frustrated black woman touching lips and sitting on bed

Help Someone Today

Reaching out in COVID when things get tough

Written by Dustie Houchin
frustrated black woman touching lips and sitting on bed

I was talking to a colleague the other day. She’s a really tough lady and usually quite upbeat, but today was different. She sounded low, a bit down. So, I asked what was wrong. She said, “I love my family, but trying to find new ways to help my patients and diversify the practice enough to make a living, is really hard when you also have to be on tap 24/7 as a mother and wife.” She went onto say that she was spending a great deal of time feeling guilty, because whilst she didn’t want to appear grumpy or short fused, she really needed her own space to work through her own career issues and emotional struggles. She has been a very Independent lady for many years, running a highly successful small animal and human practice. She enjoyed the interactions, camaraderie and the day today challenges. Yet, here she is, trying to juggle home-schooling with a husband who sits in his new office (the lounge), constantly talking to colleagues in various remote locations. “There is never a quiet moment. ” she lamented, with a sad tone. 

“My husband is a gem” she said….”but sometimes I just want some peace and quiet to switch off from the world. It’s been really tough trying to help patients virtually and much more demanding, so sometimes I just need the space to breathe, get some silence and unwind.”

R’s practice had been located inside another business, which sadly hasn’t survived COVID. As a result, she lost her clinic rooms. This isn’t an unusual story. Sensibly, R made the decision to wait until the pandemic was over before trying to find new premises, but it has left her trying to juggle home visits, with remote consultations, which (if you’ve tried it) is not easy. And all this, whilst dealing with bad-tempered teenagers and a husband who’d rather be in the office, talking shop with the lads.  

I realised then, how often I’ve heard variations of that story since COVID began. 

Many practitioners are struggling. Not just financially, but also emotionally. Most of us have been forced into unnatural settings, trying to modify the way we work in order to accommodate regulatory demands. But, it’s not easy. Our homes don’t feel like “home” anymore. Most are modified offices, classrooms and customer call centres. Places where we’re stuck with people we love, but would like to see a little less of…  That lovely feeling we used to get when putting our feet up at the end of a day, has gone. Instead, we can’t wait for the day that we can “get out”, move and go somewhere other than around the block. 

These aren’t easy times and stories vary dramatically. Some people are happy doing emergency home-visits and are incredibly busy, whilst others are scared of the risks and so struggling to make ends meet. The result is, that depending on your personal circumstances and how you feel about mixing with others, your life may vary dramatically from the practitioner next door. What I’ve observed as a result of all this, is a shutting down of open communication. Those who are doing just fine, feel guilty flaunting the fact and those who are falling apart inside, don’t like to admit it. It’s a tragic dilemma and one we need to try to overcome as a profession. 

Never has there been a time, when we need our colleagues more, so please, if you think someone is struggling, do reach out. Maybe offer some gentle suggestions as to how they could diversify without putting themselves at risk or, if it feels more appropriate, just have a virtual cup of tea and a chat. You could even discuss some cases and put it down as CPD! I frequently find, that just seeing someone I recognise on the Skype screen, smiling back, makes me feel better. Even if it seemed like an effort beforehand to glam up a bit for the event! So, if someone suggests a face to face call, try not to fight it. It  will be worth the effort and it will give you a chance to see a fresh face and hear a different perspective. Not to mention the fact that dressing up a bit and wearing a spot of make-up, will make you feel better 🙂 And that’s a researched fact LOL!

As practitioners, we are used to being around people all day long. We laugh and cry with our clients and patients and if you’re like me, some of your old-timers feel more like family, so it’s been hard not to see them. But, these are the times we are in and this is what we have to deal with. So, let’s reach out to one person a day (or one a week if you can’t find the time) and make someone smile. And if you think that someone might be having a hard time (especially if they are on their own), don’t ignore it. We know mental health issues are at a record high, so please reach out and offer a helping hand. Whether that be to talk to them yourself or to guide them towards a professional, it doesn’t matter, but we are supposed to be a community and communities support each other. 

AAO is always here to help and guide practitioners where we can and below are some links for groups and associations who might also be able to help.

Please support each other, because someday, it might be you.

Links to Associations and Resources

If you are feeling low or frightened and need to talk to someone, please reach out. If you don’t feel you want to do that with a friend or colleague, here are some professional organisations that you can reach out to for help and support. We’ve also included some organisations for young people, in case it’s a family member for whom you seek support. Many of these organisations have pages within them, that share information about other associations that might be able to help with specific concerns.

If you would just like to talk to someone at AAO, send an email to and we will do our best to help or direct you. All communications will be treated as strictly private and AAO will not disclose your details or concerns to anyone. Please note, that whilst we maybe able to offer business suggestions to help you, we are not trained counsellors or mental health specialists. As such, if your issues are more clinical in nature, we would recommend that you reach out and speak to a specialist therapist or find a  local group via one of the links above. 

Important Update from the RCVS and DEFRA

regarding consent for Veterinary Osteopaths, Chiropractors and Physiotherapists to Treat Animals

Important information for Owners, vets and practitioners, there has been a clarification regarding consent from vets for #animalosteopath, #animalchiropractor and #aniamlphysiotherapist practitioners to treat animals.The update from #RCVS can be found on their website at:

The following update has come from RAMP (#RAMP #RAMPregister)
RCVS Guidance clarification for MSK Practitioners. The following Guidance has been passed by the RCVS Standards Committee and will be circulated among the veterinary profession:

a) Musculoskeletal therapists are part of the vet-led team. Animals cared for or treated by musculoskeletal therapists must be registered with a veterinary surgeon. Musculoskeletal therapists carry out a range of manipulative therapies, including physiotherapy, osteopathy and chiropractic therapy.

b) As per the Veterinary Surgery (Exemptions) Order 2015, remedial treatment by ‘physiotherapy’ requires delegation by a veterinary surgeon who has first examined the animal. ‘Physiotherapy’ is interpreted as including all kinds of manipulative therapy. It therefore includes osteopathy and chiropractic but would not, for example, include acupuncture or aromatherapy. It is up to the professional judgment of the veterinary surgeon to determine whether and when a clinical examination should be repeated before musculoskeletal treatment is continued.

c) The delegating veterinary surgeon should ensure, before delegation, that they are confident that the musculoskeletal therapist is appropriately qualified and competent; indicators can include membership of a voluntary register with associated standards of education and conduct, supported by a disciplinary process. As the RCVS does not regulate musculoskeletal therapists it cannot recommend specific voluntary registers.

d) Musculoskeletal maintenance care for a healthy animal, for instance massage, does not require delegation by a veterinary surgeon. However, the animal must still be registered with a veterinary surgeon. Maintenance should cease and the owner of the animal should be asked to take their animal to a veterinary surgeon for clinical examination at the first sign that there may be any underlying injury, disease or pathology. Alternatively, the musculoskeletal therapist may ask the client for formal consent to disclose any concerns to the veterinary surgeon that has their animal under their care.

This has come about as a result of RAMP Council consultation with DEFRA and the RCVS around clarification for veterinary consent for Competition and Maintenance Care.

To reiterate, the only difference to current practice is in point d). An animal declared healthy by the owner, in cases where care is given to maintain good health and optimise competition performance, can be seen without specific Veterinary referral with the caveats stated. This covers the areas of Maintenance care and Competition care ONLY.

This clarification will ease the current legal grey area and hope it will improve communication between MSK Practitioners and the Veterinary Profession. ANY pathology must be reported back to the animals registered vet immediately.

The Latest COVID News From RAMP

Here is the latest release from RAMP regarding animal practice following the latest Government guidelines:

Following Government guidelines we move back into a lockdown in England and restrictions within other parts of the country. We expect that many of you have found ways to work while adhering to the guidelines of social distancing, PPE and risk assessments to date but we now need to be aware of the increased restrictions.In the absence of further restrictions advised by the RCVS I would just reiterate that each practitioner should continue to risk assess cases on an individual basis whilst maintaining safe working practice within the National restrictions/guidance.

As a reminder these were the details that we sent out in April during the first phase;-

To guide you here are some points that should be taken into account:

1. Animals with demonstrable pain and welfare issues should be seen, these may include all pathologies.

2. A pre-visit risk assessment and telephone call is essential. Gain as much information prior to the visit as possible to minimise contact time. If appropriate, would the use of an oral sedative, supplied by the clients’ vet to the client, mitigate risk? Do you have access to a responsible ‘safe’ handler that can attend with you?

3. No appointments should be made with anyone who has Covid symptoms or who is in close contact with anyone with Covid symptoms. There must be a 14-day quarantine period for them, prior to seeing them. Consider the suitability of wearing a mask to reduce the risk of the practitioner spreading Covid between yards/clients. Consider asking owners/handlers to wear masks to reduce the risk of transmission to the practitioner.

4. If you have symptoms do not treat, get tested, and await a clear result, prior to seeing any clients.

5. Animals with owners in the vulnerable categories should not be treated in the normal way. Try to see if any other approach other than face to face can be used.

6. Small animals should be seen in a clinic setting, (physio or vet) rather than home visits if possible, as cleanliness, disinfection and biosecurity are easier to control. If home visits are necessary, ensure that no other pets/family etc are present. In a clinic setting explore the possibility of treatment without owner present. Risk asses home visits very carefully.

7. Yard visits- Risk assess individual setups. As a professional you will be aware of the situations, and risks, at each of your regular yards. Some may be relatively ‘safe’, others less so. The decision to attend a client should be dictated by the risk assessment.

8. Home/yard visits, ask for gates to be opened and closed for you to minimise touching surfaces. No loose dogs/cats around that could transmit virus via petting, ensure animal is ready and waiting for you (ie no putting on headcollars, leads etc and unnecessary handling of owners equipment), carry your own soap and towels to wash between visits and ask for a fresh bucket of warm water or easy access to sink to wash. Accept no refreshments.

9. Other considerations, can the animal be left tied up with the owner at an appropriate distance? If not, are there any other strategies to improve safety and appropriately handle and restrain the animal. Is this a safe approach for you, the client and the animal?

10. Is this animal safe to treat with these restrictions in place?

11. All visits should be risk assessed and the results documented. Including those where treatment is refused and the reasons why, with documented details of the explanation to the client.

12. Only see regular clients if possible, this reduces the risk to you and the clients and eases the process of risk assessment. Do not ‘poach’ another practitioners’ clients.13. For new referrals of non-regular clients have a close liaison with the vet re the risks and set up of the treatment environment, not just the clinical condition.

14. Payment- attempt to remove the need to handle payments. Request payment by BACS/credit card/paypal.This is not an exhaustive list of all the possible considerations and scenarios but some guidance. Your professional judgement and expert opinion should be used at all stages to ensure yours and the client’s safety while also minimising the risks of spreading Covid 19.

The professional judgement of the practitioner, based on a thorough risk assessment, should always lead the decision as to whether it is safe to attend and treat an animal. Remember to ask owners to list you as healthcare workers for the track and trace requirements including QR codes.


Taught by Animal Osteopathy International

Level One Canine Course – open to a range of regulated clinical professionals. For more information:

Cohort entry until mid November – dual modality (online and on single consolidated practicum in 2021 or 2022 – as the student prefers).

Guidance for Animal Practitioners

With COVID on the rise again, please use common sense and follow RAMP and RVCS guidelines. We all know to ask pertinent COVID pre-screening questions in advance of a visit and to touch gates, head collars etc. as little as possible. PPE wearing should be relevant to each case, based on your ability to keep a 2m distance from any person on the yard on in a garden – during the entire session. Where possible, treat outside. If you are inside treating an animal, you must be sure to follow PPE and hygiene guidelines to the dot.

Take your own cleaning and sanitising products to your visits. Make sure your owners know that you have clean sanitized hands and arms before touching their animal (after you get out of the car). Don’t shake hands, as before. Take your own food and drink with you. And where possible, ensure that you have a change of clothes between visits, if you are not wearing protective disposable items that can be disposed of, in between patients. This is because COVID can last on material for up to 3 hours.

More recently it has been announced that professionals in close proximity to people outside their household must wear both mask and visor – even if teaching (as opposed to treating). So, if you cannot keep a 2 meter distance from your owners, you need to keep this in mind.

New Animal Osteopathic Text on the Market

It is exciting to announce that a new collaborative animal osteopathic text has reached the market writers include Nadine Hobson, Tony Nevin and Paolo Tozzi

To find out more about this book which includes small animal and wildlife osteopathy click on the link below which will take you to the Amazon page.

Here is an extract from the synopsis on the amazon page.

“This is a comprehensive reference textbook for all those using osteopathic treatment techniques with animals or birds or studying to do so. The book is divided into sections: equine osteopathy; general small animal osteopathy; osteopathy for exotics- (pets such as tortoise, snakes, ferrets etc); osteopathy for wildlife – native as well as non to the UK including species found in most zoological collections; avian osteopathy – both domestic and wild/exotic.”

We hope you enjoy reading it and developing your animal practice.

The AAO team.

AAO Regional Representatives



Date: January 25 2018

As a way to help animal osteopaths around the UK, we are looking to start regional groups, where animal osteopaths can meet to discuss current issues in veterinary medicine and build relationships with local animal professionals through the use of talks and workshops. Our aim is to increase the reach of support offered by the AAO, whilst also helping members to build relationships and their businesses.

As such, we are seeking friendly, sociable, active animal osteopaths (members of the AAO) who are you interested in the future of animal osteopathy and have the time to help the AAO to grow the profession in their home regions.

Each group will be given help and support by a member of our current committee and a small annual budget will be allocated to each group to help with the costs of workshops etc.

Our aim is to link the profession in a more coherent fashion and to help you as RAMP and its CPD requirements become a part of everyone’s reality.

If you’re interested in taking on the role of a Regional Representative, please let me know by the 24th February.

You may send in your interest after this time, but we are keen to get these roles up and running by April at the latest.

Do you have any news you’d like to share – or articles/cases of interest? Please send them in and we will share them with the rest of membership.

SOAP AGM and CPD Day 6th August 2016!

It is my pleasure to confirm that this years AGM is taking place from 1.30-2.30pm Saturday 6th April at M.A.R.E.S. Amersham.

In addition to the AGM (which is free for members to attend), we are also offering 4 hours of animal-related CPD for just £30 to Members, which reflects the costs for the facilities, equipment & a light lunch (lecturers are kindly giving their time for free).

So join us for an informative & interesting day:-

  • Meet your SOAP committee, hear about our plans and get involved with the development and future of Animal Osteopathy;
  • Deepen your knowledge about pathologies in dogs & lameness in horses, and osteopathic approaches to treating both; plus enhance your business skills (see programme below);
  • Achieve 4 hours of Animal CPD towards the 7 hours we ask you to commit to in a year as a member of SOAP.

Places on the CPD part of the day are limited so to reserve your place, email as soon as possible for further details.

Non-members are also welcome, so if you have colleagues who are treating animals or interested in knowing more, but are not SOAP members, do forward this email to them.  Fees for non-members to attend are £55 for qualified osteopaths, £45 for final year students, and if they are eligible for membership & join on the day they will receive a discounted membership fee – to place reservations, organise payment & for further details please email

If you only plan to come the AGM part, please also let me know – by 22nd July latest.

CPD Programme – knowledge, research, practical – 4 hours of Animal CPD

  • Equine behaviour and body language: animal behaviourist Olivia Turner gives us insight into equine body language and communication also focussing on stress and discomfort in the ridden horse.
  • Canine applied forelimb biomechanics – James Sabala and Eleanor Andrews, lecturers in animal osteopathy combine theory with practical as we explore muscular activity in forelimb biomechanics and how this can be applied to gait assessment in animal practice.
  • Equi-taping demo – exact details to be confirmed.

Any and all questions regarding the AGM can be directed to either the secretary at or the communications officer at

We look forward to seeing you at the AGM!

SOAP_AGM_notice 2016

SOAP timetable 2016

What is Osteopathy? – An update from the Osteopathic Alliance

The Osteopathic Alliance has been working hard over a considerable length of time to develop a brief descriptor to summarise what osteopathy is. The aim of this work has been to formulate a definition that can work regardless of the style of osteopathy being practised. Here at SOAP we are committed to promoting these ideals and the descriptor reads as follows:

“Osteopathy is a philosophy of healthcare that acknowledges that the living body is a self-renewing, self-regenerating, self-recuperating system which maintains health constantly throughout life. Whenever that health-maintaining system is compromised, symptoms or disease could develop. Osteopathy is concerned with that which has compromised health rather than the resulting condition.

Osteopaths have been regulated by statute since 1993. They are trained to diagnose conventionally and also to use their hands to assess body function and dysfunction. This gives the osteopath uniquely sensitive information about the disability within the body and how this insight might be used to help restore health. 

Although people commonly describe their symptoms in terms of conventional medical conditions, osteopaths do not primarily treat medical conditions; they are more concerned with the cascade of events which could have contributed to the development of those medical conditions.”