As more and more Americans turn to alternative medicine in their pursuit of wellness, it is no wonder that similar treatments are finding their way into the world of animal care. Massage, acupuncture, laser and other techniques are now entering the mainstream.
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Massage is a time-honored technique for improving blood circulation, gently breaking down scar tissue in muscles, aiding better digestion, stress reduction, pain relief and more. Pet massage is good for older pets, too. It can extend their years. And, when done well, it feels great!
The same massage benefits for humans can be applied equally for animals, large and small.
The origins of modern day pet massage actually come from the United States equestrian team. Some 40 years ago, Jack Meagher, a massage therapist working with the team, noticed that deep tissue massage could help equine athletes heal from injuries more quickly.
In the 1980s, others picked up on the concept, applying it to cats and dogs. “The Healing Touch for Dogs: The Proven Massage Program” by Dr. Michael W. Fox is still considered by many in the pet industry to be one of the seminal works on smaller animal massage.
Pet massage can be a great way to bond with your pet, beyond “petting.”
“While ‘petting’ helps affirm the human-animal bond, the Healing Touch is far more profound. Many readers have written to me confirming this observation. Shy animals have become more trusting; hyperactive and ‘neurotic’ ones more calm. Aged and chronically ill animals have been given a new lease on life, or at least been made to feel more secure and comforted; and others have benefitted from their owners recognizing the early signs of disease, since massage therapy is both diagnostic and therapeutic,” writes Fox.
Fox’s book details how to prepare for the massage session, a brief course in anatomy, how to “read” your dog’s body language, the massage routine, techniques for therapeutic and diagnostic massage, and total health care for dogs.
Dr. Dean Bader, DVM, of the Shingle Springs Veterinary Clinic is a specialist in large animal and alternative medicine treatments, including treatments for dogs and small animals. His practice includes conventional and holistic medicine, including acupuncture, laser and chiropractic care.
“We do integrated medicine — we combine holistic medicine and conventional medicine when warranted,” Bader said. “And sometimes, conventional medicine works best. Other times, holistic medicine works better. The focus is on the patient and whichever method works the best.”
On any given day, Bader may see horses, sheep, dogs and cats for alternative health treatment.
“We’ve had some really interesting cases: back problems. Soft tissue injuries,” he said. “A performance horse came in for treatment on a reinjured splint bone. We did laser on it and it came out just fine. The horse is doing fine.”
One unusual device Bader uses to help some patients is called a skenar (from S.C.E.N.A.R., Self-Controlled Energo Neuro Adaptive Regulation). This is an electronic device developed by the Russians during the Cold War to replace medication for the cosmonauts. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, it went into commercial use. The skenar uses biofeedback. By stimulating the nervous system, it is able to teach the body to heal itself. Tests conducted in Russia have shown the skenar to be effective in 80 percent of cases treated.
“I’ve found it very helpful,” Bader said. His website, deanbaderdvm.com has an entire page devoted to skenar technology.
The Shingle Springs Veterinary Clinic is located at 4211 Sunset Lane, Suite 101 in Shingle Springs. Office hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and closed Sunday. Find it on Facebook at facebook.com/ssvc4211. For more information, call 530-677-0390.