News from New Zealand

By Sarah Wisson

It has been just over a year, since NZ came out of the 6-week “lockdown” due to COVID 19. In that period, no one was working except the emergency services, medical & veterinary emergency staff Supermarkets were functioning, but that was about it. It was an unusual time for us all.

For many of us in our profession, we were able to do some work by tele-health, and it was amazing to see what one could achieve through a simple video call; such as asking clients to perform examinations & treatments on their own animals to assist recovery. Unfortunately however, under such circumstances, some animals were seen too late, rendering recovery impossible. In these cases, lives were sadly lost. Other cases resulted in prolong recovery, which has resulted in permanent issues for those animals and their owners.

Since returning to work, post-lockdown, (which has been just over a year), we have seen a lot of changes. People have brought puppies and horses, because of the lack of travel. They’ve had more time at home, making a long-term desire to have an animal around, a reality. This has caused an increase in demand, and prices to escalate.

In my professional career, I’ve never seen so many young dogs in the community, often owned by ill-prepared owners. Whether it’s down to a lack of education, or too much enthusiasm, the result is the same. Over worked animals that are suffering as a result. Over working young dogs as all therapists should know, puts intense strain on the animal’s joints, muscles and connective tissue. All of which are still growing. They simply lack the skeletal maturity for what the owner wants to do, so education becomes essential.

The same situation arises in horses. People buy a new horse and expects miracles. They forgets to build a relationship, work with the horse on the groundwork, allow the horse time to adapt to their new surroundings and be taught gently and kindly how to understand their new owner’s demands. The result? Lameness and injury.

As practitioners we must strive to educate our clients and the wider public audience (who are potential buyers of these animals). We need to encourage people to learn more about their animals, so that they can care appropriately for them and do what is right. Too often, owners buy what they can afford (especially in the case of a horse), and then grow increasingly frustrated when the horse can’t do what they want. This creates a vicious cycle that rarely ends well, and the same can happy with young puppies, who will pull on a lead repeatedly or chew new shoes, because they know no better.

Owning an animal is a responsibility and an honour, and it is our job, as animal osteopaths to educate our communities. Doing so, could save a lot of pain and sadness in the long-term. For the owner and the animal.

With an increase of animals in the community, we have also seen an increase the number of people wanting to work and treat animals. In NZ there is no registered body, or animal course that is recognized or accepted by any accrediting body. We have seen a few students in the osteopathic course at ARA in Christchurch NZ undertake studies with Animal International Osteopathy and the AAO is currently building a greater presence, so that it can support NZ practitioners. This is a welcomed situation, as all new practitioners, need to have an Association to reach out to for advice and support.

If you are a new practitioner in New Zealand, please reach out to AAO today. Our aim is to provide standards and guidelines for all who treat animals functionally/osteopathically, so please reach out if you need support.