We asked Lolie Borgars, one of our long-term supporters, to tell us about her beloved dog Binky and what prompted her to introduce complementary treatments into his care. Her observations about hydrotherapy in particular reveal just how holistic care can help your animal on so many levels and strengthen your bond with them. It gave Binky the chance to thrive despite his problems.
Rediscovering the love of a dog
Binky came into my life and to my home at 8 weeks old in September 2007. He was my first dog as an adult, having spent much of my 20’s and 30’s galivanting and living overseas. Binky was a first-generation Labradoodle and a breed I first heard about when I was living in Australia in 1990.
Not only did he make my life complete, but he also raised almost £5,000 for charities including Pets as Therapy, Pet Blood Bank, Hounds for Heroes and the Leonard Cheshire Fryer House. Life with Binky was filled with joy from the very start. He made me feel like the ultimate dog whisperer, as he was (and still is!) the easiest dog I have ever encountered to train.
Binky goes lame
Sadly, a couple of months before he turned two in 2009, he started to limp. I gave him a week’s house rest, hoping that it was a simple strain. However, after a week there was still a limp and the odd yelp when getting off the sofa. So, an appointment was made with our vet. Sadly, their only advice was to give him a week’s rest having not even taken him outside to see him walk.
Obviously, this was not acceptable so we went to another vet where he was given injections for four weeks to see if this would help. Sadly the limp was still there and so I asked for a second opinion. We were referred to Andy Moores at Anderson Moores Veterinary Specialists where Binky was booked in for a CT scan and X-rays. Andy explained at the time they would admit him and, depending on what they found, they would go direct from CT to operation if needed so as to not administer two general anaesthetics.
Diagnosis & essential surgery
Sadly, Binky was found to have bi-lateral elbow dysplasia, which was operated on via arthroscopy (keyhole surgery). We couldn’t thank Andy enough. Not only were our initial consultations thorough and insightful, there was a feeling coming away that not only do they know what they are talking about but also that your dog is in very safe hands. Binky had arthroscopy again on his right elbow in 2011. Both operations were carried out by Andy.
A whole new world of treatment opens up
Equipped with the notes given to me by Anderson Moores when I collected Binky, a whole new world opened up. I didn’t know about hydrotherapy, acupuncture or any other so-called non-conventional ways to treat your animal. I had grown up with dogs, cats, rabbits, cows, pigs, goats and horses and whenever any of them were ill, the vet always treated them conventionally.
Important changes to our routine & keeping a diary
I followed Binky’s release notes religiously and kept a daily diary of what was done and for how long and any changes I observed.
Poor Binky was shaved from his neck down to his paws and so it was also the first time I looked into doggie clothes – I could not have my boy getting cold! I also moved my mattress downstairs to the sitting room for almost a year as going up and down the stairs could have damaged his elbows post-surgery.
In effect, I live in my dog’s house and not the other way round, so sofas and beds are shared! Having the mattress downstairs also meant that when Binky wanted to get on the sofa there was no jumping up as I’d positioned the mattress right next to it. So many mornings I would awake with a paw on my head as Binky was relaxing on the sofa but wanted to make sure I was still there.
After a few weeks of convalescing at home, we started hydrotherapy. The first lady we had was only in her 20’s and had discovered hydro after having a nasty riding accident, breaking her spine and being told she wouldn’t walk again. She had hydrotherapy and could not only walk again but also ride which inspired her to qualify as a hydrotherapist (HT). She was was wonderful with Binky.
When she left we had Tracy Jones. Tracy was wonderful too and Binky really fell for her. Tracy was also qualifying as an animal physiotherapist and before Binky’s hydro she would use all sorts of wonderful machinery to help his elbows. Sadly, I can’t remember that far back as to what was used (!) but it did include Therapeutic Laser and Electrical Muscle Stimulation.
Binky absolutely loved swimming. Tracy later organised a doggy sponsored swim in which Binky took part. His sponsor form was filled in at my work, where I pestered everyone saying, “I bet you’ve never sponsored a doggy swim, so here’s your chance!” Basically, I didn’t really give them a choice not to!!
Tracy then moved to the US for a while. When she returned to the UK, she moved to Scotland so too far for us to go. I cannot recommend Tracy highly enough so if you are close by, do look her up at Fusion Vet Physio.
We then found Jayne Reed at The Dog Pool. This is when Binky started to really excel at hydro. The pool was so much bigger than anything he had used before and being built half in the ground and half above, it meant you could look down at the swimming movements and see how improvements were being made.
We did hydro weekly. Sadly insurance tends to only cover your first 10 sessions so, yes, it worked out as expensive but the level of improvement, fitness and wellbeing was priceless and worth every penny. Binky loved his hydro so much and even up to his last session back in spring 2021 he would still be so excited and full of beans. Jayne swam Binky for over 10 years. The three of us had such a tight bond and still do. Whilst Jayne was in the pool with Binky, she was able to assess where he needed the most treatment and really helped to extend his swimming gait in the early days.
Not just for problems but for general fitness too
Before this happened to Binky, I hadn’t realised that hydro is not just for dogs with a problem, but for healthy and able dogs too. It was whilst with Jayne I learnt so much more about hydro and when my new little girl arrived, Miss Darci, she also started hydro at 12 weeks old.
I can honestly say that starting a puppy with hydro as young as you can is one of the best things you can do. As we all know, long walks are out to protect bone growth and yet they have so much energy! Miss Darci still loves her hydro eight years on. Although it must be said, she will only ever swim in her heated pool. Anywhere else it’s a paddle only! Methinks she is a tad high maintenance haha.
If you are in the Hampshire area, I cannot recommend Jayne highly enough. Her ability to put dogs at ease and her knowledge is second to none.
So why is hydro so beneficial?
Well, you can of course read up on hydrotherapy from a qualified hydrotherapist’s or vet’s perspective, but this is from my perspective as Binky’s guardian.
From finding out Binky had elbow dysplasia, I knew his life of exercise was going to change and the elbows were always going to be weaker. Our journey’s aim was to build muscle strength so that the weak elbows would be supported by their surrounding muscles. As hydro is a non-weight bearing exercise it meant that once a week Binky could really train like an Olympian. One minute’s swimming is the equivalent of one mile of walking. At Binky’s top fitness level, he would swim for 30 minutes non-stop and still be energetic at home afterwards.
It’s not just exercise
With the water being warm it can help relieve discomfort, increase relaxation, and promote well-being as the temperature will help increase blood flow, enhance deep tissue repair, and ultimately relieve pain. When a dog is immersed in a pool the water pressure, known as Hydrostatic Pressure, will help reduce swelling around joints.
Mental well-being & improved health
The improvement in not only Binky’s physical fitness but also his mental well-being was phenomenal. Back in the early days after an op, when he couldn’t go for anything longer than 5/10-minute walks to actually be able to exercise safely and be beneficial as well was a game changer.
Binky’s dysplasia was quite severe but all those who looked after him with his different therapies always commented on how well he was doing and in fact had much better strength and fitness than many non-dysplasia dogs.
Jayne also introduced us to Robin Smart of Smartphysio. We then started weekly sessions of physiotherapy, using both manual and electrotherapeutic techniques. Binky was so good just lying down whilst Robyn manipulated his joints and gave him an all over body massage at the end of each session.
Combining the two
We found that hydro in conjunction with physio worked really well for Binky. We would do eight weekly sessions of physio at a time a few times a year. This enhanced Binky’s rehabilitation and well-being and gave him the ability to live life to the fullest.
Vet for life
It was in 2011 that we met our Vet for life, Amanda Wiltshire at Priory Vets Reigate. When first meeting her she was not long out of Vet School and even back then we knew she was a keeper. As well as being open-minded in her approach, Amanda has second to none the best relationship with the animals she treats. Each and every animal is treated as one of her own. So much so, my dogs run into the Vets Surgery with clear excitement. Binky was treated like royalty each time he saw her, and I was always praised on how much I was doing for him (even if that has meant a diet of toast, too many times to remember).
It was Amanda who introduced us to acupuncture. They had taken on a vet who was training in acupuncture and although this vet has now left, they still have two acupuncturists within the practice – one for small animals and one for horses.
My experience with acupuncture was mixed. Having read so many success stories, I guess I was expecting miracles. So, although Binky enjoyed his time having acupuncture, I didn’t notice any real changes. However, I am still very enthusiastic about acupuncture as not all improvements and benefits can be observed and I am sure the benefits in pain management were there. Binky has always been so stoic, so it was very hard to tell when he was in pain. And in any case, hydrotherapy and physio were doing their job. It just shows how each animal is best treated as an individual – what works for one may not be useful for another.
Minemal pain medication required
In Binky’s 14 years with me and his 12 years of having elbow dysplasia, he did not need regular pain meds until the six months before he passed due to the support and strength he gained from his complementary treatments.
When he needed an extra layer of support that pain meds can give, our go-to when things were bad would be Metacam but as a last resort and then only for a maximum of 7 days. So, we were very grateful that this year (2021) Librela was released. This is a once-monthly injection and unlike Metacam has no contraindications.
Throughout the 12 years of managing Binky’s dysplasia, we also used natural remedies to support his elbows and other joints. As you can see from our story here, since having Binky, I have become a great believer in both conventional medicine and complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) where appropriate. So, although we started on Seraquin, then moved to Cosequin and then to Yumove, we finally found the one Binky responded to the best – Riaflex Joint Plus.
I also made my own Golden Paste (a mixture of turmeric with black pepper to make it more bioavailable and coconut oil) until several years ago, when I bought the GP pouches. Again, having read so many success stories I was expecting miracles. I did not see miracles but am sure it helped. Binky stopped using GP in the last six months, as he was getting many upset tummies and I was worried the GP may be aggravating the tummy.
Again, to illustrate that one fantastic thing does not suit all dogs, we tried New Zealand Green Lip Mussel Powder having read so many great things. Sadly, in such a concentrated dose, Binky was allergic with manic itching and scratching. So that was discontinued after a week.
The importance of raw feeding and fresh food
As a raw feeder, I made sure Binky had a very varied diet, (I once counted that my three dogs have over 30
proteins over the course of a year) with oily fish being fed at least twice a week. Bone broth is also a staple and
the dogs get very excited when they see it being prepared. I tend to cook it up in batches and freeze it. It’s great to add to the occasional bowl of food and as bone broth ice lollies through the summer months.
For the last six months, Binky moved to a cooked diet, with pumpkin and butternut squash being additional staples to help the tummy. A gently cooked diet is highly recommended for poorly or elderly dogs and it was certainly well tolerated by Binky’s tummy. I never added grains as I don’t believe in grains being given to dogs – it’s not their natural diet.
Fruit, veg and herbs are a different matter! Blueberries were always one of Binky’s favourites and he could wolf down a packet if allowed. He would also love to pick the raspberries and blackberries in the garden and whilst out on walks – self selection at its best!
I also have a doggie herb garden, where my dogs love to have a nibble. Dogs are so more in-tune to what they need and giving them the option to self-select/medicate is a wonderful thing.
A dog in a million
Binky was very active throughout his wonderful life and as mentioned at the start, a great charity fundraiser, raising almost £5k. He was also a blood donor and a Pets as Therapy (PAT) dog. We sadly had to give up his contribution to PAT when they banned titre testing and raw fed dogs.
Binky not only enhanced my life but those of all he met. He was that dog in a million and I am missing him every day. This is why we have set up Binky’s Trust to continue his fundraising work and honour his legacy.
Take a look at CAM and integrated vet care
If, from my experience I could recommend anything, it would be to try anything once. You may not always see instant improvements but that doesn’t mean it’s not helping. But please do your research – this website is a wonderful starting place for you to go and find credible information, research and expertise. Please talk to your vet too – it’s all part of the whole of your animal’s care. And finally, take all the pictures you want and live your best life with your dog.
Lolie is a lifelong animal lover and one of CAM4animals’ active supporters helping to highlight the benefits of true integrative veterinary care having seen improvements in the health and well-being of her dogs Binky, Miss Darci and Marius.
Lolie has set up Binkys Trust to continue Binky’s legacy and build on the £5k he raised for charity whilst with Lolie. To begin with, funds will be donated to the Pet Blood Bank. Longer term, as the funds grow, the Trust’s aim is to assist in the payment of vet fees when there is an urgent need such as when insurance does not cover costs or there is no insurance. Their long-term goal is to help give back and enable as many animals as they can to have the same access to care and well-being as Binky had.
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This blog may also contain an element of consumer opinion. Whilst CAM4animals welcomes positive recommendations for holistic healthcare products, we don’t necessarily endorse the product or the author’s opinion. We acknowledge that each animal is an individual and may react differently to the highlighted product/s. There may also be other products available that produce similarly positive results.
The veterinary Surgeon’s Act 1966 restricts the treatment of animals (usually other than your own*) by anyone other than a qualified vet. Always consult a veterinary surgeon if you are concerned about your animal’s health. *For full details visit the RCVS website