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Acupressure for Shelter Animals

Editor’s Note: This article has been sourced via Tallgrass Animal Acupressure Institute.

Animal shelters are tough places no matter how hard staff and volunteers work to make them comfortable. Being in a shelter is terribly disorienting for a dog or cat, and in their confusion and fear, they may act out or retreat into themselves. Acupressure-massage is one way to offer these animals emotional and physical comfort and care until they are adopted into their forever homes.

Before you Start, Calm and Center Yourself

If you work or volunteer at an animal shelter, or want to try this technique on a newly-adopted dog or cat or other fearful and disoriented animal, be sure to start with ourself. Working at a shelter is stressful, but you have to be present, calm, and thinking about what you want the dog or cat to experience during the session. For example, you could set an intention that the session will be loving, comforting and calming; every animal in a shelter needs this, no matter what.

To being, the acupoint referred to as Large Intestine (LI4) can help you calm and center yourself. Located in the webbing between your thumb and forefinger, this point is known to help release pressure in the face, mouth, and head. It’s used to mitigate migraines, dental pain, and feelings of stress, and to promote a sense of calm. 

Hold the webbing between the thumb and forefinger of one hand between the thumb and pointer finger of the opposite hand, with the thumb on top and the finger below the webbing. While holding that point, think about what you want the animal to receive during his or her session. Slowly take three deep breaths. Then change hands and repeat the procedure.

Calming Acupressure-Massage Session for Dogs and Cats

Once you feel present and focused, you are ready to begin the session. Animals know immediately when you are thinking about something else, like what you need to buy at the store on your way home. The session will be much more effective if you are grounded, caring, and present.

Start by using the heel of your hand to slowly stroke down the animal’s body just to the side of his midline and spine from head to hind paw, following the Bladder Meridian Chart. Trace the meridian three times on each side of the animal’s body. This tells the bod or cat you are doing something other than petting him. Your intention is to be comforting and help him feel calm.

Once you have completed tracing the Bladder Meridian three times on each side of the animal’s body, you are ready to offer specific acupressure points to help restore a feeling of well-being (see charts below for the names and locations of these points). The acupressure points selected for animals in a shelter environment support general health, reduce fear, boost the spirit, and promote a sense of courage and well-being.

 

Acupressure Point Techniques

While performing acupressure point work. always have both hands on the animal at the same time. One hand is doing the point work while the other rests gently and comfortably somewhere on the dog or cat’s body. The resting hand can feel any reactions the animal has to the point work, while offering grounding and comfort.

If you are unfamiliar with acupressure, you need to know that there are two basic techniques for stimulating acupoints – the Thumb Technique and the Two-Finger Technique. Both are considered direct pressure techniques, called an An Fa in Chinese. There’s no need to press hard because the meridians and acupoints are just beneath the surface of the skin. In fact, gentler is better, so you won’t obstruct the flow of chi.

  1. Thumb Technique – Gently place the soft tip of your thumb on the acupoint and count slowly to 20, then move to the next point. The 
    Thumb Technique works best on larger dogs and on a medium-sized dog’s trunk, neck, and larger muscle masses.
  2. Two-Finger Technique – Place your middle finger on top of your index finger to create a little tent. Then lightly put the soft tip of your index finger on the acupoint and count slowly to 20. This technique is good for point work on small dogs or cats, and for the lower extremities on medium-sized to large dogs.

 

When you have completed the point work, trace the Bladder Meridian three times on each side of the animal just as you did at the beginning of the session. This gives the acupressure-massage session a finishing touch; it’s like smoothing a bedspread and tidying up the energy.

 

 

Soothing Ah-Shi points with Tui Na

Editor’s Note: This article has been sourced via Tallgrass Animal Acupressure Institute.

In Part One of this two-part series, we went over the nature of Ah-Shi points. We discussed how the muscle tissues tighten and become knotted. This can occur spontaneously due to physical or emotional stress, injury or disease. The result is the same: the tissues shut down, not allowing blood and chi to flow. The animal then experiences pain, which leads to restricted movement.

When Ah-Shi points and the surrounding tissue are not addressed quickly, the animal tends to compensate to avoid pain. This leads to the horse’s, dog’s, or cat’s entire body becoming physically compromised. What may have begun as a minor tightness can snowball into a major lameness. Acupressure-massage, called Tui-Na in Chinese, is a highly effective hands-on bodywork modality that is known to resolve Ah-Shi points and the surrounding tissues.

Tui Na
Tui Na is one of the five main branches of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) along with diet, chi gong, herbs, and acupuncture. It is considered the original Chinese meridian massage. Tui Na is pronounced “Tway” with a long “a” sound and “Nah.” Translated, Tui Na means “push – grasp.” It has been continuously practiced in China for both humans and animals since 2700 B.C. Over time, these techniques followed the Silk Road to the Middle East and on up through Europe to Northern Europe.

Tui Na regulates meridians by promoting the circulation of chi, blood, and other vital substances. This, in turn, provides the energetic and nutrient nourishment necessary for the internal organs to function properly. When there’s a harmonious flow of vital substances, all the bodily tissues are nourished, and Ah-Shi points are less likely to form. However, if they do, they can be easily resolved with these hands-on techniques that have been used for centuries.

Tui Na Techniques
The first Tui Na technique is direct pressure, called An Fa. Begin pressing very lightly because the point can really hurt. Come away from the point and then press ever so slightly more into the point using the soft tip of your thumb, knuckle, or the heel of your hand. There are many variations of how to apply An Fa including crossed-hands or an elbow on larger equine muscle masses.

Tui Fa is a “pushing” technique that is used to trace a specific meridian that is blocked along its path and possibly where an Ah-Shi point has formed. The hand movement needs to be relaxed, smooth and consistently sliding along the meridian. Sliding up and back using the soft tip of the thumb, three fingers, or the heel of the hand removes obstructions and can invigorate the flow of chi and blood.

There are a huge number of Tui Na techniques to enhance the effectiveness of an acupressure-massage session that is best learned by taking hands-on training courses. The general purpose of using Tui Na techniques is to invigorate the harmonious flow of vital substances throughout the animal’s body to help resolve painful Ah-Shi points.

 

 

Feed Cranberries to Horses

 

Editor’s Note: This article has been sourced via Riva’s Remedies.

I’m always looking for new foods that horses might like to provide them with variety and extra nutrition. Turns out that raw organic cranberries are the new face around here – they gobble them right up even with the tart taste. Cranberries are rich in Manganese, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, fibre, and anti-oxidants. They are a natural anti-inflammatory and antibiotic, and are beneficial for the immune system and heart. Just add 1/4 cup to their breakfast.

 

 

Winter Laminitis

Editor’s Note: This article has been sourced via Riva’s Remedies.
At this time of year we receive many inquiries about winter laminitis. But “winter” laminitis is a misnomer because laminitis never comes on overnight. All laminitis cases are in the developmental stage for man weeks before they actually get sore. And even though our winter horses are not on sugar-rich grass I still see many of the same problems as horses with summer pasture laminitis: unbalanced hooves and/or poor trimming practices, high sugar feed such as grain or commercial feeds, high sugar hay, weight gain, insulin resistance and/or leaky gut. Insulin resistance and leaky gut – especially when accompanied by poor hoof confirmation are the most common causes of laminitis, no matter what the season is. If you’re dealing with laminitis, you should know the do’s and don’ts of caring for a laminitic horse.

The Don’ts of Caring for a Laminitic Horse 

  • Don’t put a laminitic horse on pasture – fresh grass is very high in sugar, especially in the spring, summer and the hottest part of the day.
  • Don’t feed oats, barley, corn, COB, grains or any other commercial grain feeds including extruded feeds – these (as well as grass) are all high in sugar and non-structural carbohydrates which increase blood sugar, insulin levels and cecal acids and toxins – all major causes of lamina inflammation.
  • Don’t feed high fat feeds or added oils. While current popular opinion promotes feeding horses poor quality fats for “cool” energy and for lowering the glycemic index of forage and grain, fats and oils congest the liver and lymph system, slow down digestive transit time, impede nutrient absorption, contribute to leaky gut, have no nutritional value and increase cortisol levels which elevates blood sugar.
  • Don’t feed alfalfa. While the high protein levels in alfalfa will lower the glycemic index and stabilize blood sugar in SOME horses, excess alfalfa will exacerbate laminitic symptoms in most horses by contributing to a leaky gut and/or by increasing the deposition of acids into the hoof joints.
  • Don’t soak your hay for longer than two to three weeks – any longer than that could increase hunger and stress levels as the sugar and/or protein levels may become deficient. Any hay that needs to be soaked long-term to maintain weight or soundness is not the right hay.
  • Don’t starve the overweight laminitic/metabolic horse – this creates stress causing unbalanced insulin levels, increased cortisol production, poor immunity and an increase in hoof inflammation. Feed small amounts of forage frequently by using slow feeders.
  • Don’t confine a laminitic horse no matter how sore they are – horses need movement and exercise to improve circulation and deliver nutrients to toxic and damaged hoof tissues. Let the sore horse decide how much movement he/she needs. Metabolic horses with laminitis need exercise to regulate blood sugar levels and to reverse their condition.
  • Don’t use glucosamine long-term, if at all – glucosamine is a type of sugar that strains the liver and depresses insulin production in sugar sensitive, overweight and/or metabolic horses.
  • Don’t accept hoof pathologies as normal (no matter what breed): flaring walls, bell-shaped hooves, cracking, splitting, soft soles, flat soles, long toes, high heels, contracted heels and/or under-run heels are all abnormal and can be fixed with a professional barefoot trim, exercise and a good diet.
  • Don’t always accept the label of “navicular” – this is an over-used diagnosis to explain unexplained symptoms. Many cases of so-called navicular are actually sub-clinical laminitis.
  • Don’t listen to well-meaning people who tell you that your horse won’t recover – they are misinformed.

The Do’s of Caring for a Laminitic Horse

  • Do feed horses a high fibre diet (e.g. hay, beet pulp, soybean hulls, flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, wheat bran, wheat germ) – fibre detoxifies the liver and hindgut, regulates appetite, lowers the glycemic index of all feeds and encourages weight loss.
  • Do use slow feeders to lower stress levels, ease digestion and provide forage 24/7.
  • Do treat horses for a leaky gut if present – hindgut bacteria, acids and toxins are a major cause of laminitis. Use Pro-Colon probiotics, Pro-Dygest, Para+Plus and/or Vitamin B12.
  • Do treat horses for parasites – parasitic toxins exacerbate hoof inflammation and/or laminitis.
  • Do ensure a proper barefoot trim with good hoof mechanism. Note: a pasture trim is not a barefoot trim. A pasture trim is done to nail a shoe on, a barefoot trim is done to maximize proper hoof growth and performance. Educate yourself on different trimming methods.
  • Do also educate yourself on sub-clinical laminitis – this is a type of laminitis that shows no clinical signs of separation, digital pulse or hoof tenderness. It is a common cause of hoof soreness and is absolutely under-diagnosed!
  • Do know that the most common hoof nutrient deficiencies are selenium, silica and sulphur – all minerals which strengthen hoof wall, lamina and joint capsules.
  • Do also know that rotated hooves will correct themselves if the horse is fed an appropriate diet with the right supplements and is trimmed with a professional barefoot trim. Marijke has guided hundreds of laminitic horses in varying stages to 100% soundness – many of these horses were considered untreatable.
  • Do use boots and/or casts to relieve pain and encourage movement in the acute stages.
  • Do practice prevention – good food, good trims, good exercise!
  • Do read Healing Horses Their Way for an extensive resource of information on laminitis…and much more.

 

Happy Hooves, Happy Horses!