Animal Healing

What It Animal Healing?

In the last twenty years, there has been a growing willingness to embrace alternative or complementary therapies, sometimes alongside more conventional medical science.  In the past a GP might have prescribed aspirin and rest for back pain, today, a visit to a Chiropractor or Osteopath may well be recommended.

It is therefore not surprising that there are now available a wide range of alternative therapies for our animals.  From Acupuncture and Aromatherapy to Osteopathy and Physiotherapy, Chiropractic, Hydrotherapy and Massage.

These days a vet may recommend that some manipulation treatment could be the best resolution for your animal’s spine problems. Alternatively, if your animal has problems with limbs, hydrotherapy may be suggested.

However, the welfare of animals is strongly protected in the UK. Complementary therapies must work in conjunction with traditional veterinary care. It is against the law for an animal therapist to treat an animal with your vet’s permission.

Whilst it is obviously good that the law is designed to protect animals from being improperly treated, it is worth remembering that complementary therapists who choose to work with animals are generally great animal-lovers themselves, and have probably had to undertake additional training to adapt their branch of therapy to the treatment of the animals, cats, dogs, horses, small animals and pet rodents whom they are likely to come across. For structural and massage work, the practitioner would have to learn the musculo-skeletal systems of animal clients.

Even ardent sceptics, disbelieving in a complementary therapy for themselves, might be inclined to try it out for their favourite pet, valuable cattle breeding stock or expensive racehorse – if all else has failed.

Many kinds of alternative therapies have been developed and applied to animals. And there are many individual reports of conditions being alleviated by complementary treatment.


What To Expect

Whatever treatment is recommended for your animal – The Veterinary Surgeons Act of 1962 makes it illegal for anyone to treat an animal without authorisation from the vet in charge of the case. So after routine examination at the surgery, if your vet is supportive of the treatment, he or she may formally refer your animal for alternative treatment, and may require the practitioner to submit a report after treatment.

There are many therapies available for animals, but below is a brief description of some of the more popular treatments.

Physiotherapy uses a variety of techniques for manipulation and massage, and is a valuable aid in helping to rehabilitate many equine, canine and feline injuries. It is often used for back pain, osteoarthritis, joint, ligament or tendon injuries.

Chiropractic will look for unequal muscle size or tone between left and right side – not normal for that animal, similarly for an abnormal head or neck placement, foot placement or any abnormalities in the posture. Adjustments may made with a short sharp thrust to a specific area releasing muscle spasm, alleviate pain and return the joint to its normal range of motion.

Acupuncture is Chinese medicine that works on maintaining the balance between the yin and yang of the body and the 12 major organs of the body. Acupuncture aims to help maintain the balance. It’s said that Animal Acupuncture is almost as old as human acupuncture, because in the past horses were very valuable commodities, important for farming and transport, so it was essential to keep your horse in peak condition.
Today acupuncturists also treat dogs, cats and other small pets, and some large animals (elephants, for example) are regularly treated by qualified vets who are trained in acupuncture, sometimes with traditional needling methods or with acupressure, or electronic equipment which stimulates points on the energy meridians.

Hydrotherapy – the most common form is being immersed in water, walking, exercising and swimming.  It’s particularly beneficial for dogs and horses recovering from a range of conditions, muscular strain and injuries involving the limbs. All animals can swim some are much more confident in the water than others, but with gradual acclimatisation most come to relax and enjoy this treatment.

Flower Remedies The premise for giving Flower Remedies to pets is that animals have emotions, too. They feel fear, anger, jealousy, and depression just like us. A loving pet-owner tend to know precisely how their animals are feeling – missing a companion or over-excited with new people. And giving small quantities of, for instance, Rescue Remedy in the animal’s water, could calm and relax an anxious animal.

Reiki The gentle hands-on healing energy of Reiki has been found to be effective with many animals, including wild animals. A trained Reiki practitioner can lay hands all over the animal, at a slight distance, without touching , for a holistic treatment – or use this energy technique to direct healing energy to an affected or injured part while far away.

Osteopathy In order to become an animal osteopath, practitioners first need to become a qualified human osteopath (a four-year training registered with the General Osteopathic Council) – and then further specialist training is required in order to learn about and treat animals. Most vets are agreeable to referring an animal patient for osteopathic therapy.


Benefits and Effects

Whatever type of alternative therapy is recommended, working  alongside veterinary treatment,  it can help to get to the root of the problem, once a full diagnosis has been carried out by your vet. Different therapies suit different animals and different conditions. Below are some of the benefits and effects reported for some of the available therapies.

Acupuncture – Acupuncture is most commonly used for animals in association with pain relief, but the procedure, whereby small-gauge needles are applied to various points on the body can also be used to treat cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal and neurological disorders.

Hydrotherapy – muscle wastage begins very quickly with immobilisation and it is important to start rebuilding quickly, through safe exercise. Dogs benefit from swimming in warm water since cold will constrict their blood vessels. Since horses generate great amounts of heat when exerting themselves,  it’s said that cold water is better for them to exercise. Swimming allows for a good work out and the resistance of moving in the water helps to strengthen injured or weakened muscles.

Chiropractic techniques can alleviate pain by making adjustment of the spine and other joints.  After care advice: your animal may feel better immediately , or be stiff or sore, or even appear worse in the short term. The chiropractor will send a full report to the referring vet.

Physiotherapy – many common conditions respond well, especially in the case of injury or post-operative treatment. Rehabilitation works just as well for animals as it does for humans, with exercises to strengthen and rebuild muscles and ligaments playing an important part in regaining health.

Canine Massage This can be very effective in treating muscle strain in professional or show dogs and also in family pets who have overdone it on a long run at the weekend. Massage is also useful in treating hidden structural imbalances, arthritis, injury, post-surgery stiffness.

Reiki This technique can be used for physical problems, behavioural problems and emotional difficulties. Animals seem to intuitively recognise and appreciate Reiki’s ability to heal and often respond to it more quickly than human beings. Some owners report that they observe positive changes and improvements even when the treatment is given at a distance.


Animal Healing and Fascinating Facts

  • The Association for British Veterinary Acupuncturists offer treatment to dogs, cats, horses, farm animals and birds suffering from a very wide range of conditions – physical and psychological: epilepsy in dogs, stress-related conditions in cats, ‘bumblefoot’ in birds, Downer Cow Syndrome and infertility in cattle.
  • David Bateman, author of Reflexology for Cats, (2007) refutes the suggestion that cats’ paws are too small to administer reflexology; he has created a treatment ‘map’ of the cat’s paw, comparable to the map of the foot for treating humans. “From my observation”, he says, “Many animal guardians unconsciously perform ear, face and paw reflexology because they know that it feels nice for their pets.”
  • The two main legal issues are the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966, and the Animal Welfare Act 2006 [or, in Scotland, the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006]. The law is very specific through the Veterinary Surgeons Act, as to who can and who cannot treat animals. Dogs Monthly Magazine spells it out: “The basic rule is that a qualified veterinary surgeon is the only person allowed to treat animals. There is no exemption for non-vets, whether they be pharmacists, herbalists, aromatherapists, homeopaths, acupuncturists, Bach practitioners, Schuessler practitioners, anthroposophists or anyone else administering medicines. Even veterinary nurses are not allowed to prescribe the ‘alternative’ or ‘complementary’ medicines. “
  • Bach Flower Remedies offer treatments for all manner of moods and conditions in creatures. If an animal is very territorial and possessively loving in order to keep you in control, Chicory is the answer for a more self-assured, unselfish and loving animal. In any time of transition, give Walnut to help your pet become comfortable in its new surroundings. For a fearful pet who trembles and cowers, Rock Rose brings calmness and courage.
  • It is important to remember that herbs and conventional medicines can clash dangerously or risk an overdose, says the Alternative Veterinary Medicine Centre.  “Take salicylic acid, for instance, harvested from willow bark to give aspirin and the Hawthorn Berry (Crataegus) that is such an effective cardiac (heart) support. At the AVMC, we would give willow bark or meadow sweet (another plant that is rich in salicylate), in the raw state”. But, Willow and Meadowsweet herbal medicines should not be given in conjunction with conventional Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) and vice versa.
  • Fourteen per cent of British dog-owners, more than 75,000 of them, use alternative or complementary treatments, according to new research on alternative therapies for pets; and with 3 out of 10 of them do so on the recommendation of their own vet.
  • When asked by a Daily Telegraph reader whether Complementary therapy could help her asthmatic cat, Pete Wedderburn, the paper’s resident vet and animal columnist, wrote: “There’s no harm in trying the complementary approach and judging it for yourself.”  Mr Wedderburn suggested it may well help, but there is a lack of strong scientific evidence.
  • In the past two years the market for has rocketed to success as pet-owners have together spent £29.6 million on complementary treatments on alternative methods. According to the Direct Line Pet Insurance study, pet owners have chosen from among the following ‘alternative’ treatments: homeopathy, nutrition or herbal remedies, massage, acupuncture and reflexology.
  • Pet-owners who choose alternative treatments pronounce themselves satisfied with the results: 44% per cent of owners who have tried alternative therapy said it made their dog physically better and 23 per cent that it cured the symptoms a. The dogs’ mental health was seen to have improved: 39% reckoned their canine was calmer and 7% observed higher energy levels.


Professional Organisations

The Association for British Veterinary Acupuncturists

A Veterinary Surgeon is only person able to give acupuncture treatment to animal; since needles are invasive, it is the law that only a veterinary can administer them.  This organisation represents practitioners qualified in both veterinary medicine and acupuncture.

McTimoney Chiropractic Association (MCA)

The MCA is the only chiropractic association to have a specific group of chiropractors qualified and trained to treat animals.  All members of the MCA Animal Group have graduated from the McTimoney College of Chiropractic.

Oxford College of Equine Physical Therapy (OCEPT)

All courses are post graduate usually requires that the student is already a vet or human chiropractic.

Canine Hydrotherapy Association

Although there is no formal study or courses available for Hydrotherapy – the CHA are actively exploring formal training and qualification options at the present time to regularise the practice of this therapy.

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