Episode 34: Help your Dog Live Life to the Fullest with Canine Physiotherapist Jodi Bussiere

Corey McCusker (0:04 – 1:38)
Hello dog lovers, and welcome to Muttz with Mannerz™ Canine Academy Podcast, where we’ll share dog training tips, and educational information, to help you raise your pup, young or old, so they can be a loving part of your family and your community for life. I’m your host, Corey McCusker, Canine Coach, and today I’m thrilled to have with me Jodi Bussier, Uxbridge Canine Physio. Let me tell you a bit about Jodi.

Jodi is a registered physiotherapist with 30 years of clinical experience. She has been to the Olympics and Pan American Games and owns a physiotherapy clinic in Uxbridge. Due to her love of animals, Jodi has expanded her practice to include canine physio.

Jodi has advanced Canine Rehabilitation Training through the Animal Rehab Division of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association. Virtually every skill Jodi has used on humans can be applied to dogs. Jodi is highly trained in canine anatomy and rehabilitation and uses treatments and techniques that are specific to each dog.

She performs a thorough physical examination of each dog and then creates a unique plan that works for the owner and the dog. Jodi sees dogs in her Uxbridge home or she will travel to the owner’s home, making her mobile practice very accessible. The animal community, including veterinarians, are quickly learning about her services and she’s excited to be able to provide the Uxbridge and surrounding communities with quality canine rehabilitation.

Welcome, Jodi.

Jodi Bussiere (1:39 – 1:41)
Thank you for that lovely introduction.

Corey McCusker 1:42 – 1:55)
It’s great to have you here and I’m excited to learn more about the canine physio.

So Jodi, can you share with us more about what you do and how you ended up being a canine physio therapist?

Jodi Bussiere (1:56 – 3:53)
If you’d told me when I graduated 30 years ago that I’d been working with dogs, I would have told you you were not, didn’t really even know it was a thing. So just like fast forward through my career of working in hospitals and working in clinics and buying my own clinic. I’ve been to the Olympics, I’ve been to the Pan American Games, I like to do a lot of sports medicine stuff on the side.

I saw that there were some intro canine rehab courses being offered in St. Catharines and we had a family dog and I thought, I don’t know, I thought it would just be fun to find out about it. So I had to take a pretty in-depth canine anatomy course and pass a little test in order to get into the course. So I did that.

And then after the course, I absolutely loved it. I bought myself some canine special Bosus, balls, and things. And I learned that I had to have special insurance in order to work with dogs separate than humans.

So I set up a few very basic things and I thought, I can dabble in this on the side. And I found myself a couple of clients that to be honest with you, I don’t even think I charged them in the beginning. And then I decided that I could have a little side business doing this and have some fun.

So I took my advanced course out in Calgary during the COVID years. And then I had some time during COVID to develop my website and my business plan, make pamphlets, and I posted it a little bit on social media. And I honestly started getting clients just kind of through word of mouth. And so I do charge for my services now. And it is much more formal.

As you mentioned, I have a business that’s out of my own home or out of the owner’s home. So I have a clinic for humans and I can’t bring dogs into that space. So I do it separately.

I would say I spend about one or two days a week treating my dogs and I treat humans as well and manage both businesses. And I’m just having a lot of fun doing this right now.

Corey McCusker (3:54 – 4:14)
It’s funny when you say fun and you’re doing such great work when you’re having fun too. And I think about that with my dog training. It’s like, I just have fun when I’m doing what I love.

So that’s awesome. So can you, so you’ve got both human and canine that you’re dealing with. Can you explain the difference between a canine physiotherapist and a human physiotherapist?

Jodi Bussiere (4:14 – 7:39)
My first answer would be that almost every skill that I have spent the last 30 years developing, I can use on dogs. So I do manual therapy. I do exercises.

I use therapeutic laser and ultrasound. I do acupuncture. I’ve even taped dogs.

I educate the owners on some of the self-care that they can do with their dogs. But there are a few differences for sure. So if you think about communication, people will say to me, Well, how do you know when a dog is in pain? Well, owners will tell you. They know their dog is in pain. They know their dog is limping.

They can see that their dog has muscle atrophy. They know that their spine is sore. So I get a lot of clues from my owners about what’s going on with their dog.

And then you just need to learn how dogs communicate. They communicate with whimpering or by limping or by avoiding walking on that limb or something like that. I definitely use the owners to help me with the history, just as I would take a history from a human when they come in to see me. I would ask the owner, what’s been going on with the dog? What’s been happening? Are they favoring something?

Are they in pain? I’d ask maybe if they wouldn’t mind me getting some information from their veterinarian. And then the vets will send me information.

I can get MRIs and tests and blood work and whatever from the vets. And so those are some differences as well with taking the history and doing the assessment. And I would also say that positioning.

So whereas a human, you can say, Well, can you lie on your stomach, please? Can you lie on your back, please? Can you sit up and can you lift your arms up?

You can’t really do that with the dog. So it’s super fun and creative. I take them for a walk with the owner.

I watch them walk from the front, from the side, and I watch them stand and I watch them go upstairs. And then if I want to see their left hip, for instance, I can do a lot of stuff in standing and sitting, but then it’s having the dog lie down, but having them lie on the opposite side. So then I can have access to their opposite hip.

And then they think you’re trying to wrestle them. So again, it’s just learning how to handle dogs and getting the owner involved. So the owner would go maybe on their head side and have a treat and make sure that they’re keeping them happy up there.

And it kind of looks like I’m wrestling dogs sometimes because I’ll be on the floor, my legs over their body. I’m working on their hip. But honestly, when you learn to communicate with dogs and show them that you’re friendly and you’re here to help and you’re soothing them and their owners are helping you, I’ve learned lots of ways to get around that.

And then I guess the final point would be with exercise. So with humans, actually, I would say that it’s probably easier to get dogs to do exercises because their owners want to do it with them with a treat. It’s like play for them.

Whereas humans, getting them to move sometimes, is really hard because they just want to be lazy and lie there and get treated. So I teach the owners how to do the exercises with their dogs and definitely treats help. You can kind of coerce a dog to do anything with a treat.

So yeah, just working with the owners is really an important step with treating dogs.

Corey McCusker (7:40 – 8:30)
Yeah, and I think you’re so right in regards to it’s probably easier to work with the dogs or get the dogs to do it because the owners are really motivated. They’ve come to you for help. They see their dog in pain, so they want to help their dog.

So they definitely would be encouraging them to do the exercises with them. So that’s excellent. So we have traditional medicine that most of us have always been aware of.

I mean, I’m aware of all the other modalities that are out there to help dogs. So most owners and maybe the people listening today would be going to the vet if their dog was injured or there was something going on. And the options there would either be probably Medicaid or maybe surgeries required. So where do you fit in with, I’m going to say the holistic approach to the dog’s wellbeing?

Jodi Bussiere (8:31 – 10:24)
And I often get referrals from vets. They know about canine rehab and they know that we’re out there. It’s another option to offer them. So maybe I’ll give you an example as a CCL injury.

So a CCL is the ligament in the stifle, which is the knee of the dog. And it’s equivalent to an ACL injury in a human. And there’s often offered either a non-surgical approach or a surgical approach.

And I find the theme is to push them into surgery. But a lot of owners, either because of the age of the dog, or they don’t want to spend the money, and they look at the research and they think, I’m not going to put my dog through that. What are my other options? So the option is rehabilitation. And you have a dog who has now has not been weight bearing on that limb.

They have muscle atrophy. They’re stiff. Not only are their stifle or their knee muscles weak, their hip muscles are also weak.

Maybe they have some low back issues. So I treat and assess the cause of the pain or the movement problem, and then come up with a plan that helps their knee or their stifle rehabilitate with exercises, with manual therapy, with laser, without surgery. And they’re probably going to need rehab, whether they have surgery or not.

So I’m a step in that process. And I can work with the vet. And it’s, there’s lots of things we can do, besides just give dogs pills, and give them expensive surgery.

And sometimes I can’t help as much as they had hoped. But I feel like I can always give them something that they can do at home to help improve their dog. And I definitely communicate with the vet to make sure that they’re online with what I’m doing.

Corey McCusker (10:25 – 10:43)
That’s great. And again, that’s a really great partnership with the vet and yourself too, because then, you know, you’re working together to help. And there’s a leg injury . . . So what are some other ailments or reasons that a pet parent would would seek somebody like you’re in the services that you offer?

Jodi Bussiere (10:43 – 13:20)
Aging . . . Dogs get older. They all develop degenerative changes in their spines and their hips and their lower hind limbs, and sometimes in our show dogs, the upper limbs as well. And they need help getting mobile, getting stronger with pain. So some of my older dogs, I’m doing acupuncture on them.

I’m doing more soothing maintenance types of treatments with them. I might not see them as often, I might see them once a month just to help keep them going. I mentioned the injuries.

So like the ligament injuries, for instance, either post surgical or non surgical rehabilitation. I had a dog this year who for a thing he got hit by a car. And so he fractured his radius and ulna in his forelimb.

So his owners came to me for rehabilitation of that limb. So it’d be the little equivalent of his little wrist joint that we needed to make sure it got mobile and then strong again. His entire shoulder, elbow, wrist area was weaker on that and we did five or six sessions and I discharged him and his owners were absolutely thrilled. They gave me a beautiful thank you email and it was nice to work with them.

And then one other population would be my show dogs. So I do have a dog right now who was down in Florida, I think it was before Christmas, and he will be competing again. And he was down at a show. And I guess he started walking funny. And then there was a practitioner down there that looked at him and said there was something going on in his hips and his spine.

Well, they don’t live in Florida. So they came back to Uxbridge and sought me out. And I now treat him on a regular basis just to ensure that his his spine is in the right posture.

And he’s looking beautiful and he shows and he’s a lovely dog. But interestingly, he will not sit for me. He will not lie down for me.

He will not sit for me. He is a dominant male. So this is where I need to improvise.

And I do this every day with my humans. Maybe I can’t get them on their stomach for some reason. So I have to look at their body in a different way.

And I feel that with my level of experience with humans and dogs, I’m so used to just going with whatever I’m dealt with at the moment. I use the owners, I figure out a different way to do it. So I have to treat this dog standing.

That’s the only way that he’ll be treated. But I love him. He’s a great dog.

Corey McCusker (13:22 – 13:48)
Oh, that’s great. So okay, so those are all really good reasons. I mean, and that’s great, the story there with the show dog because there’s a lot of dogs that are out there that do show, but if they aren’t walking the way they should be and everything else, it definitely impacts what their purpose is there for too. And so if someone was to seek you out, and they come for an assessment and they want treatment, how does that work? How does that process work?

Jodi Bussiere (13:48 – 15:44)

Objective assessment is the questions that I ask the patient usually, but in the case of a dog, it’s the owners filling me in on the history. So what I like to do is have a little conversation over the phone with my owners first just to get some of those details. And as I said, I can call the vet ahead of time or the owner can call the vet to get some of the notes sent over if that’s necessary.

And then when I meet with them that first day, my assessment is about an hour and a half. It’s fairly comprehensive. It’s kind of head-to-toe. But if they’re there for their hind limbs, I’m obviously focusing on their hind limbs and their spine. But I look at the whole dog and look at, as I mentioned, walking, moving, lying down, and then I’ll look at all their body parts and how it moves, what the strength is, what the muscle is. And so that initial assessment time, I finish off with some treatment, whatever is necessary.

And I always give the owner some instructions on what they can continue with at home. And then from there, we figure out what the treatment plan is. So everybody is different.

Some dogs will see me once a month. Some dogs need to see me twice a week right from the beginning. It depends on the dog and their injury, and it depends on the budget of the owner and how much they want to invest.

But the initial assessments are an hour and a half, and the follow-ups are usually about 45 minutes. And they are either at the owner’s house, and I travel to them, or they’re in my home canine space that I have. And I have a backyard that’s enclosed, so we can run around back there if we need to.

And I have a park right by my house. So it’s been really successful in the small way that I’ve started it, and we’ll see where it gets in the future.

Corey McCusker (15:45 – 15:59)

And you are located in Uxbridge, so I’m assuming the GTA area. And so for those listening who knows where you are, but I think the mobility, you going to them, it would be a certain radius that you would go to them.

Jodi Bussiere (16:00 – 16:45)
I guess I say on my website about half an hour radius from Uxbridge, I’ll travel. And there was a canine physio in Toronto who referred a client to me, but she had seen up in Aurora, and it was just too far for her to travel. So I am now treating that dog, and if I ever had a client call me and say, well, I live in Toronto, but I’d like to come and see you, I might suggest to them, well, I’m fine if you want to come see me, that’s fine.

But if you want someone closer, I have a network. And it’s like that with my human business too. I’ve been in the business for long enough.

I know people all over Canada. So if somebody calls me from a different community, I can always set you up with someone else, or they can feel free to travel to me, I don’t mind.

Corey McCusker (16:46 – 17:04)
And how many approximately, because I mean, this is, I’m going to say new to me, the canine physio, so how many of you, are there many, like, is this a practice or something that there are many of you around that if somebody was looking for, they could find one in their community?

Jodi Bussiere (17:05 – 18:56)
I do know that one of the most common canine rehabilitation clinics that was sought to, I guess, the 404 Vet Clinic, they used to have a setup clinic there, they closed. So people have been having a hard time finding us. And I don’t think there’s very many of us around.

So it’s nice to have a mobile practice. It’s definitely been used by lots of clients. I don’t actually know the answer to that question. So, I’d like to say that there’s a few hundred of us across the country. But it’s not like human physios.

Everyone graduates from physio school to treat humans. And if you’re a physio therapist, you have to go on to take lots of extra courses in order to do what I’m doing. So I would say it’s a field that’s, that’s building.

And, and one thing about canine rehabilitation is, it’s not a regulated profession. And I’m sure the vets are not thrilled about this, because it’s kind of a territorial thing where they may feel that someone like myself doesn’t have the skills to be doing it. And I would argue that I absolutely do.

I have 30 years of experience, and I’ve taken specific canine courses. And, and so there are other people that aren’t physios, and aren’t vet assistants, and aren’t vets, doing what I do. And I think that the client needs to just be careful and do their research and make sure that it’s someone who is accredited.

And I do have insurance to treat dogs. And, you know, but there’s no, there’s no regulated profession that covers all those people yet. So it’s an interesting field.

Corey McCusker (18:57 – 19:41)
And I think that’s a good point that, you know, do your research like that’s where yes, you have 30 years treating humans. And then, you know, you’ve got the extra knowledge and expertise in regards to the canine. So I think, yeah, definitely do your research.

And, you know, you mentioned when someone comes to you, it’s based on the financial, well, you said the budget, if it’s in their budget. So can we just talk about what the financial investment, what would a pet parent expect when they come to you. And I know the treatment is going to be different, and you can’t give me a number, but to just give an idea to someone that’s listening, what would be like, you’ve talked about the process and the assessment, what would be involved in or financial investment?

Jodi Bussiere (19:43 – 20:58)
So my assessments are $175 plus HST. And I’m fairly confident that that is under what a vet clinic would charge. Often it’s a veterinarian who’s doing the assessments, and they may have someone else doing the treatments and don’t quote me on that. But I believe I’ve seen quoted well over $200 for their assessments. So I’ve tried to keep it fairly competitive and reasonable. So it’s $175. And then my follow ups, it really depends on how long and how extensive and whether I’m traveling as well.

So if I’m traveling to a dog, I would say my standard fee is $100 for a 45 minute or longer follow up. And if they come to me, it may be a little bit less, maybe $80 or so. But again, it depends on what I’m doing with them.

So I did have a dog who was more acute, and I was seeing them more often, and the treatments were shorter. And I charged them less because we didn’t do as much. And then if it’s a more elaborate session that I only see them so often, then it ends up being a little bit more.

But hopefully, that’ll give you an idea of my rates.

Corey McCusker (20:58 – 21:17)
No, that’s good. And so you mentioned with the vets there, they might be doing assessments and someone else is doing the treatment. Does what you do, is it more of a preventative?

Or is it about avoiding vet care or complementing vet care? So how would you do you look at it?

Jodi Bussiere (21:17 – 22:08)
Complementing vet care. I want to be doing things with the vets, just like when I’m treating humans. I communicate with the doctors. I communicate with the surgeons. I want us all to be on the same team. And if it does not have a rehab therapist that they refer to, I am the perfect person to work with them. And absolutely, it’s a team effort, and it’s not one or the other.

And the owners always have a choice. And I find everybody’s been really comfortable. And I write letters actually to vets, just like you do with my humans.

So thank you for the referral. This is what I found in my assessment. This is my treatment plan.

If you have any other information that would help us, please reach out. And I like to keep that open communication going.

Corey McCusker (22:09 – 22:27)
Excellent, excellent. And okay, that’s all great information. And I really say thank you for what you’re doing for the canines out there that need your services.

Is there any final words that you want to just say to our listeners today about what you’re doing with the canine physio that you haven’t touched on?

Jodi Bussiere (22:27 – 23:28)
I think just that they are part of the process. And they love their dogs. And that’s the fun thing about it is they want to do it for their dogs.

And I show them these really easy exercises to do. I explain the anatomy to them. It makes sense. And they do it. Like, we talked about. I think they do it better than if I gave my human an exercise to do for their own body. And the dogs just want to play. They just want to move. And they just want to get back to activities. So I always involve the owners, it’s enjoyable for them.

And I’ve received tons of thanks from the owners. So they’re always part of the process. And I look forward to even if I can’t help your dog, I’m happy to be a resource and have a discussion over the phone with them and give them some advice.

And I’m just happy to have something fun on the side that I love to do. And I’m trying to find time to figure out how I balance all of this in my life. But yeah, so happy to help.

Corey McCusker (23:29 – 24:40)
That’s great. For those listening, if you were looking to seek out Jodi and her canine physio, you can go to her website, uxbridgecaninephysio.com, which the link will be provided in the show notes. And again, Jodi, I just want to really thank you for what you do and for sharing the information with our listeners today.

Because I know you have a very busy schedule. So I really appreciate you taking the time to do the podcast with me today. Okay, and that brings this podcast to a conclusion.

So what I want to just say is if you are interested in learning more about Muttz with Mannerz™, or other podcasts that we may have, you can visit our website at www.muttzwithmannerz.com. If there is a topic that you’re interested in, please reach out to us at info@muttzwithmannerz and let us know. But we are here to enrich both ends of the leash.

And that’s definitely what Jodi is doing in both of her practices, looking after the humans and the canines. And so we thank you for listening today. And we hope that you join us on another podcast.

Thanks, everyone. And thank you so much, Jodi.


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