For more information about our COVID-19 Policy - Click here

My Bag

Guest Blog: Sophie Bell, Vet and Founder of Animal Love Pet First Aid

Guest Blog: Sophie Bell, Vet and Founder of Animal Love Pet First Aid

I must admit, when heading out for my daily exercise I do not always consider a ‘warm up’ before leaving the house. A brisk walk or even a run, I will leave with cold muscles despite the recommendations by experts. But like many who own pets, I do invest my time into my dog’s welfare and well-being and take time to improve their health.  

I am Sophie Bell, business owner and Senior Vet at Animal Love in Salisbury. I’ve been practicing as a vet for 11 years, mainly working at night dealing with emergency cases.  Over time I have developed a passion for working pets up from both a conventional and holistic approach so looking at diet, lifestyle and well-being as well as any medical needs. I began teaching canine first-aid courses around 5 years ago and since then have evolved the course to cover health and well-being aspects as well as releasing a feline health, well-being and first-aid course. I plan to release multiple online courses over the coming months too! I teach at various colleges and also pet professionals and owners, plus many veterinary nurses and other veterinary professionals take my CPD approved courses. I am constantly researching new products, supplements and diets and am very open minded. I try to be non-judgemental and enjoying learning about a variety of complementary aides from hydrotherapy to herbal medicine.  You can never learn too much! 

With a genuine passion for animals I started Animal Love to help owners to help their pet. Teaching you more than simply basic first aid to help your pets have a wonderful life. 

You can come and learn more with me at

All dogs should have a gentle warm up and warm down when partaking in any exercise – this becomes particularly important for our elderly or arthritic dogs who are at an increased risk of injury and our working dogs who use those muscles and ligaments to excel in their field. Veterinary Physiotherapists would recommend stimulating those soft tissues prior to any exercise, especially if strenuous. So how can you – as a dedicated owner – help to warm your dog up and down?  The truth is, you only need to spend a few minutes to make a difference. Using a treat or toy can help encourage your dog to do these gentle exercises.

  1. Using your treat or toy encourage your dog to stretch their head and neck to the left then right: They can be in a sitting or standing position when doing this. Try to keep them in the position for a few seconds and repeat two to three times on each side.

2. Encourage your dog to look down to the ground and then up, again to stretch out those neck muscles:  Try to encourage slow movement and keep them there for a couple of seconds and repeat the exercise two to three times.

3. If your dog is physically able to (some elderly or severely arthritic dogs will struggle with this) use a low step or surface for them to place their front paw on and look upwards to give the whole back a good stretch. 

All of these exercises will help after the walk so are useful to repeat.  But in addition, to help warm-down your dog you can do the following:

4. Gently move the forelimbs and hindlimbs forward then back: Do not force the legs and make sure the movement is slow.

5. Using simple massage movements such as placing your hands side by side on your dogs’ body and gently pulling them apart: Another method is to cup your hand and make gentle circular movements from head to bottom.

For tired muscles, a mix of warm and cold compresses can help.  Start with a warm and end with a warm.  Use a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel, to ensure it is not too hot on the affected area for no more than 5 minutes. Then switch to a cold which can be frozen peas wrapped in a towel so that it is not too cold, again for no longer than 5 minutes. Alternate as many times as you wish. 

For active dogs adding green lipped mussel and salmon oil into the diet early on can help protect the joints and prevent arthritis, and for those who are already arthritic these are great additions.

Arthritis, joint disease, and soft tissue injuries are extremely common in our canine friends so adding supplements to the diets and using simple stretches pre- and post-walk can really help to keep them supple and healthy.  

Sophie Bell, Vet and Founder of Animal Love Pet First Aid