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Dog Osteopathy

 

In my endless search for a diagnosis, or just relief of my physical symptoms, I’ve been to cardiologists, pulmonologists, endocrinologists, rheumatologists and neurologists; there have been all sorts of medications, and physical therapy, and vision therapy, and massage, and acupuncture, and yoga. After this summer’s adventure with the lumbar puncture and anti-seizure drugs, Mom decided I should try osteopathic manipulation – just because.

The first appointment with the osteopath was a history taking marathon. She took endless notes on her pieces of paper, with all of the words going in different directions, with arrows and circles and overlaps.    She took height and weight and blood pressure, and then examined my eyes, and mouth, and reflexes. I kept hoping that all of these examinations would lead to some new understanding of why I have trouble walking, or why I have terrible headaches, or why I’m so exhausted, but she just kept asking more questions.

I had to come back the next day for the rest of the first visit, so that she could check my alignment. She poked at my shoulders, and shoulder blades, and hips, and ankles, to see if they matched up or were out of whack. My shoulder blades seemed especially fascinating.

Then I had to lie down so she could check everything again: hips, pelvis, ankles, and knees, and who knows what else had to be marked on a body map. And then the lights were turned off and the magic table lifted up and the power in the whole building went out. I wasn’t sure if it was a good sign or a bad one: either I brought my bad luck with me into the building, or I was so powerful that I could disrupt electrical currents. The doctor didn’t mind the extra darkness; she just went on searching out different points on my body, and pressing them, and swaying.

There was one spot on my upper back that made my stomach grumble, which was interesting, at least to me.

The doctor spent a lot of time on my neck and head, pulling and pressing and doing different hand formations, stretching skin on my nose and across my jaw and on my forehead. It was a bit woo woo for me, actually, but I seem to be willing to try just about anything.

I didn’t actually feel better when the treatment was over. My head still hurt, my body ached, and I didn’t walk very well. If anything, I was more exhausted afterwards, and I felt like my Serotonin stores had been depleted by all of the pressing and poking. But I kept going back.

After a few treatments, I started trying to reenact the work on Cricket. I would press on either side of her spine, locate tension, and mark where her shoulder blades and ribs and tail bone were. I worked on her jaw and cheeks and ears and neck. I don’t know if it helped, but she liked the attention and she yawned when an especially tense point relaxed. I kept hoping I’d find a hidden spot between her ribs, or below her ear, that would make all of her anxiety slip away.

Cricket is ready for her treatment. Ducky too.

Cricket is ready for her treatment. Ducky too.

I asked the doctor if I could bring Cricket in for a professional treatment, but she said her bosses would frown on it. As if dogs are germier than people. Cricket keeps herself very clean, and she’s got hypoallergenic hair, and she really does need help balancing her chi.

Cricket is always tied up in knots.

Cricket is always tied up in knots.

It’s possible that Cricket, the runt of her litter, never finished building up her nervous system. Maybe there are too many nerve bundles close to her skin, or glitches in her back legs, from the two knee surgeries she had as a little one. Maybe some of her nerves knotted up during the surgeries and clogged her messaging system.

She seems to need a lot of work on her throat, where all of the barking comes from, and her neck, where she tries to pull out of her collar, and her face is especially tense, from all of those frowning and growling muscles.

Spinal balancing?

Spinal balancing?

I tried the homemade treatments on Butterfly too, and it made me even more aware of how different their skeletons are; the shape of their shoulder blades and rib cages, the placement of muscles, and where they store tension. Butterfly needs special attention to her heart center, which on her is a wide expanse under her collar. She has a prolapsed heart valve, but she’s not on medication yet. She goes in for echocardiograms every six months to make sure things don’t get worse. But she also uses her heart so much every day, offering sympathy, expressing love, and wishing everyone well; that’s the muscle in her body that gets the biggest workout.

Butterfly showing her heart center, and her tongue.

Butterfly showing her heart center, and her tongue.

Butterfly, after treatment.

Butterfly, after treatment.

Butterfly has been very patient with her treatments. Meanwhile, Cricket has been standing on my chest, demanding more and more osteopathy while I’m trying to read, or sleep, or hide under the covers. I started out wanting to help rewire her nervous system, but I think I may have created a monster.

"More!"

“More!”

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About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

87 responses »

  1. Osteopaths sound a bit witch-doctor-y. Did it help? Evidently whatever that doctor did translated to dogs well! My son gave me a book on dog massage. Lily especially likes her neck and hips rubbed!

    Reply
    • I’ve actually been feeling better recently, but I don’t know if it’s related to the osteopathic treatments. There’s something powerful about having someone pay close attention to just you for an hour, though, so maybe it really is helping. Cricket has always known the power of being the center of attention; she finds it upsetting when someone else gets the attention that should be going to her.

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  2. I was saying “you’ve created a monster” milliseconds before I read the same sentiment in the last sentence.

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  3. Glad you are feeling a little better….more important, the dogs are getting the extra attention. Hehe. 😉

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  4. Hope you feel better soon. Canine massage could perhaps be a lucrative sideline?

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  5. I massage BabyGirl and Midnight and BabyGirl makes i like that noises when I massage the right spots!

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    • Massage is one of the few times when Cricket isn’t making a lot of barky noise, maybe that’s why I’m willing to do so much of it on her.

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      • BabyGirl is 9 and had tore the ligaments in her hind legs. She uses her front legs to compensate so I massage her front legs longer and she just loves it.

      • After Cricket’s knee surgeries I learned a lot about physical therapy for dogs, especially how to help her healthy back leg not tighten up too much from the extra work required of it. She wasn’t a huge fan of it at the time, but it really worked.

  6. So you bring home osteopathic techniques to try on the pups? I bet they will be hard to find when you return from the next visit to the gynecologist. I kid, I kid. Dogs seem to love all sorts of massage and manipulations, stretching and compressions.

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  7. I so look forward to your posts! That last picture of Cricket (More!) made me laugh so hard. Oh, yes. I could see her telling the doctor, “Doc, nothing’s working. I need more.” More…of anything. She is one funny little puppy. Gosh, Rachel, I hope this doc can give you some relief.

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    • I think Cricket might actually look forward to going to the vet if there were going to be osteopathic treatments. Though the echoes of crying puppies seems to fill the vet’s office eternally.

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  8. I’m glad you’re feeling relief, no matter why. The vets we go to include alternative treatments like acupuncture, herbs, massage, and other modalities. Both our dogs are on Chinese herbs that are making a big difference in their lives. I’m glad the massages are helping your furbabies!

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  9. Butterfly showing her heart center and Cricket smiling on your chest… very cute. Glad it’s helping. 🙂

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  10. Cricket, this osteopathy isn’t food. You want more osteopathy, but priorities are necessary.

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  11. I hope she gets better soon.

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  12. I have a friend who is a massage therapist. She branched out a few years ago after starting to work on her arthritic Staffie (he’s just turned 16) and now works on dogs, cats and even horses, all of whom have suffered trauma of some sort.
    Your own situation sounds dire! I really hope you find a solution soon. Perhaps, because it seems to be working, this treatment will be the answer if you persevere?

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  13. P.S. I love the more! picture (I love them all but that’s my favourite) 🙂

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  14. I saw an Osteopath once, who rolled me on the floor, then yanked the top half of me in one direction and the bottom half in the other AT THE SAME TIME. There was an almighty crunch, but at least I walked out upright. It didn’t last, and I ended up having a course of treatment from a chiropractor instead. I lost confidence when I came out in more pain than I started, and a bruised shoulder where she had pushed and prodded the muscles too hard. Turns out I have arthritis in my back and a notch where I shouldn’t have. Having lost so much weight now, I don’ t suffer half as much as I did, but the cold weather doesn’t help.
    Dogs love the attention though don’t they, and sometimes they are better mentally than any pain killer.

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    • It’s amazing how big a difference there is between one doctor and another in the same discipline. I get grumpy about how much my health depends on luck. But the girls are loving their new massages, so they figure it’s all good.

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  15. Rachel, I just love how you connect between your life and the dogs and how you write about it. But I am sorry you suffer so much and wish you better health in the new year! And you didn’t write: does this treatment help any in the long run?

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    • It’s hard to tell if it’s helping me. I’ve been feeling better recently, so maybe it’s doing something. Fingers crossed. And thank you, so much, for keeping up with me and the girls!

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  16. Stop messing about and look up paleo diets – get off gluten and all the horrid “new foods” – make things yourself…I’m speaking from experience – my husband had a headache every single day of his working life until he learned about how to eat – I can’t tell you what it is you must eat, the doctors can’t tell you either, but you can find out, by trial and error (the internet is a wonderful thing) – but for sure, get off the crap sold in shops, healthstores etc…we now hardly know where to find a headache tablet in the house – and our dogs are much happier since we learned to feed them meat too – all the aches and pains in the big dogs (like Alsatians) go away when you return them to eating meat only…

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  17. wow that is alot of work hope you are better soon

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  18. I wonder if you know FMTV (food matters tv)? It’s a place on the internet, where the couple James Colquhoun & Laurentine ten Bosch collect inspirational movies and films about the power of the food we eat.
    Some years ago James’ father became very sick, and James and Laurentine began to study their possibilities, and they were able to help James’ father.
    Since then they opened their homepage http://www.fmtv.com, and I think,they are into something really important and provide a great service to all of us. You can watch all there is on their site for only 7 dollars a month. Start by watching the movie Foodmatters and food matters mastery.
    I hope you can find some help here.

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  19. There is a woman who loves near me that practices with “energy fields” you can read about her here http://energydialogues.com/about/about-phyllis-krug/ I used to think it was all crazy, but not so much anymore as she has proven in some cases it does help. Here is a link to an article about one of her cases http://www.jewishlinkbc.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=5051:energy-talk-for-dummies&catid=158:health&Itemid=570
    My dog used to love having the area right above his tail massaged- he would drift off into a neverland expression 🙂

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  20. I too hope you feel better soon. Who is to say what will be the magic treatment for you. I know you can’t until you’ve tried? I love cricket and butterfly. Our pups bring us a lot of joy!

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  21. I have all sorts of spinal issues and of all the stuff I have tried — I got huge relief from an osteopath. I had like 3 pain free days with a happy outlook — but alas, it was a distance to get to him and expensive. I hope you find your solutions — but in the meantime, it is nice that you are sharing your new experiences with the kids! Sounds like you have a healing touch.

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  22. I wish that the osteopathy would have worked for you 🙂 I read that dogs respond very favorably to massage, I can see Cricket and Buterfly succombing to the joy of massage while you lovingly and painstakingly massage every joint and muscle on their little body’s. You are such a wonderful mother!

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  23. I was going to give this a go until I saw the shot of Cricket turning Diva…lol…fascinating theory and definitely worth looking into…Love butterfly’s tongue….making her own statement…lol

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  24. Oh my goodness what a cute monster though! Hope if not this, then something else comes up and you feel better soon!

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  25. Sound as though this is a healing form of attention. Best of luck for all of you. 🙂

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  26. Your dogs are absolutely gorgeous!

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  27. Farley (wheaten terrier) loves a full body massage. He seems to relax if I did deep into his muscles and he’s usually deep breathing by the time I’m finished. I went to a dog first aid course and at the end the woman spoke about the importance of massaging dogs, so I tried it. Now, I have no idea what I’m doing, but Farley seems happy. I hope you feel better too.

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  28. Yep. I also created a monster. I rescued a dog from the streets, where you’d think she would have learnt to eat anything. Now, if something doesn’t meet up to her expectations, she looks at me as if to say ‘you’re feeding me this?’.

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    • When Butterfly first came home she would only eat dog food, no chicken treats, no cheese, no nothing. Cricket has changed all of that, to her great dismay. Now they have to fight over the treats.

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  29. I taught at an osteopathic medical school for a bit. It’s not related to acupuncture and the idea of chi and energy points. It is different from chiropody because it is not concerned about left-right balance. One person developed the idea in the late 1800s. I don’t understand the theory behind osteopathic musculoskeletal manipulation, which is designed to change muscle tension and move the muscles a tiny bit in order to decrease pressure on nerves, blood vessels, and lymph systems.

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  30. More, Mommy! More! How sweet that you do these treatments for your girls. They are so lucky to have you, Rachel. Big hugs from Bailey and me!

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  31. I once owned a big Old English sheepdog that suffered terribly from PTSD after having been in an abusive former life and found that Reiki worked wonders for his anxiety. Though it’s probably not similar to osteopathy it helped treat Finn with his condition. And I know it helped me as well in terms of pain management.

    You are such a good dog-mommy. Cricket and Butterfly are so lucky you’re taking such good care of them. ❤

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    • Thank you! Dogs are such good candidates for any kind of physical therapy/energy therapy. There’s something about their electrical and magnetic field sensitivity and their sensitivity to touch that comes to together and works wonders. They have so much to teach us!

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  32. Looks like you’ve got healing hands, where animals are concerned. Dogs love being massaged and seem to respond better than humans to this sort of treatment.
    I remember going to an osteopath in my late twenties because I was tired all the time – he said I was really uptight and needed to release sexual energy. I had two very ill-advised affairs following his treatment, for which I will always blame him! Needless to say, I never went back. I still haven’t discovered the magic cure for chronic tiredness.

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  33. What lucky dogs…! Mind you, I get a massage every morning up & down my spine, ending with lovely neck scritchies….

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  34. What a great story Rachel! I’m happy you’re feeling better and extend the treatments to your little ones as well 🙂

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  35. My 12-year-old Mocha has had a year of debilitating pain due to sciatica. With the help of acupuncture and chiropractic treatment, she’s considerably better. She will probably never be the same…her foot still buckles under her weight once-in-awhile, but for the most part she still gets around, albeit a little more tentatively at times. If she could weigh in, I’m sure she’d say she’s glad we sought other options to…just giving up on her.

    I seek alternative health treatment for my arthritis and fibromyalgia. I’ve been healthier for it. So I decided that my little friend Mocha needed the same help. She and I are happier for it. So happy your little friend is also. hugs…

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  36. Yes, you have created a monster…a cutie pattootie monster, at that!!!! Giggles…Trev and I send you well wishes in every way…May you find some meds that help make your day bearable…finding a doc that actually takes time with you…what a rarity and blessing!!!!

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  37. have you tried T Touch massage for dogs? It works brilliantly on my 2 and they love it just like your two loved the osteo x

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  38. Hi Rachel
    Your dogs look so much like Me. I also suffer from anxiety and itches. One time after I became phobic about going to cafes (a chair chased me) Mum put me on Endep for a month. Now I’m back to loving my Puppicinos.. Just one question. Where do you live? Mum knows some excellent physiotherapists in Australia, woofs from KoKo

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    • I live in New York, sadly. Cricket tried Prozac and had a terrible reaction to it. She got really mad! The vet keeps saying she will grow out of it, but, she’s eight years old, so I think that ship has sailed.

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  39. I love the tongue.

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  40. I love the after treatment photo! Your dogs are precious!

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