Rare and Exotic Breeds

Claire treats a Water Buffalo

What do we treat, and why?

Osteopathy for rare and exotic animals is becoming more popular as owners realise that it can save the lives of valuable livestock. "Valuable" may mean that the animal was very expensive, or that it is a it is a well-loved pet, or that the animal has excellent breeding characteristics, for example: four horns in sheep are genetically linked to split eyelids, the latter being a trait that breeders hope to eradicate from their stock. In the course of her work, Claire has treated numerous rare breed horses and sheep, plus assorted alpacas and buffalo.

So what conditions do we treat?

Problems that may respond well to osteopathy include:
* Unexplained lameness
* Back pain
* Difficulties after trauma – eg: getting a head stuck in wire
* Pain after giving birth
* Problems mating
* Unusual behaviour

What to expect

Claire with a Dales Pony

Before arriving, Claire will need to contact your vet to obtain permission to treat. This is a legal requirement, and provides the osteopath with an opportunity to know the full medical history of the patient. Most vets are well aware of the benefits of osteopathy and will ask the osteopath to let them know what they find during treatment.

Depending on the animal Claire may ask to see the patient moving, before feeling the joints for restrictions and the muscles for tension.

Usually the whole animal will be examined, since the cause of the problem is not always where you think it might be. So don’t be surprised if you see an osteopath examine the neck when you were convinced there was a problem with the animal’s foot!


You may see your osteopath using soft tissue techniques, stretches, and gentle joint mobilisation to remove any imbalances in mobility. Manipulation is used when necessary and, despite the click it often makes, is painless. Another technique that is particularly useful for animals is cranial osteopathy. This is a gentle method of treating and may often send both animal and owner to sleep - don’t be fooled - it is a powerful way to rebalance ligaments, and ease strains throughout the body.

Case Studies:

Claire with a Hebridean Ewe

This Hebridean ewe with lovely four horns and no split eyelids had given birth to enormous twins and following the birth was very lame.

Examination showed that her pelvis was not moving correctly, which was causing the lameness. Any human mum who has had low back pain after giving birth will, no doubt, have much sympathy for the poor ewe.

After two treatments to correct the pelvis she was sound and looking much more cheerful. The owner was also looking more cheerful as there was no need to put down an excellent breeding ewe, nor was he required to bottle feed the two lambs.

Claire with a Dales Pony

The Dales Pony is on the Rare Breed Survival Trust critical list. Bred for their strength and endurance, they were widely used on Pennine farms, in the mining industry and by the military.

The Dales mare in this picture was having difficulty striding out and had some discomfort when starting to trot. The problems stemmed from restricted mobility in her neck and pelvis, and after 3 treatments she is stepping forwards more easily.