing feeling and the start of something very special. I think what makes us proudest, however, are the physical and mental improvements that we see in our patients. Some of our patients come to us with severe physical impairments and seeing a patient that initially can barely use one or more of their limbs begin to walk entirely on their own is amazing. They may also have been very depressed due to their condition and given up on life – hydrotherapy can give them back that spark they had lost and it is fantastic to see. Being able to share in the ups and downs and sheer pride of owners as they tell us about their dog’s rehab progress or hard earned competition success is very moving.

What are your top 3 tips connected with what you do for our followers and their active dogs?

  1. When selecting a hydrotherapy centre to attend, ensure they are either NARCH or CHA registered; this means they should abide by certain minimum standards in the care and treatment of your dog. A good hydrotherapist should actively support and encourage your dog to get the best from them throughout the session, not just stand at one end of the pool throwing a toy for them to retrieve. Once you have located a good hydrotherapy centre, test their knowledge of the sports your dog competes in. Whilst it isn’t imperative that the therapist actively competes in the sports themselves (though this can definitely be an advantage), it is vital that they have a good understanding of the physical and mental requirements of each sport to enable them to formulate an effective conditioning programme.
  2. Don’t worry if your dog seems unsure about hydrotherapy initially. It can take several sessions for your dog to become entirely comfortable in a hydrotherapy clinic, and the hydrotherapist should introduce your dog to the pool at their own pace. Even ‘water babies’ who enjoy a swim in their local lake can find a therapy centre setting strange, especially a water treadmill!
  3. Ensure your dog gets a day off! Hydrotherapy conditioning works well alongside any other fitness training that you may be carrying out with your dogs; but dogs, just like humans, can suffer from burnout due to over exercising. It is therefore important that your dogs get regular opportunities to rest and recuperate, especially following a particularly hard hydrotherapy or training session, or after a day of competition. Enjoy some down time together.

The Millhaven Canine Rehabilitation centre hopes to go from strength to strength

What are your plans for the future?

We hope to continue growing Millhaven and to make a difference to the health and wellbeing of many more dogs from all walks of life, whilst also educating more people on the benefits of safe, controlled hydrotherapy. As a team we are constantly striving to increase our knowledge by completing further qualifications in the field of canine therapy to enable us to expand our services, and Richard is hoping to embark on the Level 5 Diploma in Canine Hydrotherapy next year. We are planning to provide group conditioning workshops at some local venues, and also hope to work with other therapists to offer a range of workshops for dog owners in complementary areas such as TTouch and therapeutic massage.

How can our followers get in touch with you?

We have a few ways for people to get in touch with us. Our email is info@millhavencaninerehab.com and our phone numbers are 01427 667755 / 07486 460550. We also welcome messages on our Facebook page www.facebook.com/millhavencaninerehab. People can also find out more about us at www.millhavencaninerehab.com.