Most people are familiar with the saying, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” However, popular author and speaker Wayne Dyer wrote a book titled You’ll See It When You Believe It. Which philosophy is correct when it comes to alternative therapies for pets? Is it a bit of both?
Some people swear by western medicine’s mission to measure, diagnose, compare, and treat symptoms only. Others are more open to exploring alternative therapies for pets that focus on shifting energy and examining root causes of illness while simultaneously managing symptoms. Animals are perfect candidates for energy work, considering they are tuned in to subtle changes that most humans can’t detect, such as the barometric pressure drop that precedes a storm.
While an annual trip to the vet is a must, if your pet suffers from illness, allergies, pain, or other chronic issues, using integrative therapies in conjunction with other medical treatments can be extremely effective in increasing their comfort and quality of life. Here’s a look at some of the most popular alternative therapies available for pets.
Acupuncture can be traced back thousands of years, and is one of the four branches of traditional Chinese veterinary medicine. Animal acupuncture was introduced to the U.S. in the early 70s, and has continued to gain popularity ever since.
This ancient technique consists of inserting needles into specific points on the body to treat and heal physical and emotional issues. Major benefits of acupuncture include increased blood and lymphatic flow to tissues and increased release of neurotransmitters and pain modulators. It can also stimulate nerve function, influence inflammatory responses, and help balance hormones.
Some of the conditions for which acupuncture is especially useful include:
-Chronic kidney, liver, and bladder issues
-Nerve injuries, such as paresis, paralysis, and degenerative conditions
-Arthritis, muscle trauma, atrophy, and spinal disease
As people watch the vet sticking needles into their pets, some worry that it is painful for the animal. In fact, quite the opposite is true. It is common for an animal to lay down and relax while the needles are working their magic.
Most pets begin to experience results in two to six treatments, but it depends on the animal and what you are treating for, as acupuncture uses the body’s own resources to create change. The good news is that results are often long lasting, and acupuncture has fewer side effects than most pharmaceutical cures.
When choosing an animal acupuncturist, look for certification from either the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS) or the American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture (AAVA).
We’ve already established that people have a hard time believing what they can’t see. It’s for this reason that animal communication can be a bit controversial. However, many experts believe that each of us is receiving impressions, feelings, and information all day long that we are not aware of. Remember the time you thought of a friend and then they called? Or spoke about an old colleague you haven’t seen for years at lunch, and then you “coincidentally” ran into them at dinner? If you can walk into a room and “feel” a heavy, tense atmosphere without anyone saying a word, you are in touch with your sixth sense.
Every animal communicator works a bit differently, but these individuals boast an ability to “see” into your pet’s mind or communicate with them energetically, essentially feeling whatever it is they’re feeling. An animal communicator connects with an animal’s innermost thoughts to reveal concerns, ailments, questions, positive emotions, or anything else your four-legged (or finned, feathered, etc.) companion wants to share.
The deeper connection facilitated by an animal communicator can increase the understanding, joy, and richness possible in relationships with our animals. Communicators routinely see problems resolve, negative behavior disappear, injuries heal, and the human-animal bond blossom.
Stemming from two Japanese words: rei, meaning “universal,” and ki, meaning “life energy,” Reiki (pronounced “ray-key”) is an ancient healing technique focused on balancing energy patterns and strengthening the body’s natural healing systems. It is an all-natural, non-invasive form of healing that helps calm the nervous system, promoting overall health and well-being.
Some of the benefits of Reiki:
-Provides relief from physical pain
-Balances blood flow and the nervous system to accelerate healing
-Alleviates behavior issues during times of transition or extreme change
-Reduces fear and anxiety
-Increases energy levels (especially in depressed or lethargic animals)
-Helps abused and mistreated animals regain trust
-Calms behavior (which can make shelter pets more adoptable)
-Assists with separation anxiety
Currently there is not one main Reiki certifying organization. Be sure to have a conversation with a practitioner before you begin and ask where/who they studied under so you have confidence and can establish a relationship.
Canine massage is a therapeutic method of touching animals with a goal of relieving pain from sore muscles, achy joints, and other general tension or inflammation. Benefits include improved gait and posture, increased flexibility, quicker recovery time from injuries, better athletic performance, and relief from pain.
Experiments investigating the effects of massage were conducted as early as the 1800s. The field has continued to evolve based on evidence that manipulation of muscles and skin positively impacts physiological, neurological, and psychological well-being, in turn balancing the mind-body connection.
Massage techniques for animals mimic those in human massage: compression, direct pressure, effleurage, friction, vibration, and percussion. Each movement has a specific intention, which allows a practitioner to focus on stress-reduction, pain relief, increasing circulation, etc. And generally, no matter what type of touch is involved, animals who receive regular massages have lower blood pressure, increased range of motion, and increased dopamine and serotonin levels. The recuperative and rehabilitative effects of massage therapy make it ideal for geriatric pets or those recovering from injury or surgery.
Another huge benefit of animal massage is that it can help build trust, increase self-confidence, and create a more sociable animal. This impact is especially valuable for animals who have suffered abuse, neglect, or other emotional traumas.
When choosing an animal massage therapist, look for certification from the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB), International Association of Animal Massage and Bodywork (IAAMB), or the National Board of Certification for Animal Acupressure and Massage (NBCAAM).
This non-surgical, drug-free approach for addressing problems affecting joints, discs, soft-tissues, and nerves has been popular with humans for a long time, and is receiving more attention in the animal world as well.
Anything adversely affecting the nervous system can have detrimental effects throughout the entire body. When joints have a limited range of motion, other muscles and tissues are affected as well. Areas becomes sensitive or painful, and the communication systems connecting the brain and the spinal cord can be compromised.
Chiropractic care focuses on rehabilitation by restoring full movement and focusing on proper alignment— working to eliminate the root cause of the problem instead of just treating the symptoms. A normal session includes a spinal manipulation, called an adjustment. The practitioner applies a precise thrust directed at specific joints with the intention of restoring function and mobility to compromised areas and re-establishing neurologic transmissions.
This type of work is perfect for animals experiencing chronic pain—such as arthritis, which is common as our pets age. It is also useful for healthy and athletic animals, as maintaining good alignment encourages optimal performance of the entire nervous system. Chiropractic care improves agility, endurance, immune function, metabolism, and your animal’s natural ability to heal from within.
When choosing an animal chiropractor, look for certification from the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association (AVCA), the International Veterinary Chiropractic Association (IVCA), or the National Board of Certification for Animal Acupressure and Massage (NBCAAM).
NOTE: License regulations differ from state-to-state across all disciplines, so be sure to check the local laws governing your state. As with any practitioner, always check references and make sure you feel good after an in-person meeting.