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Just like humans, dogs can suffer from unexplained spinal injuries – especially as they grow older. Maybe they jumped too high, swam too far, or just gave birth. Those unexplained twinges and aches are sometimes difficult to diagnose. So your vet might recommend McTimoney: a chiropractic treatment which has been adapted to animals. Will it hurt or could it heal your dog? Here’s all you need to know.
What is McTimoney?
You might have heard it mentioned in relation to chiropractic treatment – what is McTimoney, and why does it have such an odd name?
It’s a type of chiropractic manipulation invented by John McTimoney in the 1950s. He developed a method for treating humans’ musculoskeletal conditions, and later adapted it for animals. It was gentle and thorough, and it showed great results. The name stuck.
A Short History Of McTimoney
During the Depression, classically-art-trained John McTimoney worked as a technical illustrator, drawing Spitfires and components, with a bit of farm-handing on the side. It was while working that he fell from a ladder and injured both arms. During the next few years, he lost the use of his arms and then walking started to become difficult. John ventured to Birmingham chiropractor Mr Ashford and was amazed when one manipulation enabled John to walk the 5 miles back home. In 1949, John’s interest in chiropractic treatment was fired up again when he met Dr Mary Walker, a pioneer in chiropractic and homoeopathy work. She trained John (even though he couldn’t afford the fees) and helped him to set up a practice in 1951.
As a former engineering illustrator (including a stint at the Air Ministry during the War), John examined the skeletal system and made tiny adjustments to correct movements. In 1954, he developed his technique to apply to animals – a world first. After 20 years refining his approach, ‘Mac’ founded a school with his wife and started teaching the McTimoney method. The McTimoney Chiropractic Association was founded in 1979 and it’s still one of Europe’s biggest chiropractic groups.
McTimoney For Horses
It’s also been the subject of several papers. In 2012, one study of 17 horses concluded that the McTimoney treatment improved their stride length and speed; in 2014, another study showed it helps to improve stride symmetry. In 2021, researchers combined the McTimoney method with electromagnetic treatment to reduce musculoskeletal tenderness and pain.
Poorly-fitting equipment can cause problems for horses, and a McTimoney therapist often advises about the best ways to fit it. Other horses, which are seen to “misbehave”, often have an underlying physical cause – but it isn’t always obvious to the owner. That’s where the McTimoney method comes in, with a holistic approach and gentle treatment.
How Can McTimoney Help Dogs?
But let’s get back to our canine friends. Should you consider McTimoney for your dog? A dog’s long, flexible spine is prone to minor injuries that can cause a broad range of side effects. If they have unexplained physical tenderness or aches, McTimoney might be worth investigating.
McTimoney is non-invasive. It’s gentle – without any cracking or sudden movements – and it doesn’t upset animals. It takes a ‘whole-body’ approach, which means it’s not just about bones but nerves and soft tissue too. A McTimoney practitioner will make a thorough assessment, palpating (feeling) your dog’s body to check for thickening, soreness, and tension.
Could McTimoney help your dog? These checklists will help you to decide.
The objectives of McTimoney treatment are:
- Restoring movement
- Resolving musculoskeletal dysfunction
- Rejuvenating performance
That means that McTimoney can help dogs who have:
- Muscular injuries
- Muscular aches and pains (like 15-year-old Freddy)
- Joint dysfunction
... And these problems can be detected by the following symptoms in your dog:
- Stiffness, especially after exercise
- Difficulty jumping
- Reluctance to walk on one of their legs
- Irregular gait or wear on their paws
- Flinching when their spine or joints are touched
- Flinching when they get up
If you’re now thinking that McTimoney could help your dog, it’s time to call the vet. They’ll be able to help by ruling out serious injuries and they’ll probably know an animal chiropractor or McTimoney chiropractor. A referral is the best way to proceed.
What is the McTimoney Treatment Like?
It’s afterwards that your dog should show improvements – maybe after some initial stiffness. McTimoney practitioners have seen excellent results for all kinds of musculoskeletal conditions, from alpacas to cats. The treatment can reduce pressure on muscles and free trapped nerves and, although immediate effects have been reported, you can usually expect to wait for a few days or sessions before an animal shows improvement. Afterwards, your McTimoney practitioner will suggest an exercise regime – it’s likely to be gentle for a few days as your dog takes time to heal.
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