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CAM Meets Catherine Gabbott

Catherine Gabbott

After pursuing a career change, Catherine started Suppawtive Health Solutions in 2016 in Brisbane, Australia when she qualified with a certificate in Small Animal Nutrition. As many of her clients’ dogs had other health conditions, in particular arthritis, Catherine quickly realised that she wanted to do more to help dogs by providing more holistic treatment options.

Returning to college, Catherine studied Canine Bowen Therapy, veterinary nursing, canine myofunctional therapy and a diploma of naturopathy for companion pets; and is currently studying a certificate in canine fitness.

Catherine recognises that each pet is unique and have their own specific needs, believing that it is important to assess and treat the whole animal, and not just signs of illness. An animal’s lifestage, lifestyle, medical history and breed plays an important part in determining their nutritional, physical and emotional health requirements. When assessing her patients, Catherine evaluates all aspects of the animal’s life from diet, exercise, home environment, medical history, movement and even bedding, as all elements interact to affect the whole.

All aspects of the assessment form input to a comprehensive, holistic treatment plan that includes nutritional advice and formulated recipes balanced to the AAFCO/NRC regulations (where required), bodywork, laser treatment, appropriate stretching and conditioning exercises.

Bodywork, which includes myofunctional and Bowen therapy, is any therapeutic technique that involves working with the body aiming to assess and improve posture, promote awareness of the body-mind connection, reduce pain and assist healing of musculoskeletal conditions and acute injuries. The objective of bodywork treatments is to improve circulation, muscle elasticity, restore muscle function, reduce pain and promote healing.

Bowen Therapy is a dynamic bodywork technique that can be applied remedially or holistically. It is relatively gentle, can be very relaxing and empowers the body’s own healing resources achieving balance and harmony, resulting in fast and lasting relief from pain and discomfort.

By using a multimodal approach in her treatment plans, clients report that their dogs respond well, often saying that their dogs have more flexibility, better posture, an improved gait and a happier demeanour.


 Catherine kindly agreed to answer the following questions:

What are your feelings on how we currently manage this common debilitating condition in dogs?

For many years arthritis has been seen as a major health problem in humans and a lot of time and medical resources have been spent researching preventative and treatment options for humans. However, when it comes to pets, we are still playing catchup. Many people see arthritis as a normal part of ageing in pets and treat it with pain medication, accepting that nothing else can be done to assist pets suffering with this condition. They fail to see the correlation in treating arthritis in humans and that in animals.

The same is true for athletes. When human athletes sustain an injury or require surgery, they attend physiotherapy and rehabilitation to assist their body heal before returning to their chosen sport and prevent further injury. Canine athletes are no different. Their musculoskeletal system is very similar to humans, they sustain similar injuries to us and when musculoskeletal injuries are left untreated it may lead to arthritis. It makes sense that many of the same post-injury and post-surgery rehabilitation treatments that work for us, work for canine athletes too.

In recent times this perception to canine arthritis and musculoskeletal injuries has begun to change as more practitioners start offering alternative therapies for pets, including massage, Bowen therapy, acupuncture, laser, hydrotherapy and conditioning. Also, owners are more aware that there are more options and healthier choices available to them and their pets.

I believe there is still more that can be done to help us manage arthritis in our canine companions. We are on the right track but we are not there yet. We need to get better at not just treating the symptoms; and although many improvements have been made in the management of this condition there is still a lot more that can be done by professionals working together to provide a comprehensive, multimodal and holistic treatment plan.


As a veterinary canine bodywork practitioner and naturopath what do you feel is essential for managing canine arthritis effectively?

 Thanks to medical discoveries, interventions and improved nutrition dogs are living longer. Unfortunately, this means that they suffer from the same age-related diseases that humans do, including arthritis. However, canine arthritis is a condition that affects not just senior dogs but young dogs too.

I believe that the first step in effective management of arthritis begins with taking proactive instead of reactive approaches to treatment. This is achieved by building awareness of the condition, knowing how to identify it early and adopting a multi-faceted prevention and treatment plan when a pet is young.

Younger dogs can benefit from early intervention, appropriate exercise (especially when a dog is growing) and annual veterinary examinations that include thorough musculoskeletal assessments, which are vital to early detection and management of arthritis. Intervention also includes diet modification for overweight and obese pets, implementing changes to the home environment by reducing slippery surfaces and preventing injuries by jumping, ball chasing and inappropriate or strenuous exercise.

For older pets diagnosed with arthritis it is never too late to seek professional treatment options in the management of arthritis. Supportive treatment options like massage and laser are a great way to reduce tension, loosen tight muscles and improve elasticity in our pets muscles but also reduce pain and improve the quality of life for our pets.

Finally, it is essential we change our approach and the lens we look through in order to have a dramatic influence on not only delaying the onset of this condition but also managing the outcome of a pet diagnosed with arthritis. As the saying goes, once we know better, we do better.


How do you see treatment options for arthritis progressing over the next ten years?

Over the next ten years, I believe that medical advances will be made in the treatment and prevention of arthritis for both humans and our canine companions. I also believe that our understanding of arthritis will change as well as our approach to treating it. In the meantime, I hope to see combined treatment options offered at veterinary clinics that include a more integrative multimodal approach to arthritis.

Regular assessments and preventative plans need to begin when a dog is young and form part of an annual checkup and I would like to see this become common practise. It is my belief that by working collaboratively medical professionals in all fields can reduce the impact of arthritis on our pets, improving their quality of life; as arthritis doesn’t have to be the end of the road.

Within the next ten years, I hope that owners and medical professionals will embrace the many treatment options available already and other discoveries yet to come. It would be nice to see a cure for arthritis but until that happens, let’s work together to reduce the impact of arthritis on pets and their owners.


If you could have the opportunity to give one tip/ piece of advice to an owner with a dog suffering from arthritis what would it be?

Each dog is an individual and what works for one dog may not work or be suitable for another. Work with a veterinarian and bodywork practitioner to devise a treatment plan for your dog. The best treatment plan is a multimodal approach that combines medication, nutrition, bodywork, conditioning, appropriate exercises and stretching.

There is no quick fix to arthritis and although the internet is rife with information, it is important to work with professionals that know your dog and can assess your dog on a regular basis, adjusting the treatment plan as required. It is important to work at a pace appropriate and safe for your dog. Information on and classes teaching conditioning exercises have become very popular, however they may not be suitable for your dog as some exercises may be too advanced. Conditioning and strength training takes times and needs to begin with supervised basic exercises, attempting advanced techniques too soon at home without the proper equipment can lead to serious injuries.