In that time, Kate has seen a dramatic change in how dogs are treated after surgery, injury or just during old age, with improved outcomes helping many dearly loved family pets to live longer, healthier lives.
Originally from a farming background, Kate’s journey into canine therapy was spurred by her interest in helping her own dogs. When one of her beloved collies was injured during its training for agility competitions, where dogs compete to jump an obstacle course in the fastest time, she used massage to help it recover instead of relying on anti-inflammatory medications. Her decision to investigate water-based treatments was inspired by seeing how hydrotherapy is used to help racehorses recover from injury.
Kate soon qualified as a physiotherapist and hydro-therapist, buying a pool so that she could start her own business, Muppets Canine Therapy, and share the benefits with others. Most of her patients are referred to her by veterinary practices. She said: “The oldest client I’ve treated was 16 years of age. His owners were told when he was 11 that he ought to be put down. It’s so fulfilling to see outcomes like that and be able to give my clients and their families that extra five years together. If dogs have had a surgery that I haven’t seen before, I will research it so that I can offer the best care. Rehabilitation is complex, but when they send me a dog that’s broken, whether it’s a clot in the spinal column, a disc explosion, or hip dysplasia, I love getting them going and giving them a second chance.”
Recent years have seen a change in attitudes to treatment and care for pets. Increasingly, owners are turning to alternative care for their dogs. Programmes like Channel 4’s The Supervet, where veterinarian Noel Fitzpatrick and his team provide cutting-edge treatments that extend the lives of some of the country’s hardest-to-cure pets, have helped raise awareness of what potential treatments can do. Kate said: “There’s a lot of advancements in pioneering treatment and a big shift in how people feel about animals. Now they’re part of the family, people take a lot more care and are more interested in rehabilitation. They know a lame dog is in pain and are keener to hear what I can do.”
Muppets Canine Therapy moved into a railway arch on Princess Street in Sheffield in November 2020. It was a return to this kind of property for Kate, who had rented an arch many years ago and was keen to get her hands on another when one became available. She said: “I love the olde-worlde nature of it. It’s not a plastic place, I love the feel of it with the exposed brickwork – and the rent is cheap. It is small and convenient, accessible for Sheffield with parking and a little courtyard. It’s such a nice place for me and my dogs. We even go in on days when I’m not working. The neighbours are nice and chat with my clients about why their dogs are having treatment.”
Inside the arch, there is plenty of space for the crucial aquatic treadmill used to provide the hydrotherapy treatments, as well as an area to dry off the dogs afterwards. The treadmill is where Kate’s experience as a physiotherapist really transforms the outcomes for her patients. She said: “The treadmill is only as good as the person doing the work. It’s a therapy that takes a lot of manipulation. When the dog is moving, I can feel the muscle engagement and by moving them from side to side, I can shift their weight to get the best possible impact from the therapy.” Over the years, Kate has had remarkable success for canines with damaged joints or muscles, whether from injury, age, or disease. Her biggest successes have included helping pets to recover from serious spinal injuries. She said: “People think ‘oh, it’s just old age’ when their dog doesn’t look forward to a walk anymore or hasn’t got any energy. Then I get them onto the water treadmill, and I get them back to being enthusiastic again. The first thing people say is that their dog wants to go for walks again. It’s giving them a new lease of life.”
Unit 3, 161 Rutland Rd, Sheffield S3 9PP