General Animal Healthcare

Dr. Liza hopes you find the following information about General Animal Healthcare useful. Please note: the information provided by is intended to educate and offer alternatives to help improve and manage your animal’s long term health. Any use of the guidelines contained herein is entirely at the user’s own discretion and risk. While every effort has been made to ensure this information is as accurate as possible, and its staff assume no responsibility for the improper application of this information. Please consult directly with your own veterinarian before making changes to your animal’s diet or nutrition.

If you would like to book a telephone consult with either Dr. Liza or a vet from Holistic Vets please click here.

Arthritis in Animals
Cancer in Animals
Care of Your Aged Animal
First Aid, Handy Complementary Tools
First Aid; Understanding the Signs & Symptoms
First Aid for your Animal in an Emergency
Flea Control, a Holistic Perspective
Gastro-intestinal upsets and what to do
Holistic Vet Care following an Accident
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
Keeping tails wagging with NIS (Neurological Integration System)
Holistic Animal Health Care
Rearing Healthy Foals, Kittens and Pups
Optimum Nutrition for Great Health
Omega 3’s Health benefits
Sustainable Healthcare
Infections and Immune Support

Arthritis in Animals

As our pets age they may suffer from arthritis. It can be a painful condition and is usually noticeable as a stiff gait first thing in the morning (often worse in cold weather), which improves with a bit of exercise or movement.

Arthritis describes inflammation in a joint and may be attributable to many factors. It is generally a progressive condition, but we can do a great deal to slow the course of the disease and make your pet a lot more comfortable for the rest of his/her days.

It is very important to keep your pet’s weight under control. Carrying around extra baggage is a huge burden on the joints and lightening their load will help them to function better and cut down on their pain.

Ensuring that your pet eats good quality food with optimal amounts of omega 3 fatty acids, which are natural anti-inflammatories, helps them to maintain a good weight and joint health. Supplementing their diet with omega 3’s (found in flax oil and cold water fish) is a fabulous aid to supporting joint function and just making this change can make a noticeable difference.

Next on the list and clinically proven to help are chondroprotective (joint protecting) agents called polysulphated glucosaminoglycans (P-Gags). These are naturally occurring substances found in green lipped mussel extract, shark cartilage and other sources. There are many supplements available but as with all supplements it is important to remember that they aren’t all created equal, some work better than others and may be more appropriate for your animal than others. There is also an injectable form of P-gags that can be used alone or in conjunction with the above, it too can work wonders.

Another invaluable nutrient, from grapeseed or pinebark extract, are proanthocyanidins. They act as powerful anti-oxidants which assist joint function and well-being.

Massage of the tight muscles trying to compensate for the pain is very helpful as these are frequently tired and sore. Gentle massage is loved by most animals and helps to stimulate circulation.

Gentle, low impact exercise, such as swimming or walks on the beach, is of vital importance to help keep supporting muscles strong and contribute to general well-being.

In addition to all of these are alternative and complementary therapy options such as homeopathy and herbal medicine, acupuncture, the Neurological Integration System (NIS) and hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy as well as musculo-skeletal therapies such as chiropractics and Bowen therapy, which have proven to be very valuable aids. For optimal results these are best used by an experienced practitioner working in conjunction with your vet to tailor make a program to suit your animal’s needs.

When none of these changes are making enough of a difference we make use of painkillers such as Non Steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which may occasionally have side effects, to ease pain.

With a comprehensive treatment plan, a great deal of quality can be added to your pet’s life.

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Cancer in Animals

Cancer in our pets, as with us humans, is a fairly common occurrence nowadays. There are many factors which contribute to this increasing trend including poor nutrition, genetics, pollution in our environment and infections, to name but a few.

Cancer develops when a cell begins to grow and divide out of control and isn’t stopped and contained by the immune system.

The cell can be from any part of the body, and each type behaves in a characteristic way, either growing quickly and spreading rapidly (malignant) or growing slowly and not spreading (benign).

For example, dogs can develop a type of bone cancer which grows rapidly and then spreads to the lungs which is very life threatening, while cats with white noses and ears are prone to developing skin cancer in these areas which occasionally spreads to other organs but if caught early can be well controlled. Older animals often develop skin lumps which are benign and as long as these lumps don’t bother them, they can be left alone.

A diagnosis is made by having various samples analyzed including small amounts of fluid drawn from a lump (fine needle aspirate), tissue samples cut out (biopsy) and blood samples.

After a diagnosis is reached, the conventional approach is to remove as much of the cancer from the body as possible. This is done in a variety of ways including surgery, cryotherapy (freezing), radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Depending on how benign the cancer is and the stage that it’s at, these techniques can be successful but underlying issues that may have allowed the cancer to develop in the first place need to be addressed.

From a holistic point of view we recognize the multifactorial nature of cancer. The development of this serious condition reflects that the body has been damaged and the immune system has failed to recognize and stop the cancer process from progressing.

In order to allow for the greatest possibility of cure, it is of utmost importance to address the underlying cause. The whole picture needs to be examined and the animal’s immune system boosted and supported by making use of various therapies, many of which have a large body of scientific evidence behind them.

The three main areas that are targeted to allow for the resolution of cancer are:

1.    Disabling cancer cells
2.    Support of cellular and organ function
3.    Detoxification

Some of the incredible tools that are we use include, but are not limited to: Nutritional Medicine, NIS (Neurological Integration System), Oxygen therapy, Homotoxicology, Homeopathy and Herbal Medicine.

Marrying the conventional approach with complementary therapies frequently brings about excellent results. Tailor making a program for each individual animal to best suit their needs as well as the needs of their owners adds tremendously to the animal’s quality of life and gives their owners peace of mind.

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Care of Your Aged Animal

As animals age, their ability to maintain health and vitality becomes limited and growing old gracefully can be a challenge! An older animal in the wild becomes slower, less able to hunt or graze, and keep up with their peers. Subsequently their condition deteriorates further and the natural cycle is that they do not survive for very long.

Keeping animals outside of their natural environment places the responsibility upon our shoulders to ensure that their care and maintenance is of a high enough standard to allow for quality of life.

A great contributing factor to the aging process is free-radical damage. Free radicals are produced by the body’s natural metabolic processes through various chemical reactions or they might be introduced into the body as toxins from food or environmental sources.

The damage they cause to cells may be equated to the sparks that are thrown off a fire which eat away at the carpet in front of the fireplace. The cumulative result of this “wear and tear” is usually obvious later on in life as degenerative changes such as organ failures, joint damage, sensory losses of vision and hearing and the development of dis-ease such as cancer.

Anti-oxidants, such as vitamin C and vitamin E, which are found in nutritious foods and in various nutritional supplements, act as free radical scavengers and help to limit the damage caused as well as help to aid in repair. It therefore follows that, in addition to tender loving care, a well balanced diet full of optimal amounts of nutrients with low levels of chemicals and preservatives is an incredibly valuable factor in maintaining your animal’s quality of life and to support their immune systems, which are often compromised in older animals. Dental care is also of utmost importance to assist in nutrient availability, especially in our equine friends.

As the winter months roll in, older animals’ circulation and their ability to thermoregulate and keep themselves warm may be limited. In addition to this, problems such as arthritis and incontinence are more obvious and animals are less inclined to move around stopping regular wear of their nails which can grow long enough to put strain on their nail beds or even grow inward into their pads which is extremely painful. Their decreased flexibility also makes it difficult for them to groom themselves, especially if they are obese, leading to knotted coats which are uncomfortable and also harbour parasites such as fleas.

Warm and comfortable bedding will go a long way to keeping them comfortable and regular, gentle exercise as well as massage will alleviate tension in their muscles. Some dogs and cats require their nails to be trimmed every six to eight weeks and their coats to be regularly brushed.

When it is no longer possible to preserve an animals’ quality of life, it becomes necessary to consider euthanasia as it is the quality of their life rather than the quantity which is of utmost importance. This can be a difficult decision but is often a kind release from the pain and discomfort that some aged animals ultimately suffer from and I’m convinced that there’s a special place for animals in heaven!

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First Aid, Handy Complementary Tools

Our preference is to have user friendly, safe and effective tools on hand to complement conventional therapies or that we may recommend to our clients to have as part of their first aid kits at home.

  • Emergency Essence (Australian Bush Flower Essences) or Rescue Remedy (Bach Flower Essences) or *Biopet Relax: a couple of drops may be applied to the inside of the lip every five minutes until the animal is stable or settled. Generally this works well and it is also often useful for the animal owner to have some too!
  • **Traumeel: A complex homeopathic/low dose herbal remedy available in tablets, drops, gel and injectable ampoules. It has powerful inflammatory modulating effects assisting hugely in bringing down swelling, stopping bruising, relieving pain and speeding up healing generally.
  • Vitamin C: a remarkable and safe all rounder helping to combat infection and assist wound healing often with dramatic results. It is a very useful support in cases of poisoning where it assists detoxification. In very high doses, generally beyond what is available from oral dosage, and therefore needs to be supplied by intravenous infusion, it has anti-cancer properties making it a superb natural chemotherapy agent. Use 250mg per 5 kg animal weight twice a day.
  • *Biopet Immune Support and **Heel’s Echinacea compositum or Engystol are excellent to boost the immune system and prevent infectious disease from developing and progressing.
  • *Biopet Digestion or **Heel’s Nux Vomica Homaccord are very useful to assist with digestive upsets.
  • Slippery Elm powder is a particularly helpful internal poultice to help soothe and heal the inflamed gastro-intestinal lining. Use 20-40 mg of dried slippery elm per kilogram three times a day mixed in water or food. Alternately mix 1 teaspoon of powder in 1 cup of water and give kittens ¼ teaspoon, cats and small dogs 1 teaspoon, medium dogs 30 – 60 ml and large dogs 90 – 120 ml 3 times daily.
  • Aloe Vera Gel: Very soothing for skin rashes and fantastic to help stop hot spots from progressing.
  • Calendula: used topically it’s very effective at aiding the healing of skin and is also very useful to help stop bleeding.
  • Manuka honey has profound anti-bacterial properties and helps to provide the ideal environment to assist with wound healing and may be applied as a poultice.
  • TAO Gel: Ozonated gel which has profound anti-microbial affects and is an incredible support to the healing process.
  • * The Biopet range has been developed by a New Zealand Vet and has very useful complex homeopathic remedies for a variety of conditions.
  • ** The Heel range encompasses many homeopathic/low dose herbal remedies in tablet, drop, gel and injectable ampoule formulation. Heel is a German company who pride themselves in producing excellent remedies that prove to be as good if not better than various drugs in terms of safety and efficacy in scientific trials.

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First Aid; Understanding the Signs & Symptoms

An astute animal owner knows when their animal is compromised and will often be able to associate an earlier experience with this insight e.g. the dog that has eaten a rotting carcass and is off their food and vomiting or the cat that was heard in a cat fight the night before and is now limping.

Having a good working knowledge of what signs to look for to determine if your animal’s health is at risk is a very helpful investment. By observing your animal’s vital signs (breathing rate and depth, colour of mucous membranes, heart rate and temperature) regularly when they are healthy will help you to detect an abnormality.

Subtle signs of illness might include a quiet or depressed demeanour, poor appetite, heavy eyes and a dull coat. Other more obvious indications of dis-ease include rapid or difficult breathing, elevated or depressed pulse or heart rate, collapse, pale or bright red colour of the gums, difficulty walking or severe lameness, yelping out in pain, sudden bloating of the abdomen, severe vomiting and diarrhoea as well as blood loss.

Some of these signs and symptoms are fleeting and pass quickly while others persist and might indicate a serious underlying problem. Always have Rescue Remedy or Emergency Essence on hand, and if the animal isn’t settling, seek veterinary advice. There are a number of basic diagnostic tools to apply that will help you and your vet or vet nurse to assess how urgent veterinary input is in any given situation.

Heavy or rapid breathing are important indicators of pain or distress. Especially if the animal’s gums are blue or purple with abnormal breathing, they aren’t getting enough oxygen and they are likely to have damage to the respiratory system which might be in their lungs, circulation or red blood cells not transporting enough oxygen around.

If they’re having difficulty inhaling, the problem is probably in the upper airway but if it is difficulty exhaling then the lower airway is likely to be dis-eased or damaged. Pale gum colour might indicate shock or anaemia and red gums will indicate severe congestion or septicaemia.

A very valuable tool to indicate good circulation and hydration status is called the capillary refill time (CRT). Identify a part of the gum which is pink, ideally above the canine teeth. Use a thumb to press it briefly with some light pressure. It will momentarily turn white and should turn pink again within two seconds. If this time is delayed beyond this then there is likely to be a serious problem.

An animal’s core temperature is another valuable tool used to assess their status. A low temperature indicates poor circulation while a slightly high temperature may be an indicator of pain and a severely elevated temperature is likely to indicate major infection.

The heart rate is influenced by most of these factors and will be elevated with high temperature, rapid breathing and pain or stress. A persistently elevated or depressed heart rate with none of the above influences requires further investigation.

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First Aid for your Animal in an Emergency

Having an understanding of useful tools to apply to support an acute crisis or emergency, until veterinary attention is obtained can make a huge difference to the outcome in a critically injured animal.

The most important question to answer is “Is the animal stable?”. This means that they are breathing regularly and normally and the colour of their mucous membranes (gums in mouth, some animals have black areas of pigment making it difficult to assess) are pink, they are conscious and responsive, there’s no major pain or discomfort and there is no significant blood loss.

An unstable animal who doesn’t meet one or more of these criteria is very likely to need immediate care. Ideally phone ahead to the vet with an outline of the situation so they’re prepared and no time is wasted.

When an animal is unconscious or gasping and battling to breathe and their mucous membrane colour is white, purple or blue, check that their airway is clear. Pull their tongue forward out of their mouth and look for any obstruction such as a foreign object or vomit and clear it away or hold their head downward to help fluid to drain out.

If they are not breathing after you have cleared their airway then attempt to perform “mouth to nose” resuscitation by closing their mouth and breathing into their nostrils with just enough air to make their chest rise. Allow the air to be released and repeat every 10 seconds in larger dogs, and every 5 seconds in cats and small dogs.

An animal which is battling to breathe, despite a clear airway, is best positioned lying on their chest to allow their lungs to expand as easily as possible.

The next priority is to feel or listen for a heartbeat on the left side of the animal’s chest, just behind their elbow. If there is no heartbeat then position the animal on its side and begin to massage the heart by compressing it with gentle but firm pressure on either side of the ribcage rhythmically between breaths. Check for a heartbeat every minute and stop compressions once the heart has resumed beating.

There are three very useful acupuncture points to which you can apply pressure with your finger nail or a blunt object to assist with resuscitation. These points are in the middle of the nasal plane in line with the bottom of the nostrils, the tip of the tail and the middle of the main pad of the hind feet.

If there is an obvious site of bleeding, apply pressure with a dressing or tourniquet. For an obvious fracture, use a splint such as a stick or block of wood bandaged on to stabilize the limb and in the case of a suspected back injury, transport the animal on a solid stretcher to prevent movement.

Keep the animal warm and dose Emergency Essence or Rescue Remedy. A couple of drops may be applied to the inside of the lip every five minutes until the animal is stable. Generally this works well and it is also often useful for the owner to have some too!

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Flea Control, a Holistic Perspective

Fleas can be extremely harmful parasites. Not only do they cause a tremendous amount of irritation to their hosts but they are also responsible for flea allergy dermatitis, the transmission of other parasites such as tapeworm and Haemobartonella (outside of New Zealand, there are a number of other parasites they transmit) and they are capable of infesting young animals so severely that the amount of blood which they suck leaves these animals anaemic.

Fleas have evolved with their hosts for thousands and thousands of years and as with all parasites, it is virtually impossible to completely eradicate them. However, in any given population of animals, some individuals will have a greater flea burden than others indicating that some animals have qualities that make them less hospitable to these parasites. Some of these tendencies are genetic but an excessive flea burden is often an indication that an animal has a weakened immune system.

A healthy animal in a healthy and suitable environment (some breeds are not suited to the hot and humid climates in which they live) is unlikely to have an excessive parasite burden. From a Holistic point of view we question why the fleas are present on a specific individual and endeavour to re-establish balance so that natural harmony is restored and there isn’t an overpopulation of fleas.

There are a number of ways to reduce flea numbers. Firstly supporting your pet’s immune system with good nutrition will go a long way to making them less tasty to fleas. Vitamin B’s and garlic in particular are wonderful aids but be cautious with garlic as it can be toxic in excess to dogs and cats. Various herbs, essential oils and a citrus wash can be used externally as flea repellents and regular flea combing will help to monitor flea numbers and reduce them further.

Sometimes these gentle methods are not enough to deter fleas and the animal may benefit from other supportive therapies or might need the assistance of stronger commercial products which are exceptionally effective at killing fleas and have their place helping to preserve the quality of life of our pets. Some of these products are more toxic than others so use your discretion and seek your vet’s advice with which one to use.

Typically the number of fleas on any dog or cat is only the tip of the ice berg reflecting a much greater flea population in the animal’s environment of both adult and immature fleas. Therefore addressing the environment is a very important component of flea control.

Cedar, eucalyptus or pennyroyal oils on dogs’ bedding may be used to deter fleas but are toxic if ingested. Immature fleas can be destroyed by regularly hanging pet bedding out in the sunshine, thoroughly vacuuming carpets on a regular basis and sprinkling them with borax or diatomaceous earth afterwards.

By using a holistic approach to manage both animals and their environment, and by respecting natural principles, animals can be kept flea free and healthy.

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Gastro-intestinal upsets and what to do

As with any dis-ease, a gastro-intestinal tract (GIT) upset is the body’s way of saying that something is wrong. With vomiting and diarrhea, it’s generally nature’s way of cleansing out or ridding itself of something that is causing irritation or upset. Vomiting occurs when the disturbance is in the upper GIT, while diarrhea develops when it’s in the lower GIT.

There a number of reasons for GIT disturbances, some due to longer term (chronic) problems such as food intolerances, inflammatory bowel disease, worms, organ failures and others which occur more suddenly (acute) such as toxins or poison exposure, something being stuck such as a hairball, various infections both bacterial and viral, rotten food being eaten or even simple things such as stress or a sudden diet change, especially common in young kittens.

If your dog or cat is still relatively bright and the vomiting or diarrhea is not profuse, it may be possible to help to support their body and let it run its course. If your animal is collapsed, vomiting profusely, has blood coming out or is straining unsuccessfully then seek the advice of your vet as soon as possible.

Practical management of a GIT upset involves giving the GIT a rest, ensuring that the animal has sufficient fluids and salts, supporting the GIT to help toxins pass though and to allow for repair. If this does not work then there is likely to be a more complex underlying issue and further diagnostics or treatment would be warranted.

First and foremost ensure that your animal has sufficient fluid, with plenty of fresh water to prevent dehydration, as well as electrolytes (salts) and glucose which is especially important in very young animals whose glucose levels plummet very quickly. This can be in the form of a broth created by boiling up meat, rice and vegetables or a mixture of 4 cups of warm water and ¼ cup honey. In animals that aren’t drinking, this can be dripped in with a dropper or syringed in carefully by placing small amounts on the animals tongue and allowing it to swallow while it’s sitting or lying upright.

Slippery elm powder, kaolin and bismuth are wonderful internal poultices to help soothe and heal the inflamed GIT lining. Use 20-40mg of dried slippery elm per kilogram three times a day mixed in water or food. Alternately mix 1 teaspoon of powder in 1 cup of water and give kittens ¼ teaspoon, cats and small dogs 1 teaspoon, medium dogs 30 – 60ml and large dogs 90 – 120ml 3 times daily.

In adult animals allow 24 hours before giving any food to give the GIT a rest. Young pups and kittens require food much sooner; giving them a 4 – 12 hour fast depending on their condition should be sufficient. Commence with bland food such as boiled lean chicken, egg, cottage cheese and pasta or rice feeding 4 – 6 smaller meals through the day. Do this for 3 days and then gradually re-introduce their normal food.

Adding oat bran and probiotics from unsweetened acidophilus/lactobacillus yoghurt or commercial formulations will help to normalize bacterial flora in the GIT and minimize overgrowth of the “bad bugs”. Activated charcoal might also be useful if there are toxins present either from poisons or produced from the overgrowth of certain bacteria. Use 2 grams per kilogram daily.

Various homeopathics are also often useful and are best used under the guidance of a homeopath. Use either complex remedies or individual 30C potencies 4 hourly for 3 doses and if there’s no change then another remedy is usually indicated. In very acute cases, dose more frequently and then decrease the frequency to effect. Useful remedies are Nux Vomica for occasional vomiting, Arsenicum for vomiting and diarrhea where the animal is thirsty and Merc Cor for acute diarrhea.

In chronic conditions such as IBD, aloe vera juice is also beneficial to help improve digestion and normalize GIT function however ensure that it is not preserved with sodium benzoate or benzoic acid which is toxic to cats. A dose of 1ml per 5 kilograms daily is good support but be aware that it can also have a slight laxative effect.

For the management of longer term problems various nutritional programmes including optimal amounts of nutrients such as omega 3 fatty acids, as well as regular treatments with therapies such as NIS (Neurological Integration System), Acupuncture, homeopathy, Bowen therapy, etc. can help to make a marked difference.

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Holistic Vet Care following an Accident

Some of our most challenging cases are those that we encounter in a serious emergency. They require quick thinking, elegant action and masterful communication with the animal’s owner to succinctly explain the situation, gather enough information to help treat the animal effectively and to delicately handle the owner’s emotion, which might be extreme at times.

The immediate priority is stabilizing our patient. We ensure that they have an open airway, regular respiratory rate; their heart is beating rhythmically and regularly, their circulation isn’t compromised, by excessive bleeding or shock for example, and that they are not seizuring.

Various treatments are employed at this stage to aid with the above and support the animal. These might include intravenous fluids, drugs to support or control vital signs, positioning the animal appropriately, dosing specific homeopathic remedies, applying acupuncture and even various energy modalities such as Reiki.

Once we have a stable patient, and if it’s not obvious from the above examination, obtaining a diagnosis is the next important step. Often after an accident radiographs are very useful to identify fractures or other mechanical defects which might require specific surgical treatments. Other diagnostic tools might include running blood tests, analysing urine samples and muscle testing which can give an indication which areas need to be addressed.

A treatment plan is then devised, oriented at supporting the animal to ensure that healing takes place as quickly, comfortably and effectively as possible within the care and financial constraints of the owner. This allows for the integration of many diverse modalities.

To illustrate a case, I’d like to introduce you to “Fubu”, a friendly and exuberant 5 year old Boxer cross who impacted at high speed into a bank while chasing a possum leaving her unconscious and paralysed.

She was stabilised with intravenous fluids and dosed with pain killers and high doses of anti-oxidants such as Vitamin C and Proanthocyanidins as well as Vitamin B’s to help to support her nervous system. Complex homeopathics as well as Arnica and Hypericum were used in addition to Emergency Essence. We began therapy with NIS (Neurological Integration System), a highly effective and gentle way of re-establishing balance in the body. Radiographs were taken and revealed no fractures of her spine.

Fubu also underwent several sessions of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy which allowed for a high concentration of oxygen to be available through her body. This had profound anti-inflammatory effects on her spinal cord and encouraged accelerated healing.

Gradually Fubu showed improvement and after a few days she could again stand with the help of her extremely dedicated owner! Fubu’s owner helped her with weight bearing exercises to strengthen her muscles, massaged her body regularly which aided her circulation and also built her a trolley with wheels to help her move around which she loved!

Three months later, Fubu was running around the paddocks at home with only a remnant of nerve damage in her one leg which continued to heal. She regained full use of her leg and will hopefully remember to be careful when chasing possums!!

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Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy has been used in human medicine since the beginning of the 20th century. Based on sound scientific principles, it is now an accepted treatment modality, for several conditions including non-healing wounds, compromised skin grafts, infections, gas gangrene, traumatic injury, certain poisonings and burns. We are very pleased to offer this incredible healing aid, which promotes health and well-being in a stress free manner for our furry friends.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) basically means giving oxygen under pressure. This allows for a far greater amount of oxygen to be available to tissues in the body. Oxygen at optimal levels has profound anti-inflammatory effects; it helps to rid the body of infection both directly by killing certain bugs and indirectly by supporting the immune system and assists to accelerate healing, often dramatically!

Normally oxygen is carried by the red blood cells in the blood stream and at any given time in a normal human or animal breathing air (which has 21 % oxygen), approximately 96% of red blood cells are saturated with (carrying) oxygen. When breathing 100% pure oxygen instead of air, all red blood cells carry oxygen and deliver it to cells within reach of circulating blood vessels.

Under pressure in the chamber, like divers submerging under water, oxygen dissolves into all of the body fluid and tissues. This means that it is no longer dependent on the blood vessels and red blood cells for delivery and can easily reach important areas such as injury sites and the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) to which oxygen delivery might be compromised in an injured or diseased human or animal. The principle is the same as the bubbles in a fizzy drink which are dissolved when the bottle is closed under pressure but fizz out once the pressure is released when the bottle is opened.

HBOT allows for an increase of 12 – 15 times the normal oxygen concentration in the body and promotes natural healing and recovery.

HBOT may be suitable alone or in conjunction with conventional or other complementary therapies for animals with a range of conditions including:

  • Brain/nerve damage
  • Problem wounds such as burns, ulcers, gangrene and necrosis
  • Some aspects of neurological degeneration
  • Infectious conditions such as severe wound infection Acute iscaemic conditions
  • Post surgical swelling and recovery
  • Nerve damage Inflammatory conditions such as pancreatitis
  • Intervertebral disc herniation
  • Major systemic or local infections
  • Fracture healing
  • Severe skin and tissue damage

HBOT may be used in adjunct to most other veterinary or alternative treatment. Only animals that have certain kinds of ear, sinus or lung problems or are critically ill may not be able to be treated.

During HBOT the animal simply sits or lies down and relaxes in the chamber breathing pure oxygen while the chamber is pressurised. A treatment session lasts 1 to 2 hours and animals tolerate it well and typically respond beautifully to as little as 1 to 5 treatment sessions depending on their individual needs.

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Keeping tails wagging with NIS (Neurological Integration System)

There are a great variety of ailments that animals present with. These include infections, overuse injuries, traumatic wounds, metabolic conditions, degenerative diseases, allergies, autoimmune problems and poisonings.

For any condition there are a number of effective solutions that we make use of to relieve pain, combat infection, assist with inflammation and accelerate healing. Often for optimal healing, a variety of modalities, which complement each other, are employed to streamline the healing process and generally with complementary therapies they work by supporting and guiding the body back into a healthy and balanced state.

One of the tools that we employ is the Neurological Integration System, NIS, which is a highly effective, gentle way of re-establishing balance in the body and aids in the healing of many conditions.

NIS has been developed as a healthcare system (at the Neurolink centre) primarily for humans, taking into consideration acupuncture meridians, principles from other healing modalities and the body’s inherent healing wisdom. It works on the premise that the body has a remarkable capacity to heal itself. When this healing ability is impeded and dis-ease is present, NIS views this as a failure of the body to recognise the problem and institute its incredible restorative capacity to self heal.

A useful analogy is to consider a light being switched on at the wall. If there is a break in the circuit between the light and the switch, then the light simply won’t light up when the switch is flicked. But if the circuitry is functional, then with just one flick of the switch – “Hey Presto”, there’s light!

Similarly, if all of the body’s circuits are functional, then the manifestation of dis-ease is not likely as all healing systems will be in place and working as they should to ensure the early recognition of any imbalance which will bring about restorative processes to ensure that health is maintained.

With a series of muscle tests, NIS identifies which of these circuits are malfunctioning and allows us some insight into establishing a reason behind the animal’s discomfort.

We then proceed to integrate the circuits of the body and thereby re-establish their working capability. The body then works wonders in its efficient and elegant manner to relieve pain and to restore health.

A NIS session can take ten to forty minutes depending on the severity of the animal’s illness. Animals usually relax during NIS and generally respond well after just one session. Results are sometimes immediate and occasionally miraculous but when you know what the magician knows, it’s no longer magic!

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Holistic Animal Health Care

Approaching health holistically, we as practitioners recognize the tremendous inherent healing ability of the body. We have a deep trust in the body’s capacity to heal itself and we assist by gently guiding and supporting this remarkable faculty. Because of this, alternative therapies are not dependent on a diagnosis to be effective, although this is often helpful.

Conventional veterinary medicine works with the logical scientific process of deduction to diagnose a problem and apply specific medicines or surgical procedures to resolve the root of the problem, where this is possible, or to alleviate symptoms thereby giving the body time to bounce back. It is highly effective and often life saving for severe infections, trauma and many other conditions but has its limitations in the realm of some degenerative diseases.

Most importantly, vets are highly trained and exceptionally capable of monitoring an animal’s quality of life and predicting the likely outcome of a set of symptoms. When an animal owner elects to treat their animal with alternative therapies, it is wise to have veterinary input in this area, especially if they are not responding well and their quality of life is deteriorating.

As health care professionals, the tools that we employ are diverse and address the dis-ease process from different angles. It is important to understand that there are many approaches to health care and to respect this principle and prioritize the health and well being of our animals.

Used hand in hand, conventional medicine and alternative therapies complement each other extremely well and when used appropriately this balanced approach ensures that animals are treated in the most effective and least invasive way possible to obtain and sustain long term optimal health.

There are many correct ways of doing things and to hit this point home, I’ll close off with one of my favourite quotes:

“It’s an important and popular fact that things are not always what they seem. For instance, on planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much…. Whilst all dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man – for precisely the same reason.”Douglas Adams

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Rearing Healthy Foals, Kittens and Pups

Watching young animals grow and develop, learn, play and interact is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Ensuring the health of an animal during these formative stages will help to set a solid foundation which will serve them in maintaining long term health and wellbeing as adults.

It all begins with the animal’s parents whose genetic material is mixed to produce their offspring. Parents who are healthy (good genetics, are managed well and receive optimal nutrition) are likely to have a smooth birth process and produce healthy young with no congenital abnormalities and properly functioning immune systems.

Dystocia (difficult birth) can weaken young animals and deprive them of valuable oxygen which can cause damage to the brain and other organs. Cats and horses generally deliver their young with few complications while dogs more commonly encounter difficulty. It is important to closely monitor and observe the process helping to provide a calm and quiet environment for birth and be ready to act at the first sign of a problem.

Signs of dystocia may include extended periods of straining unproductively and abnormal discharge (green, black or has large amounts of blood) from the mother’s birth canal.

The newly born animal (neonate) is surrounded in a foetal membrane and makes its way through the birth canal with its front legs presented first followed by its head and back end. If it is presented otherwise, it is likely to require assistance as soon as possible.

Once the young animal is delivered, its mother will usually lick it. This is an important part of their bonding process and also helps to clear the neonate’s airway and stimulate it to breathe. Breathing must resume within the first minute delivery. If not, clear their airway and briskly rub pups and kittens and massage foals with a towel. Should this fail, mouth to nostril inflation of the lungs is helpful, but take care not to over inflate the lungs. The umbilical cord is an open passage for bacteria to enter the bloodstream so it is good practice to disinfect the stump with an antiseptic solution, especially in foals.

Pups and kittens are born with their eyes closed and crawl around feeling their way while foals have open eyes and are usually standing up within an hour after birth. A healthy neonate is active after birth and seeks the udder or teat of their mother.

The next important ingredient for the development of a healthy immune system is colostrum, the first milk of the mother, which is worth its weight in gold. Colostrum is packed full of antibodies to protect the neonate from infection and is energy rich giving vitality. It is of utmost importance that the neonate receives a good feed of colostrum between 1 hour and 12 hours after birth.

Besides for infection due to poor immunity from lack of colostrum, the biggest easily preventable killers of young animals are hypothermia (low body heat) and hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar levels). These leave young animals severely debilitated promptly leading to a vicious cycle of dehydration, further weakness and death.

Fortunately this cycle is usually easy to reverse with good nursing care and providing there are no other abnormalities young animals bounce back beautifully which is always a very rewarding and gratifying experience.

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Optimum Nutrition for Great Health

We all want our pets to be fit and healthy, to perform to their optimal potential and to have an excellent quality of life.

Good nutrition is fundamentally important to help your animal to stay healthy as it provides the basic building blocks that their body needs to function at its best.

When a diet is poor and then changed to include wholesome, well balanced foods, animals (and humans!) show a remarkable improvement in their condition, their working performance is enhanced and often, chronic ongoing health problems begin to resolve.

Many years ago our modern processed diets began to replace the healthy meals that we used to eat. Because our pets used to eat our table scraps, their diets became imbalanced and vets used to see frequent cases of nutritional deficiency diseases such as rickets.

Commercial foods were created and balanced these components helping to make up for these severe deficiencies. Subsequently nutritional deficiency diseases are no longer common place.

However, many commercial foods do not have optimal amounts of valuable essential fats, vitamins and anti-oxidants that are tremendously important for a healthy skin and coat, flexible and smooth joints and a fully functional immune system. In addition to this, some of these foods contain poor quality ingredients and often high amounts of chemical preservatives which may be detrimental to the long term health and performance of your pet.

As is the trend in human medicine, presently our pets are faced more frequently with a set of dis-eases called degenerative diseases. These include conditions such as allergies, arthritis, heart disease, cancers and auto-immune dis-ease. What we feed our pets plays a great role in the development and management of these conditions.

Like us, animals benefit greatly from food that is wholesome, natural and unprocessed. These foods are easily digested and used by their bodies and have high amounts of important vitamins, antioxidants as well as essential fatty acids. They are also easy to prepare.

An ideal diet for dogs and cats includes raw meat, ideally from animals which have been well nourished and raised in a wholesome environment. Meat should be free of chemicals and preservatives and contain optimal amounts of nutrients.

Nature knows best and feeding our pets with food that their bodies have evolved to eat over thousands of years will help to ensure that we are rewarded by our loyal friends living long and happy lives.

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Omega 3’s Health benefits

As with humans, our animals need optimal amounts of various nutrients to stay healthy and to perform at their best. Omega 3 fatty acids, which are found in high quantities in flax oil and fish oil, are of utmost importance for normal function.

Omega 3 fatty acids are easily damaged by exposure to excessive heat, air and light, which causes them to lose their therapeutic effect and become rancid. Animals that eat processed food are likely to be deficient in these fats. Further to this, exposure to environmental pollution uses up antioxidants that normally protect and preserve omega-3 fatty acids in the body.

Omegas 3’s are used by the body for a variety of functions. Some indications that animals might be deficient include a dry coat, flaky skin, stiff joints, cracked claws, poor reproductive performance, temperamental behaviour, fatigue, slow recovery and lowered immunity.

These beneficial fats help to increase oxygenation, which is the supply of oxygen to cells. This is very important for just about every bodily function and can help to increase performance and to markedly improve recovery from strenuous exercise. The higher levels of oxygen also make it difficult for infections to develop.

Another tremendously valuable attribute of these fats is their anti-inflammatory properties which makes them exceptionally helpful for conditions such as allergies, asthma and other inflammatory conditions like arthritis. In addition to this they also help to cushion the joints, bringing tremendous relief to many animals with sore and stiff joints within days.

Omegas 3’s are a very important component of the cell membrane. Nutrients are transported into the body’s cells and waste products out of the cells via the surrounding cell membrane. If the cell membrane has poor structure, this can’t happen efficiently and cells become damaged.

Animals which consume optimal amounts of omega 3’s have good cell membrane structure which gives them shiny coats and an added barrier of protection to their skin. Omegas 3’s are extraordinarily effective at helping with eczema, skin allergies and cracked nails.

The normal development and function of the brain and nervous system as well as the production of many hormones, especially those associated with the reproductive cycle are dependent on omega 3 fatty acids. Animals who are cycling poorly or who have temperamental and nervous behaviour are likely to benefit from these fats too. Obese animals will also be aided by the assistance that omega 3’s provide in burning body fat.

Supplementing an animal’s diet with omega 3 fatty acids has major health benefits for our animals and will usually work wonders to support their health.

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Sustainable Healthcare

It’s becoming common place these days for people and businesses to become environmentally responsible and minimize the impact that they make on nature. Sustainability is a vastly important factor in the way that we all conduct our activities if we are to provide future generations with a healthy planet.

As vets, we have an added responsibility to consistently review and refine our practices so that the healthcare of our patients encourages their long-term health and well-being, as opposed to simply treating and managing symptoms.

One of the greatest investments that an animal owner can make toward their animal’s health is to provide good quality nutrition. Vets have come to rely on various commercial foods to provide the balance that science has carefully evolved to ensure that all the nutrients we know to be important for health are included in the correct quantities. There are advantages to this, especially when we can’t be sure that an animal owner will feed the correct nutrients and their dog develops rickets for example.

However, with more and more people recognizing the impact of poor nutrition on their own health and becoming acutely aware and responsible about what they eat, there has been a resurgence in understanding what incredible value there is in eating food that is fresh and wholesome. With this insight – and in many cases a need to economize – many people have begun to grow their own food again and even schools have instituted programs where children learn to grow fruit and vegetable gardens.

Animal owners are also beginning to think about what their pets consume and what has evolved is a remarkable transformation where people see the immense importance of natural goodness – a quality which can’t be easily understood or quantified by science and has thus been overlooked for many years.

During this time we have seen more and more health conditions in our domestic animals which are multifactorial in nature and are very difficult to cure with traditional methods, i.e. allergies, cancers, auto-immune conditions, resistant infections, etc. As vets, our strategies for treating these conditions have been aimed at managing symptoms and in many cases prescribing drugs to help alleviate the negative effects of medications that the animal becomes dependent on.

There are times where we end up between a rock and a hard place – for example, a dog with auto-immune disease that is treated with immuno-suppressive drugs acquires a urinary tract infection only sensitive to an anti-biotic such as gentamycin and then develops drug induced renal failure. Our striving as scientists to quantify and qualify, manipulate and control natural systems ultimately brings us to a point of no return, a place where our healthcare systems for many health conditions from which our animal patients suffer, are not sustainable.

With our background of scientific dogma it can be difficult to take a step back and give credence to the body’s inherent healing wisdom and to revere natural balance. We need to remember that veterinary practice is not just about science but also about the art of healing. As health professionals providing value to our clients and working toward the well-being of our patients, we need to move even more from merely treating disease to a discipline of healing and prevention.

Mounting evidence and my experience with these difficult cases in clinical practice suggest that a substantial contributing factor is what our animals eat. The presence of chemicals and preservatives as well as fillers and a deficiency of optimal amounts of vitally important nutrients such as omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins and anti-oxidants play a large role in the development and progression of most of the disease conditions that prevail today.

It never ceases to amaze me that when the body gets the nutrients that it needs, it works wonders to restore health. When an animal’s diet is changed to include natural (wholesome and with optimal amounts of bioavailable nutrients) well balanced foods, animals generally show a remarkable improvement in their condition, their working performance is enhanced, and often, chronic ongoing health problems begin to resolve.

Our clients are increasingly aware of this and additionally they are prepared to take the time and energy to invest the love and care required to feed their animals with food that is nutritious and full of natural goodness. They are reliant on us as vets to give them quality information and to assist them in supporting their animal’s optimal health and sustained well-being.

Guiding animal owners in this direction need not be laborious. An ideal diet for dogs and cats includes raw meat, ideally from animals which have been well nourished and raised in a wholesome environment. Meat should be free of chemicals and preservatives and contain optimal amounts of nutrients. Meat should be fresh, pre frozen or air dried to minimize the risk of disease from pathogens. Cats and dogs however, have a greater tolerance for organisms such as salmonella and E.coli than humans, especially if they have healthy immune systems (which of course are supported by the quality of nutrients which they consume). Additional components include plant matter to simulate the gut content of prey consumed in the wild which contains phytonutrients, vitamins and other nutritive substances important for vitality.

Encouraging the use of unprocessed food, farmed as naturally as possible, assists in embracing a culture of environmental sustainability and also reduces our impact on the planet.

Nature knows best and by respecting natural principles, feeding our animals with food that their bodies have evolved to eat over thousands of years, we will not only help to ensure that we are rewarded by our loyal friends living long and happy lives but we will also have peace of mind knowing that we are contributing to the well-being of our environment and helping to sustain a healthier planet.

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To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate . . . ?

This is a question that many have difficulty answering given the diverse points of view floating around.

Research has shown that vaccines have a much longer term of effectiveness against disease than previously thought. Subsequently, recommendations on the frequency of vaccination for our dogs and cats have changed and many of them no longer require annual boosters.

A vaccination is a means of giving the body a much less severe form of a disease than it could potentially contract. This primes the immune system to be prepared for the disease thus enabling the body to mount an effective enough defence that the animal doesn’t become severely ill when exposed to the real thing.

Any vaccine is only as good as the host’s response to it and this requires an animal to have a healthy immune system. This is a big reason why vaccines sometimes fail to provide immunity.

Further to this, although we can do antibody titre tests to get an idea, it is very difficult to accurately quantify how well a vaccination has worked or how protected an animal is against any given disease. For this reason predicting the best vaccination protocol is an educated guess and previously most vet’s best guess was to use these vaccines annually as suggested by vaccine manufacturers, whose label recommendations we are obliged to adhere to.

Currently not all vaccine manufacturers have changed the label claims on their vaccines to allow for longer duration of immunity. Vaccine manufacturers that have adapted their protocols for dogs and cats now recommend initial puppy and kitten vaccination followed by a booster one to three years later and then three yearly boosters of the core diseases that we vaccinate against. These are parvovirus, distemper, hepatitis and parainfluenza for dogs and calici (rhinotracheitis), herpes and panleukopenia viruses for cats.

As with any medication, there are potential negative effects associated with vaccines such as vaccine reactions. There is also evidence that over vaccination contributes to the development of autoimmune conditions and other degenerative diseases.

Homeopathic vaccines are available but don’t carry the scientific weight that our conventional vaccines do in terms of efficacy, however negative reactions to these gentle remedies aren’t an issue.

From a holistic point of view, the best support that we can give our animals’ immune system is to nourish them properly, live cleanly and respect the environment that we live in. Vaccination has its place, but each animal needs to be assessed individually. Their owners must be educated on the benefits of a vaccination protocol versus potential negatives. Pet owners should then come to an informed decision that they’re comfortable with and ideally have the support of their vet.

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Infections and Immune Support

Bugs such as bacteria and viruses as well as parasites such as fleas and worms are common in the lives of our animals and in fact, many of these unwanted residents live normally on or in the bodies of our animals.

With any infection, there are two main factors allowing for progression. Firstly, the susceptibility of the host (animal,) and secondly, the virulence (ability to cause disease) of the bug. Whilst there are some infections where the bug is extremely virulent, more commonly these days we see infections that arise from bugs which are common residents. This has a huge amount to do with the immune systems of our animals not coping as well as they should.

From a Holistic Viewpoint, the presence of an infection is the tip of the iceberg, underlying this is the big question of why is the body out of balance and not managing to maintain health so that it naturally repels bugs and parasites.

Stress of any kind will impair the body’s ability to heal and limit an animal’s general vitality. Limiting stress by avoiding stressful situations such as overcrowding or adverse weather conditions and making use of remedies such as Emergency Essence or Rescue Remedy will go a long way to supporting the immune system indirectly.

To allow for the body’s inherent healing wisdom to function optimally and do what it does best (heal!), there are three main tiers from which it draws its resources. Firstly nutrition, providing the good fuel, secondly the healing mechanism must be running smoothly, and thirdly the presence of toxins will act as “spokes in the wheel” of healing. An analogy would be running a car; you may put in all the best fuel but if the engine is faulty or it is clogged up with waste then it won’t run smoothly or go at all.

As always, good nutrition of as much raw, natural food as possible that is free of chemicals and preservatives as well as high in optimal amounts of nutrients such as omega 3 fatty acids and anti-oxidants can make a huge difference to the body’s ability to naturally combat infection.

Extra nutrients such as Vitamin C and Grapeseed extract are superb at helping to boost the body’s defences as well as mop up damage caused by free radicals (which cause cell damage) and thereby allow the body’s resources to be freed up to support healing and maintain health. Intra-venous vitamin C, used by your vet can work wonders to assist in severe infection.

Herbs such as Golden Seal and Garlic have superb anti-microbial properties and Echinacea used as a preventative aid for a week or two at a time can work wonders to help ward off infections.

Homeopathy is also a wonderful tool and is best used under the guidance of a qualified homeopath for an individual’s specific requirements. However, complex formulations can be easily applied in high risk situations such as in catteries or kennels to assist in preventing infection.

Therapies such as Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, NIS, Bowen Therapy, Acupuncture, Massage and many more can also be very supportive tools to assist the body’s natural defences.

All in all, and as usual, by respecting natural principles, infections may be easily prevented and resolved adding quality of life and increasing longevity.

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Developed by the Chinese more than 4000 years ago, acupuncture uses tiny needles to stimulate the nervous system. Acupuncture is based on the theory that blockages in the body’s systems result in imbalances causing disease and pain. The small needles used stimulate blood flow, nerve conduction, relieve muscle spasm, and release hormones, like endorphins, to heal the body and alleviate pain. Acupuncture is not necessarily a “cure-all”, but can work very well on its own, or when combined with traditional veterinary medicine.

For health and wellbeing, Acupuncture is a suitable supportive treatment or adjunct treatment to use for animals with a variety of conditions including:

  • Pain: acute, chronic, age-related, arthritis, hip dysplasia
  • Gastrointestinal disorders: IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease), megacolon, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Respiratory problems: asthma
  • Dermatological problems: allergies, ear infections, self-mutilation, lick granulomas
  • Musculoskeletal disorders: lameness, tendonitis, back pain, arthritis
  • Neurological problems: intervertebral disc disease, paralysis, paresis, seizures
  • Behaviour problems: fear, anxiety, aggression
  • Urinary problems: chronic cystitis, incontinence

When administered by a qualified practitioner, acupuncture is extremely safe. The single use needles are made of surgical grade stainless steel. The needles are tiny and most animals tolerate them quite nicely, with the release of the body’s biochemicals, some even fall asleep during the treatment. The sessions can last anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. Acute conditions may respond to one treatment. Chronic conditions will likely need more than one treatment. Once the optimum response is achieved, the treatment interval is extended to the maximum amount of symptom free time that elapses between treatments.

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Veterinary chiropractic or spinal manual therapy involves adjustment of subluxations in the spinal column, extremity joints, and skull. Subluxations are mechanical abnormalities that restrict normal motion and can cause pain and dysfunction.

An adjustment involves a short lever, high velocity controlled thrust that is directed at a specific joint to correct a subluxation. This restores function and relieves pain. It is mainly used to treat musculoskeletal conditions but can aid in maintaining general health and vitality.

Chiropractics can be a great benefit to our animal athletes improving flexibility, reducing the risk of further injury, and improving performance but is also very helpful for any animal with painful spinal trouble and some other health issues like tummy problems and urinary incontinence.

Chiropractics may be suitable as supportive or adjunctive treatment for use with animals with a range of conditions including:

  • Spinal pain: neck, back, tail, legs
  • Oral problems: TMJ (Tempero-Mandibular Joint) problems causing jaw pain and difficulty chewing
  • Disc problems, joint problems, limping
  • Trauma: injuries from slips, falls, jumps, accidents
  • Sports injuries: fly-ball, agility, hunting
  • Muscle spasms
  • Seizures
  • Problems seemingly unrelated to the spine: bowel, bladder, and internal medicine conditions

Chiropractics may be recommended for problems found at your pet’s annual physical check up. For new problems, a complete history is taken and a thorough physical examination performed, sometimes radiographs (X-rays) are needed. The examination consists of posture and gait analysis, static palpation, motion palpation, orthopedic and neurological examinations. A diagnosis will be made and a treatment plan instituted. Many patients improve with one treatment, and some may need a few more. Many patients benefit from chiropractic care a few times a year for preventive maintenance, this is especially helpful for sporting and working dogs and horses where performance is measureable. To assist with maintenance and help to prevent further problems, home exercises may be prescribed.

Animals usually enjoy the treatment, and especially the end result which usually leaves them a lot more comfortable and pain free.

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