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    Alternative Therapies for Pets

    Alternative Therapies for Pets

    With the growing trend for cat lovers to mimic popular human lifestyle trends for their pets' general health and well-being, there is a growing interest in alternative therapies-massage, acupuncture, and chiropractics-for pets. Today, there are courses and certifications in all these modalities for practitioners to legally work on animals.

    Aromatherapy and Cats

    Aromatherapy is a generic term that refers to the various uses of liquid plant materials known as essential oils for the purpose of affecting a person or animal's mood or health. An essential oil is liquid that comes from a single plant. These oils are extracted from flowers and other plant parts, including leaves, stems, roots, seeds, and bark. Apart from being mood enhancers, they have various medicinal and healing properties as well, and thus they promote general well-being. Aromatherapists believe that essential oils work in two ways. First, the fragrant aromas activate the limbic system and stimulate the emotional centers of the brain. Second, when applied to the skin, they are absorbed into the bloodstream, thereby allowing the body to register them and promote healing. Flower essences are sometimes used in health-related products. For example, some anti-itch creams used to treat skin irritations contain chamomile oil, and some insect repellents use lavender oil as an ingredient. The most famous of all flower essences are those formulated by British physician Dr. Edward Bach in the 1930s. He created thirty-eight different essences, all of which are safe to use on a cat, including his famous Rescue Remedy calmative, which is now also specifically marketed for pets and readily available in stores and online.

    Essential oils are very concentrated and hence extremely potent. In fact, undiluted essential oils are highly toxic to cats. Even one drop on your cat's paw can make her extremely ill and may even cause death. Felines lack the necessary enzymes in their liver to break down and excrete certain chemical compounds that exist naturally in essential oils. (Dogs and people are different.) Therefore, overdosing or overuse causes these compounds to accumulate in the body and can result in liver or kidney failure. Symptoms of toxicity include vomiting, drooling, and uncoordinated movements. The toxic buildup is often slow and doesn't necessarily show up immediately. It could take weeks, months, or even years. Often, owners are unaware that their cat is suffering from any kind of poisoning until the vet does a general blood panel and the toxin shows up there. Fortunately, you can buy ready-made dilutions of essential oils called hydrosols. These are water-based by-products that can be diluted even further for safe use. Before you proceed, consult a professional pet aromatherapist with regard to formulations for your cat and how to correctly administer them.

    Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils derived from medicinal plants to affect the mood or health of the patient-human, feline, or other.

    The Therapeutic Benefits for Cats

    Apart from getting rid of parasites such as ticks and fleas, aromatherapy is used to treat mild skin inflammations, sore muscles, and stiff joints. It's also used to de-stress a variety of emotionally charged situations, such as traveling, moving, the introduction of a new pet or baby into a household, separation anxiety, and nervousness induced by thunder and lightning storms. While the hydrosols can be used individually, pet aromatherapists often blend several together. A cat's nose is undoubtedly her most important organ. Cats have between 60 and 80 million olfactory cells, while humans have only between 5 and 20 million-which explains a feline's incredible sense of smell. Therefore, pet aromatherapists suggest that the best way to introduce your cat to a particular oil is to allow her to first sniff it while you watch for signs of acceptance. If the cat gets up and moves away, it's a clue not to proceed. If she shows interest by wanting to lick it or by rubbing against it, you can take this as a sign that the hydrosol in question will have a therapeutic effect and that your cat is giving you the green light to proceed. Never test a hydrosol by placing it on your cat's nose because this takes away her freedom of choice.

    Essential oils can be used to ward off fleas as well as to treat other problems, but they can also cause toxic reactions when used incorrectly.

    Difference Between Essential Oils and Flower Essences

    Essential oils all have very potent individual fragrances. Flower essences (often known as flower remedies) are fragrance-free high-frequency electrical solutions distilled from fresh flower blossoms and contain the distinct vibrational energies of the plants from which they are derived. When properly applied, they help balance and strengthen the body's electrical system. In doing so, they remove any interference that can cause both physical and emotional discomfort. Thus, they work to alleviate both physical pain and discomfort and emotionally work to relieve stress.


    For your stroking and petting movements to be officially considered a pet massage, the intent has to be to touch the animal for some beneficial effect. Pet massage therapists say that a cat has to give you permission to perform a therapeutic touching routine. If they're interested in pursuing the idea, they will automatically nuzzle up to you, lie down, or simply stay where they are, giving the go-ahead to continue. The most obvious rejection is to jump up and run off.

    Massage improves blood circulation, increasing oxygenation and nutrition to the cells and tissues throughout the body. If your cat is on any medication, massage will help it work more efficiently and, at the same time, minimize side Bibleeffects by removing the toxins and waste products from the system. Massage also reduces pain associated with illness or old age because endorphins, the body's natural pain relievers, are released into the system through massage. These natural mood enhancers allow your feline to feel better. In human terms, this translates into an upbeat mood. The gentle power of touch also releases lactic acid from sore muscles, decreasing swelling from inflammation. It definitely allows older cats suffering from arthritis and joint discomfort more flexibility of movement and could possibly help them negotiate stairs around the home well into their teens.

    Special infrared massage units made specifically for home use definitely help cats with poor circulation be able to move around better. This is also a useful tool for diabetic cats whose back legs are very weak as a result of their disease.Although massage therapy is no substitute for veterinary care, more veterinarians are appreciating its benefits and seeing how it complements medical treatments. Thus, they are recommending massage therapy for cats who have undergone surgery or other trauma (including abuse) to help facilitate the healing process.


    Shiatsu is a Japanese form of massage therapy that's very similar to acupressure (see below). In fact, the word means, "finger pressure." The Shiatsu therapist usually applies pressure using his or her thumbs, although some may also use their fingers, palms, and even elbows to apply the required pressure to allow energy to flow freely. Often, some gentle massage is performed to the soft-tissue areas along the body's meridians-channels through which "chi" (life energy) travels-as well as some gentle stretching movements.

    When performed by a skilled practitioner, massage therapy can help a cat recover from injury or surgery.

    Thai Massage

    This form of massage itself is not a therapy that applies to cats. However, many pet therapists do use traditional Thai herbal compresses in their massage routines. Heated herbal compresses are excellent for sore or pulled muscles and ligaments, back pain, arthritis, and even stress and anxiety disorders. Typical ingredients include cassumunar ginger, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves. Together, they are placed in a muslin cloth and then gently heated in a steamer or microwave. The compress is held in place for several minutes and is often used to end a pet massage therapy session.

    Tellington Touch

    This behavioral therapy was especially designed for pets by horsewoman Linda Tellington-Jones and first used on horses in the 1970s. The technique depends solely on the power of touch and doesn't involve any traditional massage movements or acupressure. The therapist uses circular finger and hand movements all over the cat's body to relax her and thus reduce stress and fears she may have. In cats, it's often recommended to treat extreme shyness, fear, and resistance to grooming, as well as to deal with excitability and nervous behavior. Although initially considered an animal therapy, these days, health care professionals use it on people to reduce stress and anxiety, particularly after an illness.


    The word "reiki" means "universal life energy," and this form of healing also originated in Japan. By placing his hands on strategic points of the body, the therapist acts as a conduit, channeling the healing energy from himself directly to his pet patient.

    Acupuncture and Acupressure

    These age-old healing techniques have their roots in both China and India. In the past decade, they have become increasingly popular for both people and their pets. They correct the imbalances of energy known as qi (pronounced chee) within the body and unblock obstructions in energy flow, thus allowing qi to flow freely again and the body to heal itself. Along with the free-flowing energy, endorphins are released into the system, which helps reduce sensitivity to pain and stress.

    Acupuncture is the use of needles to move healing energy in the body. It is used in cats to treat joint problems, muscular problems, asthma, and more.


    During treatment, a variety of small needles and sometimes a low-power laser are used to stimulate the acupuncture points on the body. Acupuncture is primarily used on pets to treat joint and muscular problems, but it is also said to aid pets being treated for cancer with chemotherapy. It's also an accepted form of treatment for respiratory problems such as chronic asthma, and it is used to stimulate the immune system to treat such diseases as FeLV and FIV. Only specially qualified veterinary acupuncturists or pet therapists who are also licensed veterinary technicians or who have some kind of medical background should perform this treatment. Ask for credentials before making an appointment.


    Acupressure is best described as acupuncture without needles. It works on the same principle but, instead of needles or lasers, practitioners use finger pressure on specific points on the body. These pressure points are situated on channels or meridians along which the body's energy flows. Many pet therapists incorporate this modality into their general massage routine.

    Animal Chiropractics

    Veterinary chiropractic, also known as animal chiropractic, is an emerging subspecialization for doctors of veterinary medicine (DVMs) and doctors of chiropractic (DCs) to provide spinal manipulation, manual therapy, and other holistic and conservative techniques for animals. In concert with conventional veterinary care, the complementary use of veterinary chiropractic is primarily used for common neuromusculoskeletal conditions to enhance performance, function, and quality of life. Animal chiropractic techniques are more commonly used on dogs than on cats. Many veterinary practices have an association with an animal chiropractor; consult with your veterinarian to find out whether this form of additional treatment would be beneficial for your cat.

    From The Cat Bible, Copyright by Sandy Robins, licensed through ContentOro, Inc and used by arrangement with I-5 Press

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