Updated: Jul 28, 2020
Holistic Animal Healing Methods
Animal Massage is becoming increasingly popular. Whether it is for pain relief, or helping an animal to restore mental and emotional equilibrium, it can increase well-being. Some massage techniques are intended to improve circulation, lymph flow, and to improve mobility.
Other techniques focus on emotional, social, and behavioral issues. They all result in greater comfort and calmness for the animal. For pet owners, massage can put both owner and animal in synch and in a relaxed, peaceful state of mind.
There are a variety of animal massage methods, and several schools offer certifications in this practice. Many holistic practitioners also work on animals such as in animal acupuncture, nutrition, chiropractic, aromatherapy, Tapping, TTouch, healing cool lasers, The Trust Technique, and numerous other Holistic Animal Care Practices.
Below is a brief video of the main components of animal massage created by the Northwest School of Animal Massage. Animal massage is usually much lighter, such as effleurage, rather than deep work such as you might see in human shiatsu or deep tissue work. It is always to be done with high regard for the animal's pace and readiness for touch. You should always seek to be in sync with the animal's desires. Never put direct pressure on the spine, unless you are trained to work in this area.
All of the holistic methods can be used alone or in conjunction with traditional veterinary care. More and more veterinarians are adding various holistic modalities as part of their treatment plans because owners are seeking non-invasive methods to assist in the well-being of their animals.
Acupuncture for Animals
Acupuncture for animals may be an excellent modality for a variety of conditions, muscular-skeletal injuries, nerve pain, inflammation, and wounds that aren't healing.
There is a long history of animal acupuncture, but not all acupuncturists are trained to work with animals. In some cases, healing occurs even when traditional methods have been ineffective. And with animals, there is no placebo effect, so you will know if the healing has truly occurred. The video below is a brief introduction to animal acupuncture.
Distance (non-touch) Healing Methods
Therapeutic touch is very healing, as touch is an essential element of well-being. Numerous (cruel) studies with infant chimps show that deprived of touch, infant chimps will not thrive, and in some cases not survive. But in addition to hands-on-healing methods, there are a variety of distance healing or methods that don't involve touching the animals, as this is often important if an animal is not socialized, is in a zoo, or in a shelter where touch is not possible. Reiki is one example of a healing practice that uses physical touch, but advanced applications can be done even if physical contact is not possible.
This video below of a rescued pitbull in an animal shelter gives an overview of a thirty-minute session (seven-minute video). Here Kathleen Prasad, of Shelter Animal Reiki Association demonstrates a beautiful example of holding a peaceful space for an energetic animal who has been in the East Bay Animal Shelter for three months. Notice how physical touch is only a portion of the healing.
The rest of the treatment is allowing the animal to direct the session in terms of pace. Allowing the dog to move, wander, and explore as he wishes is a huge part of the success of this process. It is not about "keeping the dog still" or keeping him close. He is still receiving the peaceful healing energy as much when Kathleen remains still (not touching him) -- and he is exploring the room, or rolling on his back. His natural curiosity emerges, which is a healing state for animals. The rolling on his back is one way that dogs adjust their own spines, allowing healing energy to do its own work. Animals have amazing healing potential. They just need to be in a calm enough, safe enough environment to support and elicit this natural ability.
As humans, our job is to provide that safe space and let the animal lead. Notice how there are moments when he wants to engage with her, to lick her, which I believe is his way of saying "thank-you." Then there are moments where he seeks contact, and moments when he wants to play, or nest with the blankets. This is not "wrong," in fact, it is just right because he is showing his playful state of equilibrium. It is his way of adjusting the "does" or medicinal effect. Animals have a sense of even how much positive energy they can receive in any one moment. And the dog also gives her a clear signal of "I'm done" -- by breaking contact and rolling on his back in a playful way. Working with animals in a holistic context is all about paying attention to their rhythm and readiness and letting them lead the way.
I am a Reiki Master, and one of the things I love about this practice is that it can be done in a shelter to help an entire line of caged animals, even without having to touch them or enter their area. Many times I have had the experience of entering the line of kennels, when something has gotten the dogs rattled, perhaps a visitor who has triggered them, and they are all barking at once. By doing "Distance Reiki Healing" -- all of the dogs calm down, usually within a minute. This is a very dramatic demonstration of the power of this method, and all the dogs settle down, even though I haven't put direct attention on any one specific dog. Distance Reiki has the advantage of assisting larger numbers of animals in a short period of time without interference with shelter routines.
Cold Laser Therapy
There are several different types of laser therapy, so do your research. Below is a promotional video about MLS Laser Therapy, but it shows several veterinarians and case studies. Examples are older dogs who were in too much pain to walk and are able to walk after a few treatments. It reduces inflammation and helps the body to heal faster. It changes the way we think about chronic conditions.
Laser therapy has allowed animals to go off of pain medication. In some cases, dogs who were about to be put down were able to flourish after even one treatment. It stimulates healthy cell growth and is excellent for mobility issues, arthritis, and wound recovery. There are a variety of different lasers; thus treatment modalities will vary. Laser works with horses, dogs, cats, and all animals.
Chiropractic Manual Manipulation for Animals
Chiropractors who are trained to work with animals work on mobility issues, joint problems that are causing restriction and pain control, urinary incontinence, as well as preventive issues.
The video below discusses the type of animal issues that may be helped with chiropractic manipulation.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatments for Animals
When there is a lack of oxygen, healing is compromised. This is a treatment with 100% oxygen at increased pressure. This is for injuries, severe swelling, stroke, damaged tissues and organs, and other issues. The goal is to increase oxygen to help animals do their own healing by stimulating immune systems, stem cells, and other natural healing processes.
The Trust Technique
I am trained in several holistic healing modalities, including massage, Reiki, and Energy Healing. One of my favorite methods is the Trust Technique, in which I am a certified practitioner. I am continually amazed by this natural healing practice. It reduces stress and allows the animal's natural healing ability to take place. Below is a short video to introduce people to The Trust Technique, created by James French. It shows horses in a rescue sanctuary, who have learned to trust James so much, that they follow him everywhere and lie down on his lap.
Animals love healing energy and touch. As I mentioned in another blog, even laboratory mice like to be tickled and shown physical affection. This blog is just a taste of the numerous possibilities in Holistic Animal Care. Please continue to research! We encourage all students in Animal Consciousness Studies to learn at least some basic soothing animal massage, so that they may bring peace and calm to their own animals, and the animals with whom they come into contact.
Genie Joseph, PhD
Director: The Human-Animal Connection