Alternative, Holistic Animal Healing – when does my pet need acupuncture, Acupressure or Chiropractic & Massage Therapy?

Hieronymus Rhett Thomas O’Brien Puppy getting his Acupuncture treatment!

For folks in the DFW area who are looking for alternative healing for their pet, please see my ‘Recommendations DFW ALT’ page. Western Medicine has come a long way and is so great at saving during a crisis. A couple of years ago, when I had my crisis, I didn’t know where to turn for alternative therapies and this became very stressful for me as I googled with desperate fingers.

I want to share what to look for in the furkid that will guide you how to proceed as well as provide folks in the DFW area (see my Recommendations Page) with great wellness practices. I have personally witnessed numerous ‘miraculous’ healings, beginning first with my own dog, Rhett. Really, what we are doing is adjusting the animal, realigning things, and working with healing energetically, to allow the animal to heal his or herself. Many human animals are already using these modalities to heal themselves, so it is exciting to know that these same modalities have been around just as long for the rest of the animals in our lives and specifically that they are available here in Big D. 🙂

Much of what we believe to be ‘normal’ aging, arthritis, backaches, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, are really diet, nutrition and lifestyle-related rather than genetic or just the signs of getting ‘older’. Being sluggish generally means the system is not at its peak and as we age, not taking care of ourselves shows up when the body gets tired and can no longer hide nutrition and lifestyle imbalances. In short, a poor lifestyle can add up and eventually you pay the toll. At Hippocrates Health Institute, we were trained that about 90-95% of what you end up getting is in your control. 90-95% of cancer is from what you’re exposed to and 5-10% is genetic. We are seeing our feline and canine companions getting the very same diseases we have and there’s a good reason for it. Nutrition and lifestyle. I am a huge believer in beginning with wholesome foods and augmenting with superfoods. This coupled with regular exercise and a holistic or ‘whole animal’ approach to wellness is critical for extending both the timeline and the quality of that life.

All that said, imbalances happen. Kibble happens. Misinformation, inattention, and trauma happen. Pain and unforeseen events are a part of life just as joy and pleasure are.

How do I know when my animal hurts and needs help? All animals communicate with body language. In the animal kingdom, while an animal may cry out in pain, mostly, they understand inately that showing outward signs of weakness makes them a potential target. Even as domesticated and pampered pets, they retain this primal knowledge and therefore hide their pain as much and for as long as possible. It is only when it becomes excruciating that we typically begin to see the outward signs of pain from the way they hold themselves, cry out, shiver, whine and express mobility issues.

Things to look for are a general slowing down. Kitty may not jump as high, your dog may hang his head lower than normal or walk with a stiff gait. There can also be internal organs that present with problems, from Kidney deficiency, for example. I try to take time out while walking my boy or when hanging out playing with and interacting with the cats, to really look at them. I shut off distractions for a few seconds and focus on how they are moving. Are the eyes bright? Are they playing with vigor? Are their movements poetry in motion or are they staggard, slow or disoriented? Is the back straight or bowed up suggesting tight muscles and pain? On a walk, does one foot drag a bit, is one hip bone higher than the other? Or is the head carried low to compensate for back pain and hind end weakness? Does their head turn farther one way but not the other? Do they hold their urine or poo and go infrequently? Do they smell bad?

Massage and acupressure – help reset the body, relax the muscles so that the animal can get relief. I also employ light therapy, a near and far-infrared healing bed, various massage techniques, craniosacral, myofascial, florals (which act much like homeopathy) aromatherapy and Reiki energy. For sedentary animals and those with mobility issues, this therapy is HUGELY important to get blood flowing and move the lymph and detox. The lymphatic system requires movement to work because the lymphatic system doesn’t have its own pump; movement IS the pump. So I had a dog recently who had not had a bowel movement in over 48 hours. His hind end was severely atrophied to where the dog had a hard time standing in a squat position to poop. I worked the gastrointestinal acupressure protocol on him and we paused the session so he could ‘go’. Yes, it can really happen that swiftly! Instant Karma! 🙂 After an overall wellness exam by your veterinarian, this is both a great monthly (or if finances are a concern quarterly) maintenance treatment you can provide as a loving pet parent. This will pay you dividends later. If you have a chronic situation, from hip dysplasia, arthritis, emotional trauma, spinal trauma or wobblers, this adjunctive therapy can work wonders.

Acupuncture – There are two flavors, Western and Eastern. My favorite and what I practice when doing acupressure is Eastern modality. In my Recommendations, I have noted both sources for you. In the State of Texas, you must be a licensed Veterinarian to practice Acupuncture. The reason is the needles penetrate the skin so they are considered invasive or surgical. There is generally little to no pain, the patient may feel pressure or tingling. I had a muscle spasm once that was unpleasant but it passes quickly and the benefits are truly immense. From digestive, heartburn, hyperactivity to nerve damage etc, much like acupressure, this is a more intense flavor of working on the meridians and balancing the animal. In Asian modalities, we consider that everything has Chi/Qi energy and that we have acupoints along the meridians or energy channels of our body. These channels, through stress or injury, can become blocked, affecting ease of movement and communication vital to all internal organs. It is really critical that we keep the meridians balanced with energy flowing freely throughout the body.

Chiropractic – The spine is a focus here but every joint needs balance to be and remain healthy. In Asian Modalites the Bladder Meridian flows on either side of the spinal column. In Myofascial studies, we talk about how the Central Nervous System is located inside the skull and spinal column. The spine carries information, nutrition, through the cerebral spinal fluid. A disc out of place can jam up communication, nutrition and cause mobility issues as well as affect internal organs.

MRI & Surgery? – As a pet parent, we have to make some really hard decisions and these become more difficult when we must rely on the experts in their field to provide guidance. At the Emergency Vet, after Rhett, our Dobie, was ‘drunk’ walking and falling down, we were told to see if he gets better in a couple of days, such as if it’s a pulled muscle. If it is spinal, neurological, then next steps would be MRI and surgery to repair. I asked the Veterinarian I was speaking with about acupuncture. He actually had training on it but did not practice as he was ‘too busy doing the Western Medicine work.’ So he had training that already informed him of alternative, less invasive ways to open up channels and allow the animal to heal but was not using those gifts. And in my recommendations, we have a veterinarian who helps heal ACL tears non-surgically!

When putting our boy through bi-weekly acupuncture treatments, we had a second veterinarian suggest( again and strongly, even making the appointment for us!) that we schedule an MRI and surgery – even though visible progress was being made with acupuncture and massage therapy! His thought process was that while progress doing these less invasive approaches was absolutely being made, the progress would be much faster or speedier healing. But what I saw was a very invasive approach to something that could be corrected in a non-invasive, kinder less painful way, with no downtime for healing after surgery. Sometimes you must go under the knife but keep in mind that once you do, there’s no backsies, there isn’t a do-over and never a guarantee that all of it will come out perfect. I have a friend who’s been through multiple back surgeries. She is still in chronic pain and now that she has had these surgeries, the alternatives for healing have dwindled for her. You cannot take a fused spine etc, and go back.

This is my personal opinion as a wellness partner to your veterinarian, but I absolutely believe in helping the animal heal in the least invasive way possible, if there is a way to do that. When your dog is in bloat, as ours was in 2017, it requires surgery and an apexy to prevent another occurrence. This is a great example of where Western Medicine shines. The absolute best you can provide your furkid is a balance between both worlds that truly encompass the whole individual being treated. ♥

How Much Does This Cost? – MRI and Surgery will set you back at least 6k. In contrast, healing holistically by the above methods will depend upon how long the treatment(s) are needed. For an acute condition, you may need one treatment to be back right as rain. For something more chronic or serious, you may have a few months of bi-weekly treatments that gradually taper off to a monthly (or quarterly) maintenance plan. Prices vary but $65 for massage and acupressure therapy, $50 for chiropractic and $85 for acupuncture per session gives you a great ballpark. Using my dog as an example, suddenly he was expressing spinal trauma. The vet thought he had Wobblers. Rhett has had less than 10 Chiropractic treatments over the last 15 months. He no longer needs acupuncture as long as he gets regular massage therapy (once weekly or at least every other week) but at the beginning, he went through about 3 months of twice-weekly acupuncture and massage therapy sessions which gradually tapered off. No scars, no surgery, no downtime from surgery…definitely well worth the investment.

How do I choose between Chiropractic, acupuncture and Massage Therapy? I like to think of it all as a holistic trifecta! If you have a young animal with no injuries, you are just doing preventive maintenance, massage therapy will hit all the acupoints, tone, calm, detox and balance your dog. Things such as socializing and emotional trauma also respond very well to bodywork. Between acupuncture and acupressure, needles will be invasive and therefore more powerful. For older animals and those with a fall or other injuries, massage therapy will relax the muscles along the spine and prepare them for their chiropractic treatment, allowing them to get far more out of the appointment. Acupuncture can be similarly enhanced by working on and relaxing the soft tissues and hitting the acupoints first, prepping the dog for deeper treatment. There are many overlaps to what each modality treats and with my training, I do not perform a simple relaxing massage, I go deep and everyone works differently on that level so it is great to ask these questions before your scheduled appointment.

How Often Should I My Pet Get Treatment? You’ve heard the adage ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’ For general maintenance, once a month is suggested protocol. For budgetary constraints, I would recommend going every other month or at least quarterly. This helps keep your pet balanced, toned and detoxed, affecting his longevity and overall quality of life. ♥

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