Norwich therapist offers alternative therapy for pets

Using the dog's own weight can be a good & safe way to provide a good stretch. Poppy from Costessey

Using the dog's own weight can be a good & safe way to provide a good stretch. Poppy from Costessey experiences Body Flow Osteopathy. - Credit: Archant

Osteopathy can help with a range of mobility problems for you and your whole family - even your pet. As an animal osteopathy clinic opens its doors in Costessey, EMMA HARROWING finds out if this bark has any bite.

Yorkshire terriers are known for their feisty character and energetic temperament so when one year old Poppy started to experience bouts of fitting her owner Lauren Payne went straight to the vets to find out what was wrong.

'It took about a year to find out that Poppy had epilepsy,' says Lauren from Queens Hills in Costessey. 'She also had other symptoms such as finding it difficult to jump using her hind legs. She would yelp if she tried, it was heartbreaking. Her tail was also permanently between her legs unlike other dogs who, when they see you, will have their tail raised and wagging.'

Poppy was put on a course of medication to control her seizures, but after having a bad reaction to the ingredients it was decided to take her off the medication that could prevent her ailment.

'We didn't know what to do, and then I found out about animal osteopathy,' explains Lauren. 'With all other avenues exhausted it seemed like we had nothing to lose by trying this alternative therapy.'

Lauren got in touch with Joelle Fordham who runs Norwich based osteopathy clinic Body Flow. A trained osteopath for humans, Joelle also provides treatment for animals.

'Osteopathy is a holistic therapy which aims to treat the tissues causing the symptoms whilst looking elsewhere in the body to identify and treat the root cause of the problem,' says Joelle. 'Treatment consists of a variety of techniques including articulation of the joints, soft tissue work and stretching. The aim is to mobilise the body, re-educate the nervous system and improve muscle tone to allow a return to normal function and movement. Many people turn to osteopathy as a treatment for general health, a bit like a regular check up at the dentist.

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'Increasingly animal owners and vets are realising the benefits osteopathy has to offer in animal care. Alternative & complementary medicines are gaining popularity everywhere and animal owners have come to want and expect the same scope of therapies for their beloved animals as they would for themselves. Animal osteopathy works in the same way as it does in humans - to improve animal welfare by reducing pain and suffering caused by an inability to move and function freely.'

Animal osteopathy is not a new concept. In Britain the therapy dates back to 1946 when it was used to treat horses. In 2004 an independent advisory committee - the Society of Osteopaths in Animal Practice was set up to advise the General Osteopathic Council on the matter of animal care. Today the treatment is commonly used on horses, cats and dogs, and even other household pets, farm animals, wildlife and exotic animals.

'Poppy was brought to me when she was five years old and she had severe muscle spasms in her right back leg,' explains Joelle. 'At the time of starting treatments she was having several epileptic seizures a day, she also had muscle spasm in her right back leg, it was immediately evident looking at the length of her claws that her leg wasn't being held in a normal position as her inside claws were shorter than the outside ones.'

On further examination Joelle discovered that Poppy had movement problems in her back which made it difficult for her to walk. She also had muscular tension around her neck and shoulders.

Joelle says: 'Her owners told me that she is usually shy and fearful but Poppy took to treatment straight away and loved every minute! Treatment looked at her whole body but was concentrated on relaxing tension around the neck and shoulder region, articulating her spine and relaxing the muscles around her right hip.'

After three sessions Poppy's owners noticed a difference in Poppy.

'Her tail was slightly raised and she was able to move easily,' says Lauren. 'She has now had eight sessions and Poppy is like a new dog. She runs and jumps as she has no pain in her back legs and her tail wags.

'Although she is much better we are continuing with her osteopathy sessions to maintain her good health.

'The best part is that by happy coincidence Poppy no longer fits every day, in fact her epileptic seizures have dramatically reduced.'

Happy coincidence or not, Joelle believes that the relaxation of osteopathy may have decreased Poppy's stress levels which in turn may have had a positive influence on her seizures.

'It is not possible to say for certain if the decrease in epileptic fits was directly linked to treatments and we do not claim to treat epilepsy in any ways,' says Joelle. 'Epilepsy is a serious condition and should be managed carefully by a vet, but in Poppy's case alternative therapy also helped her on the road to recovery.'

The Norwich Animal Osteopathy Clinic for dogs and small animals is open Wednesday mornings from 9am until midday at Taverham Vets, Longwater Lane, Costessey. The first treatment usually lasts an hour with follow-up treatments lasting around 30-40 minutes. Treatments cost £35 per session.

If you would like to try animal osteopathy on your pet you need to get permission from your vet. Your Evening News has teamed up with the Norwich Animal Osteopathy Clinic to offer a free 15 minute assessment so that you can find out if osteopathy can help your pet. To claim your free consultation call 07796 114461 or email and quote the Evening News.