Though osteopathy was developed in the U.S. in the early 19th century, there's still some mystery surrounding this medicine, particularly when it relates to animals. Animal osteopaths take a holistic, drug-free approach to pet health, advocating that correct body structure leads to proper function and eventual self-healing.
Dr. Andrew Still discovered a direct relationship between the musculoskeletal system and how the rest of the body functions. He believed the body's structure guides the function of specific joints and if the body's structure was incorrect, other parts of the body would not operate correctly. Today, animal osteopaths have embraced Dr. Still's theory, using their hands to massage and manipulate a pet's muscles and joints back to good health. The theory is that a body in proper form will function properly and heal itself.
As the field of animal rehabilitation expands, canine osteopaths have emerged as alternative healers for dogs with shoulder and back problems, such as agility, racing, elderly and service dogs. If your pooch has a misalignment in his body, often he'll change his gait to compensate for the problem. The change may be so subtle you may not notice it at first. As the condition progresses, he may show more pronounced signs of misalignment, such as difficulty walking up stairs, getting into the car or lying down. He may become reluctant to take part in his normal routine or whimper or growl from discomfort.
Problems Addressed by Osteopathy
Canine osteopathy isn't limited to back and shoulder issues. Animal osteopaths work to address hip problems, such as hip dysplasia, digestive problems, joint pain, arthritis, muscle spasms and stiffness, neck pain and postoperative issues. Whether your dog suffered from a trauma, such as a car accident or bad fall, or is feeling the effects of repetitive motion, a canine osteopath may be able to provide some relief.
Osteopathic treatment varies according to your dog's medical history, his age and the demands he has placed on him. For example, an agility dog may suffer more misalignment due to his athletic endeavors. An elderly dog will likely need more frequent treatment to soothe stiff joints and increase his mobility. The osteopath will want a complete medical history of your pup, including any injuries he's sustained, treatments and medications and an understanding of his daily activity. Treatment can include massage, stretching, joint manipulation and articulation and cranial work.
Finding an Osteopath
Canine osteopathy is still early in its development as an option for animal care, so finding an osteopath may be tough. If you think your pooch might benefit from osteopathy, discuss the potential with your vet. Online research will also help you determine local availability of this emerging animal health option.