I am often asked this question, in reply I tell the story of Teddy, the 13 year old Bichon Frise and Harry the Westie (also 13).
Teddy’s owners asked me to see him as although he loves the social side of walks, he couldn’t manage the physical side much any more (they have a small cart which he can sit in when he gets tired of walking). He was also crying in the early hours of the morning (whether in pain or to go out to relieve himself they weren’t sure), and they hadn’t been able to stroke his back for some years as he cried or growled when they did.
When I first met him, Teddy was not that interested in me; he just lay on the sofa and cried or growled at every touch, even the very lightest. Because of his distress, I kept the examination to a minimum, and treatment was limited to a small amount of massage & movement to the stiffest area of the spine and some cranial osteopathy.
The next time I saw Teddy, his owners told me that his behaviour had changed markedly – he didn’t cry when his back was touched, he could walk further and was moving better generally, and he didn’t cry to go out any more. I could see that he was a bit more alert & engaged, and by the third treatment, I could really see his character coming through.
I’ve been treating him once a month for a few months now, and his owners say that his behaviour has changed ‘significantly’ – he walks more happily and they’ve promised to send me the video of him running!
I’ve walked Harry for several years, and have always been surprised at how mobile and fast he was considering his age. Recently however he’s become much slower, and developed a nasty cough – the vet thought he had a lung problem and has been treating him with steroids, but the possibility can’t be excluded that maybe he has an underlying heart condition (he’s always been a very ‘panty’ dog, even when not distressed) which is the reason for his slowing down. His owners had said he’d been a bit ‘out of sorts’ recently too – not his usual puppyish silly self, so I had a look at him.
As far as his musculo-skeletal system went, he’s always been a bit lame on his left fore, but he looked a bit stiff in the hips, particularly on the right (animal compensatory patterns are often on the diagonal opposite) and very stiff in his spine. My observations were confirmed by my palpatory findings when I had a feel of his muscles and joints, and at his age (much like an older human!), one can presume there is probably some arthritic change.
A little bit of treatment made a world of difference – his owners said he was much more his old self, I could see he was moving better, particularly behind, and interestingly his cough had been better too (in fact he’d hardly coughed at all). Obviously if he has an underlying heart or lung condition, I’m unlikely to have changed that – but by reducing the effort he has to make to move, then it’s possible I’ve reduced the strain and so the energy he has to expend will be less. I treat Harry regularly now, as & when he needs it, and his owners say they can always tell when I’ve treated him on a walk, because he’s always ‘full of beans’ when they get home.