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.

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5 steps to an enhanced care regime for the performance sport dog

Here at K9 Trail Time we believe that responsible dog owners will seek to give their animals the best possible care to keep them fit, healthy and happy. This includes daily and varied exercise, training, a good diet and an adequate level of veterinary care.

Over the last few years though, as dog sport has become more competitive, leading canine athletes have been receiving enhanced treatment to keep them performing at their very best. Our friend Jenny Lee of Joggy Doggy Limited decided to investigate how an enhanced care regime of five simple steps might secure you a competitive advantage come racing season and here is what she discovered:

  1. Hydrotherapy – this low impact, non-weight bearing therapy is an excellent and safe way for performance dogs to improve muscle strength and stamina. As Jak Dyson of Snowy’s Canine Therapy Centre, Smarden explains:

‘A 5 minute swim is equivalent to a 5 mile run for a dog with water based exercising using 30% more oxygen than land based exercising. The pressure on the dog’s chest under the water means that every breath requires more effort especially when inhaling which strengthen the whole respiratory system. The resistance of the limbs as they move through the water also builds muscle and increases range of movement. In addition the heart gets to work hard keeping all the muscles supplied with nutrients that they need’.

There are further advantages to hydrotherapy as the warm water used can increase circulation, decrease stress, increase metabolic function and enhance blood flow. Ellie Camacho used a hydrotherapy pool and a water treadmill to help rehabilitate her rescue dog Gruff and build muscle and fitness for scootering. Here he is in action at Splash Paws Hydrotherapy:

 

Gruff at Splash Paws Hydrotherapy

  1. Physical therapy – this could be in the form of the more traditional Canine Massage, Canine Physiotherapy and Canine Chiropractic Therapy or the newer therapies of Canine Myotherapy and Canine Bowen Therapy

Maddy Bowen from The School of Canine Bowen Therapy has this to say about Bowen Therapy:

‘The potential of Canine Bowen therapy is seemingly endless but then we are looking at the dog in an holistic way. That simply means we treat the whole dog, not just the area presenting with an issue, but we also look at other factors that could be playing a part in a dog’s health – this could include diet, exercise, training, where the dog sleeps, does it get enough sleep etc…. As we work on the soft tissue, muscle, tendon, ligament and most importantly fascia, we can affect many systems in the body – circulatory, lymphatic, neurological, endocrine, limbic, this helps to explain how far reaching Bowen can be!’

If you want to know more about Canine Bowen Therapy then please visit Maddy’s website: http://www.madaboutbowen.com

Maddy uses Bowen Therapy to treat dogs in an holistic way

Cath Nicoll from Dogs Body Canine Massage has many sporting dogs on her books and has seen her clients’ dogs benefit from Canine Massage therapy. Cath also sponsors athlete Ben Robinsons’ dog with regular massages, she says this about her work:

‘For muscle and joint problems, this strong manipulative type of massage brings great results and relief while helping to resolve many sub-clinical, everyday mobility issues you may see with your dog. This unique type of massage for dogs relies on extensive knowledge of canine anatomy & physiology, the movement of tissue over tissue, connective tissue release and the remobilisation of muscle to help break down scar tissue and promote better range of motion in the dogs joints. If your dog is injured, you can expect to see an improvement within 1-3 sessions.
Maintenance massages are recommended for any dog to spot any issues before they become a problem. A young, fit, active dog can benefit from massage 2-3 times a year.’

For more information on Canine Massage and to find your local therapist visit: www.k9-massage.co.uk

Cath uses massage to ensure her sport clients are in tip top muscular condition

  1. Core Stability Training – good canine core stability is important in sport performance dogs as it can help posture, balance and shape whilst also supporting the back. It is important though to check that the dog is injury free with good posture and correct loading as wobble boards and other core strength equipment could overload already weakened muscles if there is an underlying problem. Elaine Sherwin is a top level canicross athlete and uses core stability exercises combined with checks from a chiropractor to ensure correct alignment. Here is Elaine’s dog Uma demonstrating her wobble board skills:

Elaine’s dog Uma is a pro on the wobble board!

 

  1. Free Running Training – dogs naturally love to run and running free and unrestricted gives them the chance to really stretch out and gallop. Once they exceed a certain level of exertion they produce endorphins, in higher quantities than humans, rendering them relaxed and happy. The level of stimulation achieved rewards the dog for their effort and encourages them to love their speed work. Vickie Pullin of Arctic Quest trains her sled dogs using a Quad Bike either in front or behind, encouraging them to do short burst of speed intervals to really optimise their fitness levels.

Free running is great for building up dogs’ strength and speed

Vickie helps to train people with their own dogs as part of her job and one to one sessions can be booked with her through the contact form on her website: http://www.arcticquest.co.uk/contact.html

  1. Specialised Diets for Sport Performance Dogs – what to feed your dog has been a contentious subject in recent years. It is encouraging though that increasingly owners are realising that the ingredient list printed on the packet is more important than the branding and images. It is quite sobering still to read the list of ingredients for some of the most expensive and well regarded brands! While dogs have different dietary requirements to their human partners their need for a high quality food is the same. We would not expect top level human athletes to consume a diet of low quality processed food and still have the endurance, stamina and energy to compete under duress in top level competition so don’t expect that of your racing dog!

For many the chosen diet for their sports dogs is a raw food diet, high in protein and dietary fat but with less emphasis on grains and other carbohydrates. In addition to the core diet many top level competitors also feed their dogs joint supplements to support the skeletal system and connective tissue from the additional load placed upon them from regular racing. This is increasingly important in older dogs who are likely to suffer more ‘wear and tear’.

New to the market in the UK are the FASTDOG performance dog products which are designed specifically to support the canine athlete recover from exertion and we are seeing many dogs benefit from the increased interest and knowledge surrounding supplementation of the sport dogs’ diet. For more information on the FASTDOG products see the below link:

http://www.k9trailtime.com/shop/fastdog-performance-dog-products.html

Getting the right diet and supplementation for your sport dog can also play a role in performance

While there is no ‘magic formula’ to success in dog sport most would agree that for our dogs that give 100%, they deserve the best level of care that we can give within our own time and financial constraints. It might be worth trying out a few of the steps above just to see what happens!

Thanks to Jenny for looking at how all the above can keep your sport dog in tip top condition.

Jenny Lee is lead coach at Joggy Doggy Limited (www.joggydoggy.co.uk), a canine exercise and personal training business with branches across the UK. For more information on care of your sports performance dog please contact her at joggydoggy.co.uk@gmail.com

K9 Trail Time is also involved in setting up a centre for information, advice, training, therapy and equipment for sports dogs. One thing not covered in the 5 points above is how important getting the right equipment for yourself and your dog can be for your performance. If you’re not comfortable in your kit, then how can you perform to the best of your ability?

We will be holding various dog sport and therapy workshops, open evenings for kit consultations and canine first responder courses at this special venue beginning this month, so please do check out The Canactive Centre on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/canactive/