Holistic Vets and Their Tools
A growing number of veterinarians are adding holistic protocols to their conventional repertoire, with the idea that they want to go beyond a mechanistic, quick-fix approach to symptoms and get at the root causes of problems. Dr. Cynthia Lankenau, of Colden, New York, is a veterinarian who became certified in acupuncture, homeopathy, and chiropractic care after years of traditional training. She explains, “Orthodox medicine [was]too limited. Animals weren’t getting better.… These other techniques were what I’d been looking for … a way to really cure an animal, to stimulate a deeper healing versus just hiding symptoms.” Dr. Lankenau expresses what progressive-thinking veterinarians are beginning to understand, the fact that many diseases are simply not cured by conventional Western medications. This is especially true of chronic diseases, such as arthritis, immune-deficiency diseases, hip dysplasia, and cancer. An acute problem, on the other hand, such as an infection or injury, may indeed respond well to conventional Western medicine, but as pet owners know, many animal problems are not acute, but of the long-term variety. Here, the holistic practitioner’s perspective of looking at the whole animal—and not just at discrete symptoms—is a welcome and helpful one.
Actually, most holistic practitioners do not advocate the abandonment of Western therapies, but rather less reliance on one mode of treatment and a greater integration of different systems—what is known as complementary medicine. Surgery may be necessary to remove a fast-growing tumor, for instance, because it buys time, but the operation alone is not a cure. Follow-up with holistic protocols that support immune function is essential. “Complementary medicine looks at what’s happening in the body as a whole,” says veterinarian Martin Goldstein of South Salem, New York, author of the best-selling The Nature of Animal Healing: The Path to Your Pet’s Health, Happiness, and Longevity. “It actually looks at the purpose of the condition—like why did the animal develop a cough?—and then works to augment the healing mechanism from within and allow the body to work itself through the symptom. It’s like an out-of-tune car with black smoke coming out of the tailpipe. You don’t just let a mechanic work on the tailpipe; you have someone tune up the engine.”
Animals can benefit remarkably from holistic care, especially when treatments are begun early. It’s far easier to reverse a problem that’s caught in the beginning stages (or, better yet, to prevent an illness altogether) than to wait until the animal is exhibiting full-blown symptoms. Unfortunately, many pet owners wait until it is almost too late. Most people are looking for a quick fix; they’ll use antibiotics for an infection or cortisone for a skin ailment, so that the problem disappears quickly. Only after every other option has been exhausted do they seek holistic care. But at that point their animal has lost a lot of energy, making recovery far more difficult. So beginning treatment of a problem as early as possible is important. Also, pet owners must realize that holistic treatment is a process that takes time. Animals (and people) don’t get sick overnight, and one can’t expect them to recover immediately either.
Let’s look at some of the modalities holistic vets use in treating their animal patients. Keep in mind that each practitioner has her or his own unique mix of favored approaches, so not everyone is going to use, for example, Bach flower remedies. That’s one of the reasons why, as soon as you adopt an animal, you should talk to a prospective vet to see if you, that person, and Fido, are going to be a good fit. That said, the first approach we’re going to examine—dietary supplementation—is one that is used by anyone who’s truly holistic.
BEYOND THE FOOD BOWL: DIETARY SUPPLEMENTATION
A prime tenet of holistic medical care, in the case of both animals and people, is that good nutrition is vital to good health. As we discussed on Chapter 1, when an animal relies on the commonly sold commercially prepared foods, it’s sure to be deficient or imbalanced in vital enzymes, minerals, and vitamins. Animals fed high-end-of-the-spectrum foods will fare better, but for optimum health, they need extra support too. That’s because even the best organic foods are grown in soils that have lost their nutrient strength due to decades of soil depletion. So if you think that all you have to do is feed your animal vitamin/mineral-rich vegetables, think again, advises Howard Peiper, coauthor of Supernutrition for Animals, who says it’s becoming more and more difficult to get quality foods. Starved for trace minerals, Peiper states, plants will pick up toxic pesticides, fertilizers, and “bad” minerals. An example is aluminum, a toxic material that can cause animals to suffer from a lack of coordination and have memory problems. Birds that eat aluminum will lay eggs with fragile shells. To safeguard your pet’s health, then, supplementation with protective vitamins and minerals becomes imperative.
Lisa Newman, a doctor of naturopathy, and the author of several books in the Natural Pet Care series (Crossing Press), is one expert who definitely believes in the virtues of supplementation. For dogs and cats, Dr. Newman recommends a balanced multiple vitamin/mineral supplement. Vital vitamins are vitamin A, beta carotene, and the B complex; and the important minerals include calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, potassium, zinc, iodine, and copper. The vitamin A should ideally come from a fish oil source because the body can utilize this most quickly. Make sure that the B vitamin supplement you select contains B complex rather than just one or two isolated B vitamins, like B2 or B12. This is because multiple B vitamins work together to help support the nervous system and tissue regeneration. Calcium is extremely important for bone formation, muscle contraction, blood clotting, and bone strength. Magnesium works with calcium and phosphorus to develop bones. It helps the metabolism, nerves, and energy production at a cellular level. Potassium helps create electrolytes and works hand-in-hand with sodium. (Be sure to check that your multiple-nutrient supplement does contain potassium; many supplements don’t contain any at all, and pets need this mineral for heart health.) Copper and zinc work together, with zinc assisting the body in using vitamin A. Zinc also maintains the skin and coat and is needed for the activity of over 100 different enzymes. Newman stresses that getting the right combination of vitamins and minerals is key to the body getting what it needs from each separate nutrient. Dosages will vary with an animal’s species, breed, size, age, and condition; therefore, seek professional advice before settling on dosages. To get a general idea of what an animal might need, here is a list of Newman’s recommendations for an average 25-pound dog:
Vitamin A—5000 IU (international units)
Beta carotene—2500 IU
B-complex—25 mg (milligrams)
Zinc—7 1/2 mg
Iodine—50-75 mcg (micrograms)
Other desirable ingredients in a supplement—ones that are sometimes harder to find—include choline, inositol, biotin, flavonoids (which support vitamin C assimilation), selenium, and chromium. The best idea is to get a good, basic supplement that is recommended by your holistic veterinarian, and adjust as recommended.
If your pet has allergies or arthritis, you will want to increase the amount of vitamin C it is receiving. In fact, says Newman, if you want to start with just one vitamin, make it vitamin C, in whatever dosage your animal can tolerate without developing diarrhea. If your pet has seizures, you will need to increase the B complex. Newman stresses that if you address an animal’s specific needs in this way, you won’t be overdosing it with unnecessary vitamins. Also, by addressing a specific symptom with a specific nutrient, you’re helping to refine your diagnosis; that is, if the nutrient in question doesn’t correct the problem, that gives you more information about your pet’s real health needs. “The holistic animal-care lifestyle is to give the animal the nutritional foundation to make the changes it needs to make, and then work with more specific supplements to get that information from the pet,” Newman explains.
You can purchase vitamin/mineral supplements as powders, liquid extracts, tablets, or capsules. Liquid extracts and powders are the easiest to administer, as they can be mixed into food. Check to see that there are no harmful fillers made from yeast, molasses, salt, sugar, or cellulose. Good fillers—those that are nutritional in themselves—include alfalfa, watercress, parsley, rice, and lecithin. Chlorophyll is desirable also. Make certain, too, that there are no preservatives in the supplement. For a guaranteed analysis of the contents, contact the manufacturer.
Again, be sure to determine—with your holistic vet’s help—what your animal needs to stay in balance. Balance is a key concept because you don’t want too much or too little of a nutrient, since either extreme can cause harm. While an insufficiency of a vitamin or mineral can cause dire health consequences, the other side of the coin is that excessive amounts of certain nutrients can contribute to a deficiency in others. This is what happened to the wild moose population, including the former star of the once popular Northern Exposure television series. Because the moose would graze on pastures that were treated with lime (to counteract the effects of acid rain), it ingested excessive amounts of the trace mineral molybdenum. As a result, the moose developed a copper deficiency, which caused a painful and early demise. Too much vitamin C could do the same thing; overdoing that nutrient could decrease absorption of copper and contribute to a copper deficiency. And note that drugs can also deplete minerals.
If for any reason your pet is not getting enough vitamins or minerals, its body will start operating as if it is depleted—storing whatever calcium, magnesium, or phosphorous, for example, it is receiving in its diet, rather than utilizing it as needed. Stored minerals may turn into stones—creating more health problems. Kidney stones, and even kidney disease, may reverse when you put your animal on a good mineral supplement.
COLLOIDAL minerals are too large to be completely absorbed at the cellular level. Only about 65 percent of these minerals will be used.
Crystalloid solutions are rich in electrolytes that provide vital electrical energy needed to carry out all the body’s functions. While supplements can also be purchased in pill, capsule, or powder form, liquid crystalloid solutions generally yield the best results. Author Howard Peiper tells of his own success story with a crystalloid solution: “When my Brittany spaniel was about six she had a grand mal seizure that came out of nowhere. She started convulsing, and we held her down so she wouldn’t hurt herself. When she came out of it I filled a turkey baster with the trace mineral electrolyte liquid in concentrated form and put a little on her tongue. She lapped it up and then lapped up the whole syringe, which might have been a tablespoon of liquid. Then she quieted down and went to sleep. We took her to the vet the next day, and they told us we saved her life because the electrolytes helped with her heart.”1
Skin and coat problems can be a symptom of mineral depletion. Most animals’ coats will improve after a four-to-six-week period of improved diet and supplementation. If the coat doesn’t improve after about eight weeks, the animal may need more biotin, and a biotin boost for another four weeks will probably improve the condition. Then you can return to a maintenance level. If that doesn’t work, the solution might be to look at what’s wrong with the supplement you’re using. Does it contain poor-quality fillers?
In addition to vitamins and minerals, you may also wish to supplement your animal’s diet with digestive enzymes. Enzymes are essential to good health, but they’re missing in cooked and packaged foods. That’s because enzymes are destroyed when temperatures rise above 118 degrees. When not enough enzymes are eaten the body begins to rely on enzyme reserves that are stored in the pancreas. After awhile, though, the pancreas becomes depleted and loses its ability to make enzymes. That’s when degenerative diseases set in. Fortunately, digestive enzymes can be taken to reverse the effects of many diseases. Two good sources are the products Vetzyme and Prozyme.
LIVE ENZYME THERAPY
Some holistic animal care experts are very strong advocates of enzymes as important health requisites. One of them is Susan Goldstein, editor of For the Love of Animals newsletter. “Enzymes are life force,” Goldstein says, explaining that she realized this unexpectedly when she began giving carrot juice to her arthritic dog and saw him respond quickly, whereas conventional treatments had not been working.
Goldstein emphasizes that enzymes are bioactive ingredients in naturally occurring foods, and likens them to “spark plugs for the body.” They are molecules that facilitate the chemical reactions that keep the body running smoothly. All living creatures need enzymes for healthy functioning, and a problem of modern life is that cooking food depletes it of enzymes. Domesticated animals are particularly at risk for enzyme depletion because they generally eat heavily processed and overcooked pet foods. Companion animals that eat strictly out of the bag or can are going to lack sufficient enzymes. Conversely, re-introducing enzymes into an animal’s diet will reenergize that animal quickly and dramatically.
As facilitators, enzymes help the body do things it needs to do to stay healthy and function properly. Some enzymes aid digestion, some are metabolic facilitators—they help make sure nutrients are properly transported and utilized, and some are antioxidant enzymes, meaning they help the body fight against damaging free radicals.
Without enzymes, an animal can’t properly digest and use its food. Older animals are particularly at risk since the pancreas is less able to pump out digestive enzymes to make up for any deficiency. When digestive enzymes are missing, metabolic and antioxidant enzymes, as well as minerals, are used to support the digestive process. This can be problematic. With antioxidant enzymes diverted, free radicals are given free reign, and you are putting your animal’s immune system at risk.
An enzyme-live diet may produce seeming miracles. An arthritic dog, or a dog with hip dysplasia may recover fully because now the animal is able to make use of all the food nutrients its body is receiving. Obesity, a common problem in companion animals today, is not always the result of eating too much food; it can also be caused by eating the wrong kinds of food—that is, not enough raw, enzyme-rich food. Certified raw milk, for instance, contains a lot of butterfat, but it’s also high in digestive enzymes that help to fully utilize the fat. Thus, an animal drinking the product is likely to stay at the proper weight.
You needn’t add much raw food to your animal’s diet. A small amount of grated or blended fruits or vegetables added to your animal’s regular food will give it a good enzyme boost. And if you juice, you’ll be doing even more to provide life-promoting enzymes to your pet.
A mixture of asparagus, carrot, kale, parsley, and apple juices is good for allergies. For arthritis, celery, carrot, apple, and parsley is a helpful combination. Any juice recipe should have a base of apple and carrot for flavoring. The other ingredients can be modified, depending on what you’re treating your animal for. Once you have blended an appropriate juice, you can simply mix it with the animal’s water supply, or add it to your pet’s regular food.
Start out with very small doses, especially of potent green juices, to give your animal’s body time to adjust to this change in diet, especially if the animal is only used to commercial pet food and tap water. Remember, also, that juicing organic produce is always preferable, and that when this is not an option, removing the peel will eliminate most toxic residues.
Placing your pet on a once-a-week juice fast will help cleanse its body and give the digestive tract a helpful rest. Don’t do a juice fast on a young animal or an elderly one, but for pets in their prime, you can skip a meal for 12 hours and give them juices instead. To help speed up a pet’s metabolism, add small amounts of organic apple cider vinegar to its drinking water.
If your pet’s main food source is processed pet foods, no matter how high-end the food is, it’s essential that you add live enzymes, in the form of juice, or blended or chopped fresh fruits and vegetables, to that the animal’s daily food regimen. If your pet is not initially receptive to juices, fresh fruits, or vegetables, try mixing the juice or live food into something the animal likes, such as Rice Dream ice cream. Or you could fill a dropper with juice and put it down the animal’s throat. There are also powdered enzymes available, such as Vetzyme or Prozyme. “Never, ever just put down a bowl of food without adding some life force to it,” advises Susan Goldstein. Remember that your animal needs fresh food every day, just as you do.”2
Herbs are nature’s gift to us for healing, and they can help our animal friends too. The important thing to remember when giving herbs to animals is to work with a qualified professional who understands their benefits and limitations. Your veterinarian should be knowledgeable about the following aspects of herbal therapy:
The easiest and best way to give herbs to an animal is to add a few drops of the liquid tincture to your animal’s food or water.
Homeopathy, developed by German physician Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843), is based on the belief that there are basic vibrational patterns of disease, known as miasms, that start in the energy field surrounding an organism. Miasms can be inherited or acquired, and can remain dormant until some stressful circumstance sets them off. At such a time, the organism will react to the energy imbalance, or disease, by attempting to restore balance. In the process, symptoms will develop. The homeopath, then, doesn’t think of symptoms as illness, but rather as the body’s reaction to an imbalance that can be used to determine a treatment for restoring balance, and, ultimately, health. It’s this premise that prompted homeopathic physician James T. Kent to advise, more than 100 years ago, “Do not say that the patient is sick because he has a white swelling, but that the white swelling is there because the patient is sick.”
In the homeopath’s view, allopathic medicine’s goal of suppressing symptoms only drives the symptoms deeper or shifts the problem somewhere else. In time, another, more serious illness is likely to appear, or the same disease may return, but with a stronger vengeance. Often the new problem manifests as a chronic disease. For example, irritable bowel syndrome, when treated with cortisone and antibiotics, might return several years later in the form of colon cancer. So instead of this suppressive, one-thing-at-a-time approach to treating illness, holistic medicine in general—and homeopathy as part of that paradigm—takes a curative approach based on the principle of treating a whole, living organism.
Homeopathy is a form of “energetic medicine,” explains Dr. Charles Loops, a homeopathic veterinarian with over 20 years of experience. The therapy works on the principle that “like cures like.” In other words, any substance that can produce a symptom in a healthy human or animal can also cure it when that substance is given in a subtler form. “The principle of homeopathy is to match the characteristics of the substance to the characteristics of an imbalance or an illness in an individual person or animal,” explains Dr. Loops. The right homeopathic remedy will create a “resonance” that will positively interact with the resonance of the patient’s body. This will correct the underlying imbalance, and correcting that imbalance will bring the person or animal back to normalcy.
Before prescribing any homeopathic remedy, a classically trained homeopathic veterinarian will conduct a thorough intake exam with an owner, either in person or over the phone. Age, weight, and breed of the animal are of course some of the basic information required by the practitioner. Then the owner describes in detail the symptoms his or her pet is showing. For example, if it’s an ear infection, what does the discharge looks like from the ear, and what is the character of the discharge? Is it sticky? Is it yellow? Is it mucous? But basic information and presenting symptoms are only the beginning of this exam, which can take up to half an hour to complete. The practitioner will go on to ask questions about the animal’s emotional state, its temperament, level of sociability, habits, fears (such as of thunderstorms or fireworks—extremely common in dogs), sleep patterns, and other characteristics. Then a thorough history is required. Are there any previous medical problems that may point to a chronic condition? What sort of diet is the animal on? How much does it like to drink? What is its vaccination history? Does it prefer warm or cool temperatures, indoors or outdoors? And there’s even more—the vet will want to know about the household where the pet lives: Are there other animals? Children? Is it an apartment? A house? With a yard? And what’s going on with the humans in the household? Is there an inordinate amount of stress in the home? In short, the practitioner looks at the total symptomatology of the patient, as well as the animal’s life history, to understand a pattern of illness that begins when the animal is a puppy or kitten and continues into adulthood. Ideally, all of this information is obtained with the animal present in order to get a fuller assessment of character plus a complete physical exam before any recommendations are made, although some practitioners say that obtaining information via phone is satisfactory.
Once the veterinarian gets a complete picture of the physical and psychological makeup of the animal, a remedy is chosen. If arthritis is the presenting symptom, the homeopath may choose among Aconite, Bryonia, Belladonna, Cimicifugia, Rhus tox, or Pulsatilla. For a bladder irritation, the choices might include Belladonna once more, or Cantharis, Shaphasgria, Thuja, Aconite, or Apis. A nervous condition might respond to Ignatia, Gelsemium, or Chamomilla. Again, the right remedy depends on the total picture of the animal, for what appears to be one disease may actually be somewhat different in different animals.
Homeopathic remedies are optimally effective when they’re part of a total health program. They should be supported by a good diet for the animal and supplemented with minerals and vitamins. And don’t overload your pet with calories when it needs maximum energy for healing. The body working to digest extra calories can deplete energy from the essential task. Feed your pet only what it needs.
Homeopathy can be supported with conventional medical diagnostic practices. In many cases, such as suspected liver, kidney, or metabolic dysfunctions, you can help your homeopathic veterinarian by having lab work done on your animal ahead of time to help formulate a thorough and correct diagnosis. The opposite is also true: Homeopathic medicine can be used to support conventional medicines. For example, holistic veterinarians often recommend the remedy Thuja occidentalis after a vaccination to detoxify the system and thus eliminate adverse side effects.
Homeopathy is generally considered a safe system of medicine, but it should be prescribed by a trained professional when your pet is faced with chronic conditions, such as allergies or intestinal problems. Even with the proper remedy, a slight reaction could occur. Sometimes these reactions are useful; they prompt the self-healing process to begin. In many situations, side effects known as “aggravations” can actually support the healing process. For example, if your pet sleeps more, or has mild diarrhea following a treatment, this may aid in its recovery. You should note that if you buy an over-the-counter prescription to administer for a chronic disease, you run the risk of choosing the wrong remedy, one that is either inappropriate or helpful for treating only part of the symptoms. Also, lay people tend to rely on homeopathic remedies for too long. In a sensitive animal, this can cause “provings,” the appearance of symptoms from a condition you are trying to treat. If, for example, you are administering the remedy Rhus tox for poison ivy, and you give it repeatedly, you might eventually elicit symptoms of poison ivy. Additionally, repeating the remedy too frequently can overstimulate the body. Homeopathy should be given short-term, just long enough to elicit a reaction so that the body can heal itself. If you’re repeating a remedy over and over, you can eventually exhaust the vital force, the energy needed for self-healing. For the treatment of any chronic condition, then, seek a qualified homeopathic veterinarian who has received training and certification from a reputable organization. If you are looking for homeopathic help for your pet, get a recommendation from someone you trust, or contact one of the organizations listed in the appendix.
For acute conditions, as opposed to chronic ones, administering your own store-bought medications is simpler. Often, one homeopathic remedy is indicated for an acute condition, and you will have far greater success achieving the results you want. An emergency treatment you give may even be lifesaving. Just be sure to follow up with a visit to an animal hospital or veterinarian. Following is a look at some homeopathic remedies and the scenarios in which they might be used. Note that the key to administering doses of these is to have the remedy come into contact with the animal’s gum, but not with the owner’s hands. Usually, you can get a powder into the animal’s mouth, and on its gums, by pouring a crushed pellet onto a small, folded index card and then onto the animal’s gums. Or a liquid form of the remedy can be dropped onto the gums via eyedropper or syringe. If an animal is unusually aggressive or noncooperative, mixing the remedy in with food is a last-gasp measure. The animal will still get benefits, but the effect will not be optimal.
BACH FLOWER REMEDIES
Restoring harmony between body and soul is the goal of flower essence therapy, a system of healing developed by Dr. Edward Bach (1886-1936) nearly a century ago in his native England. Bach professed that unless the underlying reasons for a disease were addressed, any treatment of physical symptoms alone could only be temporary. In other words, Bach, like Hahnemann before him, believed that the cause of the disease, rather than its effects, should be treated. His idea was that flower essence therapy could correct negative emotional or character traits, and that that in turn would help by promoting recovery from a corresponding physical illness, or by preventing the illness from manifesting at all.
Today, proponents of flower therapy assert that it works not only for humans but for our sensitive animal friends as well, and that it has proven itself to be especially effective for behavioral and psychological conditions, such as anxiety, depression, or aggression. The nervousness accompanying a trip to the vet and the fright brought on by a loud thunderstorm are examples of sudden emotional states that proponents say can be alleviated by this modality. Flower remedies, they say, can also help an animal during times of grief, when a beloved owner or animal friend in the household has died, easing the pet through this transitional time.
Bach’s therapy involves preparations made from 38 different flowers from wild plants and trees. Each particular Bach flower remedy has certain characteristics that are given for specific emotional problems; Bach stated that these 38 essences embrace all the fundamental negative emotional conditions that can be treated. A few drops can be placed in the animal’s drinking water, or the remedy can be diluted with spring or distilled water, placed in a spray bottle, and misted onto the animal. The diluted essence can also be massaged into acupuncture points.
Although Bach considered his system complete, since his time, companies have developed their own lines of remedies. In the 1970s the California Flower Essences were developed, for example, and in the 1980s the Australian Bush Flower Essences were created drawing upon the traditional knowledge of Australian Aborigines. Still, though, Bach’s flower essences are the most well known and the easiest to obtain. Here therefore, is a look at the different Bach flower remedies, and at how practitioners of this modality say they should be used. Some important notes: While flower remedies may sometimes be all that your pet needs, it’s important to consult your holistic veterinarian if any symptom persists for more than a few days, as emotional problems can be precipitated by physical causes, such as tumors or central nervous system disorders. Also, see a veterinarian after treating an animal for any emergency. In these instances, think of flower remedies as an adjunct to your animal’s health protocol. Finally, for “problem” or unhappy pets, experts in animal behavior can sometimes do wonders; call your vet’s office for recommendations.
TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE
We in the Western world have been taught to picture medicine in military terms, so we speak of a battle against germs or a war on disease, to be fought with a pharmaceutical arsenal or magic bullets. The traditional Chinese medical model, by contrast, is not combat-centered; it focuses instead upon the concepts of energy and balance. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is all about keeping balance between a person or animal’s heavy, cool, moist, “yin” energy, and the light, dry, active, “yang” energy. It is in cases of chronic conditions that approaches offered by TCM may be most beneficial. Sometimes there are no cures for the illness, but treating it from this different perspective can boost the body’s own healing capacity, helping your pet live a more comfortable, satisfying life.
One advantage of Chinese medicine, from a holistic point of view, is that it allows the practitioner to understand how seemingly unrelated symptoms may in fact have a common underlying cause. A problem with Western medicine is that it tends to look at problems in isolation, ignoring the fact that disparate symptoms may come from the same source. Chinese medicine considers five elements—earth, water, wood, metal, and fire—and believes that each element relates to one organ, or a number of organs. Thus problems in different organs may actually be linked through one element. Each element is associated with a yin organ (the dense organ) and a yang organ (the lighter, ethereal organ) so that your dog, for example, may have a persistent hacking cough and be constipated at the same time. A Western-oriented vet would look at these two symptoms as unrelated and treat them independently of one another. But a vet familiar with Chinese medicine would recognize that the symptoms are related through the element of metal (the yin is the lung, and the yang is the large intestine in the metal element), and treat them accordingly.
A TCM treatment will begin with a comprehensive diagnosis. Diagnostic techniques may include listening to the pulse, looking at the tongue, getting a history of the animal’s symptoms from its owner, and palpation. The quality of the pulse—whether it is weak or strong, among other characteristics—and the color of the tongue—its redness or pale tone—say something about what is going on inside the internal organs. Learning about the animal’s history will give further insight. The owner may be asked such questions as, When does your animal feel worse? Better? Does he prefer hot or cold, or wet or dry areas? The TCM practitioner may then palpate the animal in search of weak areas. All of these assessments help uncover the source of disharmony. The practitioner will then attempt to restore balance to those areas through one or more modalities, such as acupuncture or herbs.
Two basic ingredients for the treatment of cancer are astragalus and maitake mushroom extract. Both of these are immune boosters, helping the animal utilize its own immune system to fight cancer more effectively. Astragalus, for one, increases the white blood cells and natural interferon in your pet’s system. This is in opposition to Western cancer treatments, which wear down the patient’s immune system with an onslaught of drugs intended to kill the cancer.
When you think of acupuncture, you probably think of dry needles being placed at certain points throughout the body. While this is the traditional way of administering treatment, and one commonly used, there are actually several ways to stimulate acupuncture points.
POSITIVE CHANGE THROUGH TELLINGTON TOUCH
Although it was first developed as a method for improving the behavior and physical health of horses, Tellington Touch, also known as TTouch, has since been widely applied to many animals with positive results. One of the plusses of this therapy is that it has no adverse side effects, so it is impossible to cause any harm by trying it out. “It can’t hurt, and it might help,” is what practitioners frequently say about using TTouch.
Tellington Touch is a series of circular movements that you perform with your hands and fingertips in various positions anywhere on an animal’s body. The purpose of doing this is to awaken your animal’s nervous system to help the animal attain better health or eliminate persistent behavior problems. Linda Tellington-Jones, a renowned horse trainer, first developed the method in the late 1970s after studying with the brilliant physicist Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais, at his Center for Humanistic Psychology in San Francisco. Dr. Feldenkrais had developed a method to help people recover from physical or emotional trauma based on the idea of “jumpstarting” parts of the brain that we don’t ordinarily use. In other words, if you know one way to walk through life-long habit, and suddenly you lose the ability to walk due to an accident, perhaps you can learn to walk again by utilizing a different part of your brain to tell you a different way to do it. Feldenkrais was motivated in his work by the fact that we use only one-tenth of our brain; he was also motivated by personal practical necessity: He developed the method after he became crippled in an accident. He wanted to learn to walk again without surgery, and he succeeded.
Tellington-Jones applied what she had learned from Feldenkrais to her knowledge of horses. The development of TTouch was profoundly important to her because she felt unsettled about traditional methods for controlling horses that centered on dominance training. Through the course of traditional training, the animal learns to accept the human as being in complete control, and the animal becomes submissive. This results in conflict or tension, not the cooperative partnership that Tellington-Jones thought was necessary. Combining her belief that animals are our equals rather than lesser beings, and her idea that intuitive knowledge can sometimes be more helpful than intellect, she came up with the concept of helping horses get out of behavior or health ruts by waking up their nervous systems for new responses.
Over time, Tellington-Jones’s reputation for success with horses expanded to include other animals. Today, TTouch is the culmination of years of practical research on such diverse animals as dogs, cats, ocelots, rodents, whales, dolphins, and reptiles, to name only some of the kinds of animals that have benefited from Tellington Touch. Once, while visiting the Soviet Union, Tellington-Jones even advised a small boy on how to use Tellington Touch on his pet snail. In fact, any animal with a nervous system will benefit from using this therapy.
The basic method consists of making clockwise circles of motion with relaxed fingers and a loose hand. Beginners have a tendency to stiffen their hands and fingers and should practice keeping the finger joints rounded and flexible. The practitioner’s rhythmic breathing during TTouch further aids relaxation of both the practitioner and client, because an animal mirrors the body worker’s breathing and releases stress as well. The first movement one learns is called the “clouded leopard.” (All the 15 movements have descriptive names.) With a gently curved hand, use the pads of your fingers to make small clockwise circles anywhere on the body. You begin at 12 o’clock, make a complete circle, and continue until 8 o’clock before lifting the fingers and moving to a new part of the body. The touch relaxes while the constant movement fosters alertness. This accomplishes the goal of waking up the nervous system. You don’t want to make a continuous circle in one spot because that will only lull the animal to sleep, a nice feeling perhaps, but not the goal of TTouch.
To reduce pain and swelling from injury, try the “lying leopard,” which flattens the hand a bit before making circles so that a bigger area is addressed. If the area is painful, make the movements slower, and gentler, working around the injury and cupping the hands over it. If the wound is open be sure to place a sterile covering over the wound before approaching it.
The “python lift” releases tension and is wonderful for humans too (as most TTouches are). Rather than make circles, here you place both hands on either side of the legs, arms, shoulders, neck, back, or chest and use just enough pressure to lift the skin gently, about an inch-and-a-half, while supporting the muscle. The lift should be held for four seconds before you gently return the skin to its place and then release. The idea is to hold the muscle lightly so the animal doesn’t hold its breath. Practice the python lift on a person you care about after a long, tense day at work. Your friend will thank you for it.
One of the greatest virtues of the TTouch method is that it not only helps the animal, but it improves the relationship between pet and owner, which is so critical in keeping a happy, well-adjusted, and well-behaved animal. Many pet owners report that once they learn the movements they almost always use them when touching their animal; they find this much superior to just mindlessly sitting and petting a cat or dog, for example. This can go a long way toward improving communication.
Remember that you can use the TTouch movements anywhere on your pet’s body. Does your dog seem tense? Where are you noticing that tension? Many dogs express tension and stress through the neck, holding their heads stiffly, or holding them down due to constant feelings of shame related to training issues. If you kneel in front of your dog and perform a TTouch movement on its neck while talking to it and looking in its eye, you are letting your dog know that you care and that the two of you are in this together, even while you are performing therapy on the dog. The TTouch helps the animal unlearn poor habits, and makes positive change possible.
Have you ever connected with an animal, even for a moment, feeling as though you absolutely understood what that animal was experiencing? Perhaps you felt the animal’s intense love for its newborns or its grief at a loss, its joy at running freely, or its desperation as it was caged in a shelter. If you were looking for a pet at the time, one animal might have singled you out, as if to say, “Take me!” Any sensitive and open-minded individual can communicate with animals to some degree. According to animal communicator Lydia Hiby, this is an innate ability we have as children, but later forget: “As children we communicated nonverbally, and I believe that we can reawaken that skill, which lies dormant in most adults.”3
Why do people consult animal communicators? Many people want to know that their pets are happy. Or perhaps the animal has an unexplainable health problem, such as the sudden appearance of seizures, that mystifies the doctors. A good communicator may tell you why the problem originated and what you might do about it. Another scenario is that the animal has a behavior problem that you want to help resolve. The communicator may be able to tell you what happened that affected your charge. Did the animal become upset after witnessing an accident? Or was a pattern of negative behavior spurred by some early-life trauma? In her work to help animals overcome trauma from abuse, veterinarian turned animal communicator Barbara Shor says, “I lead animals through a guided visualization that often seems to help clear some of these emotions.” During the process, Shor can feel the animal’s sadness, pain, anger, or fear. “I feel it, and if I sit with them and help them move through it, a lot of times I can feel the release.” People also contact animal communicators at the end of their animal’s life, when they are wondering whether the time is right for euthanasia. Moreover, animal communicators can help people understand what an animal is teaching its person. Many animals serve as mirrors to their owners. Thus the owner of a vicious dog might need to learn how to express his own anger more appropriately. One dog that Shor worked with was paralyzed for a year on the hind end. This required his owner to carry him outside, bring him in, and feed him. What the dog told the doctor was that in the process of his illness he was teaching his person how to love and care for himself as much as he cared for his dog. A well-trained animal communicator, then, is an intermediary, one who can offer much support to both animal and person.
The animal communicator usually “talks” to different species with pictures, sending and receiving visual images. Seeing life through an animal’s perspective can be humbling, animal communicators say, as our fellow creatures are not just interested in survival and physical comforts, as many tend to believe, but capable of deep emotions. Many animals have the ability to love unconditionally and in so doing they help us to feel more deeply for ourselves and others.
The animal communicator works on the assumption that all life—human, animal, and plant—is energetically connected, and, thus, capable of communication.
But how do we know whether an animal communicator is really communicating with an animal or just deluding us? “A lot of the work I do is pretty controversial,” concedes Shor, “and a lot of people aren’t open to it.” Animal communication is subjective and, therefore, difficult to validate. Since there is no objective proof to validate an animal communicator’s accuracy, the whole concept is difficult for the Western-trained mind to accept. And certainly, there is room for deception. Basically, the only way to know whether an animal communicator is accurate or not is through personal experience. The practitioner says something that strikes an emotional chord. She recounts certain events that she could have had no way of knowing about (you didn’t tell her). After a session, your animal starts to heal when, in the past, it was not making any progress at all. Or a behavior problem suddenly resolves. Shor speaks of dealing with information on a “soul level,” and says that “for an animal to heal on that level, the person needs to be open to hearing what is said and doing something about it. If they’re not, they’re probably not going to work with me.”
The use of energy in different forms is the concept behind a variety of alternative healing modalities. Here are some that are used on animals.
Laser light is monochromatic and coherent, meaning that all the individual ray’s resonances are in sync with one another. Most hand-held lasers are helium neon light, which are best for treating a specific acupuncture point. Others are diode light, which work best on a generalized area. The therapy should be performed by a qualified professional only, as the misuse of lasers can have a damaging effect.
1. Gary Null interview with Howard Peiper, Mar. 19, 2000.
2. Gary Null interview with Susan Goldstein, Mar. 22, 2000.
3. Hiby, Lydia, with Bonnie S. Weintraub, Conversations with Animals: Cherished Messages and Memories as Told by an Animal Communicator, NewSage Press, Oregon, 1998, p. 158.