Many of us humans have had the pleasure of receiving some sort of bodywork like a massage. But did you know that dogs can benefit from bodywork as well? Whether it's called Canine Physical Therapy or Canine Rehabilitation, dogs can get the same benefits from bodywork as we do. It can help them recover from injuries and surgery, decrease pain, increase mobility, and is often used as part of a conditioning program for working dogs or dog athletes. But even if the dog isn't competing in sports or doesn't have a specific "ailment," bodywork can increase their range of movement, help prevent injuries, provide relief from emotional stress, and improve their overall well-being.
Last year I had the pleasure of meeting Stacy Cote in my New Ventures class. Stacy has a 25-year background in human physical therapy. In 2005 she completed her training and certification in Canine Rehabilitation at the University of Tennessee so she could provide therapy to canines. What's great about Stacy is that she travels to your home to provide services to your dogs where they feel most comfortable. Shortly after we met, Stacy offered to work on Sophie, my 7 year old boxador. Sophie doesn't have any particular injuries per se, but her hips have almost always been on the stiff side. I do give my dogs some massage, but what Stacy did was much different. She started with some light massage, getting Sophie relaxed and comfortable with her touch. Then she started feeling and manipulating some of the vertebrae in her back which were twisted. She then moved on to extending her back legs, one at a time until she felt the hips release. Stacy also did some fascia work in different places. After that session, I noticed an immediate difference in Sophie's gait. Her stride was elongated and relaxed.
And you know how good you feel after walking out of a really good massage? That's how Sophie looked. I was so used to seeing her walk with her hind end being a bit stiff that it had become sort of "normal" to me. So I was happy to see her moving about in a more fluid fashion.
Stacy came back for a second session with similar results. She taught me a bit about how to stretch and massage my dogs and now I practice on them in the evenings to get them good and relaxed and to hopefully get some of the kinks out of their aging bodies.
I would highly recommend Stacy's services if you live in Southern Maine. If you are looking for someone outside the Maine area, check with your vet to see if they can make a referral. Or you can check out either of these sites: The American Association of Rehabilitation Veterinarians and: University of Tennessee Directory of CCRP/CERP Practitioners.