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Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Healing hands

Please could you advise where I would look to start investigating the possibility of training to become a canine therapist - ideally massage etc? I am a qualified Holistic Therapist with Massage, Aromatherapy and Hopi Ear Candling for humans, however I would like to pursue my career with dogs, cats and other animals. Any help you can give me would be greatly appreciated.
Janine Osnowska, by email

Natalie Lenton, The Canine Massage Therapy Centre, says…
Firstly you may like to decide which particular area of therapy you are interested in.
To train in Canine Massage you are looking at around an 18-month study along with practical case studies and assessments; check out for more information on Canine Massage training. You will also be studying Canine Anatomy and Physiology alongside massage to gain a greater understanding of the body and common pathologies like Luxating Patella, Arthritis and Hip Dysplasia to help with your work and ensure that no harm is done. Masseuses work solely on soft tissue (muscle, tendon, ligaments and fascia) to help areas of pain, overcompensation and soft tissue problems that may be causing reoccurring lameness, pain etc.. Go to to find out more on what a trained canine masseuse can help. You may like to attend a one day workshop (home use only) run by Canine Massage Therapy Centre to see if it is what you are expecting before embarking on a full course.
Other therapies like acupuncture are strictly performed by veterinarians ( and is not a transferable qualification even if you are a human acupuncturist, to ensure that infection can be controlled and in case a needle breaks. You may however like to find out more about Acupressure, although I am aware that Tall Grass will not be coming over to the UK until 2011 to do more training, I have been told what a fantastic, and thorough, course they run, see for further information.
Again, aromatherapy may only be performed by a vet too due to the effect of the oils on the dog’s physiology.
Tellington TTouch involves body work and ground work exercises to help with rehabilitation of physical and emotional issues. It helps promote feelings of wellbeing and is often used when dealing with behavioural issues. See for more information on their different grades of practitioner.
Canine Bowen is a nice gentle therapy but specifies that you must firstly be a human practitioner before you go onto work with animals (
Hydrotherapy is a great treatment for rehabilitation but often depends on you setting up your own centre which can be costly. See for more information on training to become a hydrotherapist.
Mctimoney Animal Manipulation (they aren’t under law allowed to call themselves chiropractors even though this is what we know them as). They state, ‘Under current legislation, the General Chiropractic Council (GCC) regulates the chiropractic treatment of humans. Only practitioners that are registered with the GCC can legally call themselves chiropractors and treat members of the public. Animal practitioners are not able to join the GCC as it is only concerned with human treatment. The use of the word McTimoney to describe the animal treatment DOES NOT imply that our Animal practitioners are chiropractors.’ This course takes around three years and involves adjustments that are fast to beat the body’s muscle reflexes to return the bone to its correct position and function, no force or stress is necessary as the small movements make use of the body’s innate ability to realign itself by simply reminding the bone where it should be naturally in order to achieve its full natural working capacity.
Reiki, or energy field healing, may also be something you are interested in and can typically take around six months to train. You will of course still need veterinary consent as discussed below.
If you are considering working with animals you should also be aware of the UK Veterinary Act 1966 which states that no one other than a vet can treat animals.
The Veterinary Surgery (Exemptions) Order 1962 was bought in to amend the veterinary act to legitimatise therapies performed by professionals on animals. This means that you must gain veterinary consent from your clients’ vet before treating the animal to ensure that there are no contraindications to treatment. This also of course depends on gaining the right training and also having insurance too before setting up in practice, it is quite normal for vets to check on your qualifications so they can ensure that their clients are being treated by a professional. Go to for more info.
If you aren’t too sure which therapy you would be happy with doing you could always look at a general course like the one run by the Animal Care College,, which although it doesn’t qualify you to practice could be a good starting point for continuing professional education.
Best of luck on your path towards a new career, I can promise you it is worth it when you get there!

Susan Davies, from HandsOnHounds, says...
Well done for choosing canine massage therapy as a career. It is most certainly a rewarding and satisfying way to be involved in the wellbeing and general health of our canine friends. I have been a fully qualified canine massage therapist for around seven years now and still find that I am learning constantly. Do beware when researching training establishments that
you avoid the 'fast track' courses that claim you can qualify in weeks or days. These are positively dangerous and only serve to devalue the therapists out there who have trained properly and have taken the time to qualify with a credible training centre. There is only one course therefore that I fully recommend and that is the course run by Julie Boxall of ICAT - Institute of Complementary Animal Therapies. It is divided into three levels and will equip you with the necessary skills and knowledge you will require to treat animals with confidence and know-how. Each level involves two or three days of theory and practical sessions from which you practice 'at home' building case studies and building a case file for assessment. There are exams and practical assessments at the end of each level. It may take you 18 months to complete but it will ensure you are properly qualified. The details of ICAT are as follows:
The Institute of Complementary Animal Therapies
P.O. Box 299
01626 852485 or 07977 359347
Good luck and I hope you go on to train for a wonderfully satisfying career.


  1. Julia Robertson at Galen has an excellent reputation -

  2. You might want to investigate Bowen therapy. To become a Canine Bowen therapist you would first have to complete a human Bowen course before you can become fully qualified as a Canine Bowen therapist. This did put me off to start with but I have to say it is incredibly important to get feedback from humans because a lot of peole have varying reactions to Bowen and it would be impossible to work with dogs without this important feedback and experience.
    You can start both courses together which is something I did and it is possible to do, but when studying you have to complete 2 lots of 10 case studies and you have to give 3 treatments to each case study, so it can be very time consuming. But I have to say Bowen is a great therapy and worth thinking about, and every person who qualifies begins to raise the profile of this very effective medium.