Feline case study on McTimoney care for a 13 year old Turkish short-haired cat

I first met Sheba in November 2017, when she had recently been brought to the UK from Turkey (read her story here). She was referred to me by Dr. Sarah Stieg (DVM MRCVS), whom I have had the pleasure of working alongside on many cases. Dr. Stieg runs a classical homeopathic small animal and equine mobile veterinary practice in North Yorkshire and is also Director of the Pitcairn Institute of Veterinary Homeopathy. Dr. Stieg had assessed Sheba, then aged 11, and suspected she had suffered an impact trauma at some point, as she had developed severe arthritis in her spine.

Sheba’s owner reported to me that Sheba had limited mobility, was sleeping a lot, and looked unsteady when standing and walking – her back end was especially weak and she had difficulty balancing while she was eating. She was not able to negotiate stairs.

Initial assessment

I assess gait at every session, and noticed that Sheba was moving very wide behind (a classic sign of instability and impaired proprioception) with a marked bilateral hindlimb stiffness and a very roached (hunched) topline. Her coat was dull and greasy, and she seemed tired and withdrawn.

Sheba, a black and white Turkish short haired cat looking sorry for herself before starting treatment with McTimoney care and Low Level Laser Therapy.
Sheba before her treatment started with McTimoney, massage and Low Level Laser Therapy

On palpation, Sheba had significant tenderness in the lumbar area of her spine, and some very large vertebral misalignments. From a chiropractic perspective, a misalignment is a specific palpable change in the normal mobility of a joint. For example, in the spine, movement consists of dorsoventral flexion-extension, lateral movement and axial rotation, and whilst each joint usually has one dominant plane of movement, there are accessory movements in the other two planes to some extent. In the spine, reduction of the dorsoventral flexion also results in reduced lateral and axial rotation movements and we are able to detect these through our palpation of the affected area.  

Fusion in the spine and associated problems

It has since become apparent that there is a degree of fusion in Sheba’s lumbar spine, and unfortunately it has fused in a misaligned position which means that Sheba will always be compensating for this in some way.  A significant injury such as this inevitably leads to changes in the range of motion of other joints throughout the body, including compensatory loading of the forelimbs and pelvic imbalance as the animal seeks to find the most comfortable way to move. There will also be associated chronic tension in the muscular and soft tissue systems.

Addressing compensations

One of the main aims of my sessions with Sheba has been to address her many compensations. Compensations must be addressed promptly in order to prevent development of a chronic pain issue in the overloaded area. Alleviating compensatory patterns allows the body to rehabilitate to correct movement patterns and relieves discomfort caused by tight muscles and joints which have been taking more of the strain from uneven loading. It is common for an animal to overload their forelimbs, shoulders and neck when compensating for lower back and hindlimb issues – Sheba particularly overloads her left neck and forelimb.

Sheba, a black and white Turkish short haired cat enjoys a massage
Sheba enjoying a massage

Choosing the treatments

Sheba was very worried by being handled by a stranger when I first met her, so I sat with her on the floor and tried a little of each technique to see which she liked best. She showed an immediate preference for McTimoney and Low Level Laser.

Chiropractic adjustments used by McTimoney Animal Practitioners are gentle, light and highly effective at improving range of motion in joints which have reduced mobility, and the treatment rebalances the skeletal system so symmetry is restored. This also influences the muscle tone of the superficial and deeper postural muscles, alleviating associated discomfort for the animal and enabling them to move more freely.

Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) is the therapeutic application of an amplified beam of light. As LLLT does not vibrate, it is safe to use on fractures and where there are pins or plates. LLLT can stimulate cell processes by increasing the activity of cell mitochondria, thus accelerating cell replication and healing. It also reduces pain and inflammation by means of vasodilation and inhibition of pain receptors. Levels of serotonin and endorphins also increase during laser treatment, meaning most animals enter a state of relaxation. Sheba certainly finds it very relaxing and accepted laser happily from the very first time we met – incredible for a (mostly) feral cat!

Sheba, a black and white Turkish short haired cat enjoys Low Level Laser Therapy
Sheba having laser therapy

Sheba improves

Sheba improved significantly once established with homeopathic veterinary treatment from Dr Stieg, combined with regular sessions with myself. Homeopathy fascinates me, and I will confess that I was initially a sceptic, but have seen time and time again how a well-judged remedy can produce incredible effects. Not least the massive improvement which is usually seen in an animal’s general wellbeing once they begin homeopathic treatment. And no unpleasant side effects!

It was a very happy day when Sheba’s owner sent me videos of her playing with a toy – something which had been previously unheard of. She was able to move around more freely and carry out normal behaviours such as grooming herself, which had become quite difficult for her. Her coat is now soft and shiny – she really is the picture of health and contentment.

Black and white cat much recovered after holistic health treatments
Sheba with her friend Wills, looking more comfortable and glossier after her sessions of Homeopathy, McTimoney, Massage and Low Level Laser Therapy

As Sheba gained trust in me, I was able to introduce massage and stretching to the sessions. However, from time to time there has been a resounding “NO!” to certain techniques or stretches, in which case I try to address the reason for this, while respecting that she would prefer that I don’t directly move/touch the area.

Case review

Dr Stieg reviews my treatment reports after every session and we frequently discuss the progress of cases. This means anything out of the ordinary (such as an aversion to techniques that Sheba usually enjoys) can be dealt with promptly. Sometimes a failure to respond as expected to treatment can be due to the fact that she needs a remedy from Dr. Stieg, or sometimes a change to the frequency of bodywork sessions is needed. As time has progressed there has, at times, been a deterioration in Sheba’s condition – she has very stiff hips now, and her front elbows and shoulders can get sore (the result of years of compensation). However, together we have been able to ensure that her wellbeing and mobility are as good as they can be, bearing in mind that she is an elderly cat with complex issues.

Sheba at home

In order to maintain Sheba’s comfort in between my sessions, I advised her owners to purchase a Photizo Vetcare unit so that she could continue to have regular phototherapy several times per week. This has been extremely useful in managing her chronic pain. See here for more information on Photizo. Her owners have also taken measures to make Sheba’s life easier – installing kitty steps to her favourite resting spots, and even a heated bed. Sheba is a very lucky cat indeed, as she has extremely loving and understanding owners!

Liz Harris BSc(Hons), PgDip AM, EEBW, CCBW, MMAA.

Liz is a McTimoney Animal Practitioner and Holistic Bodyworker based at Animal Therapy Services in Richmond, North Yorkshire. The techniques she uses include McTimoney Animal Chiropractic, Sports Massage, Low-Level Laser, SCENAR, Neuro-Myofascial release, and Reiki. Liz works alongside your veterinary surgeon and other professionals, such as your saddler, farrier and equine dentist, in order to provide the best all-round care for your animal.

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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