Holistic treatments like acupuncture, Reiki and massage can work in conjunction with veterinarian visits, providing pain and stress relief for animals with arthritis, back or hip problems, urinary tract infections or more serious conditions like cancer.
Nubi Wan Kenobi, a 5-year-old black cat, is sitting quietly on the couch, watching pins being stuck into his back with the same lazy disinterest he might eye a bird outside the kitchen window.
He is no stranger to acupuncture. Just weeks ago he was diagnosed with kidney stones and his mom, Jeanie Marie Kraft, owner of Four Paws Acupuncture in Salem, treated his pain by placing about seven needles along his hind quarters above his bladder and kidneys.
Today, however it’s obvious Kenobi is back to his old self. After Kraft has placed just three tiny needles in his back, he promptly leaps up off the couch and runs off, leaving mom to chase after the needles.
“Animals know when they need it,” Kraft says. “When they’re well, they won’t sit down and behave.”
She attributes Kenobi’s recovery in large part to the acupuncture and Chinese herbs she gave him, along with the veterinarian’s prescribed antibiotic.
Holistic treatments like acupuncture, Reiki and massage can work in conjunction with veterinarian visits, providing pain and stress relief for animals with arthritis, back or hip problems, urinary tract infections or more serious conditions like cancer. These treatments can also provide a healthy alternative to prescribed painkillers that can have negative side effects on animals.
Kraft, who studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in California, has been treating animals and humans with acupuncture for more than 10 years.
She says the length of an acupuncture treatment depends on the size of the animal. For her clients, Kraft makes house calls like an old-fashioned family doctor, pointing out that pets respond better to the treatment when they’re on their own turf, surrounded by familiar sights and smells.
She begins by giving animals an herbal treatment to calm their nerves. Then she guides a small, hand-held red laser over the troublesome area, which helps soothe the area and prepare it for treatment.
The process itself takes 10 to 25 minutes depending on the size of the animal. Smaller animals require less time.
Many animals react to acupuncture the way a human would to a Swedish massage.
“Oftentimes their hair is all messed up and they have a glazed-eye afterglow,” Kraft says of her clients, chuckling. “They usually go home and sleep the rest of the day and the next day they have a burst of energy.”
Like with humans, acupuncture requires consecutive treatments before any long-term effects can be seen. For most pets six weeks does the trick, though some come for regular visits after that.
Maria Ceddia, from Melrose, has been taking her miniature schnauzer Nikki for treatments for over three years, since the dog injured her leg.
At the time Nikki was sick from prescribed pain medication and unable to walk. Ceddia admits she was skeptical about acupuncture, but decided to give it a try.
“The first time (Kraft) treated her, my dog was purring like a cat; she fell asleep,” she says. “That was the pain. My dog was in a lot of pain.”
After two months of acupuncture Nikki regained her former health and was back on all four paws. Ceddia now takes the dog in regularly for “tune ups.”Dog days of summer
When Justice, a 13-year-old black Lab, was diagnosed with a tumor in his spleen weeks ago, his owner, Denise O’Brien, had a decision to make: Bring him in for surgery, which would buy him a few months time, or let him die naturally.
O’Brien, owner of the doggie daycare Boston Canine Inc. in Peabody, chose the second option. Ever since, Justice has been living it up, receiving homemade prime rib suppers and daily rubdowns from O’Brien, who is a doggie massage therapist. As a result, the Lab has experienced a resurgence of energy.
“He’s doing great,” O’Brien says, petting her silky eared pooch. “He is tired but if I wasn’t doing massage, if I wasn’t caring about his whole well being, he would have checked himself out. He is constantly stimulated, emotionally and physically.”
Every day — to help ease the pain from his tumor — Justice receives both Reiki and massage treatments. Reiki, like acupuncture, focuses on helping energy flow through the body by stimulating problem areas, though this practice uses human touch instead of needles.
“Reiki will prolong their life span but also give them comfort at the same time,” says Julie Picardi, a local Reiki practitioner.
Justice sprawls out on a rug while Picardi holds her palm inches from his body and moves it from head to toe, scanning it for trouble spots. She says a hot or cold sensation in her hand signals where to stop. Finally, she brings her hand to rest on his stomach above his spleen.
“He feels a calm warm flow of energy that goes right through [him] like a nice electrical charge,” she says.
Both Reiki and massage can be used to boost weak immune systems, treat allergies and help improve aggressive behavior. Massage can also be used to treat arthritis, back and hip problems, and improve the immune system. O’Brien emphasizes that massage is not something owners should try at home, but requires a professional.
“Dogs can’t talk and say that’s too rough,” she says, pointing out that she only uses her fingertips to rub his body, pausing to spend extra time when she feels a knot.
How can you tell if the dog is appreciating his massage? O’Brien jokes, “[Justice] starts tap-dancing sometimes, it feels so good.”
For more information
· Four Paws Acupuncture
Offers herbal medicine and acupuncture for cats and dogs
· Boston Canine, Inc.
Offers massage and daycare for dogs
· Julie Picardi
Reiki appointments for dogs in your home