Natural Healing: Touch Therapies for Animals

In addition to traditional veterinary treatments, modern pet owners are now offered a wide range of alternative treatments for their animals.

| June 2015

Dog Massage

A variety of natural therapies like acupuncture, reflexology and massage are now available for pets.

Photo by Fotolia/Quasarphoto

Choosing between old and new veterinary approaches—as diverse as acupuncture, homeopathy, feng shui, chiropractic, hyperbaric oxygen, nutraceuticals, reiki, and hair mineral analysis—challenges concerned pet owners who seek to provide the best care for their beloved animals. Discussing the scope of illnesses and conditions that different approaches are intended to aid, Natural Healing for Cats, Dogs, Horses, and Other Animals by Lisa Preston (Skyhorse Publishing, 2011), covers the strengths and limitations of each alternative therapy. We all want what is best for our pets. In that spirit, here is a book that allows us to make sure they get just that.

Touch Therapies:

The power of touch, the kindness of a caress have an undeniable positive effect. While the benefits are difficult to measure, on a subjective level, there is no doubt that pleasant massage feels . . . pleasant. Some forms of manual physical therapy can be decidedly uncomfortable, and some have mystical components that may or may not conflict with a client’s belief system. Many, although classified as a touch therapy, also could be classified as energy treatments, such as the Bowen technique and kinesiology, or could be classified as a whole medicine system, such as chiropractic or TCVM. Both auriculotherapy and reflexology are touch treatments that are first theoretically diagnostic in nature, thus not wholly a touch therapy.

Ancient and new touch treatments overlap each other at times, leaving a lot of options. While evidence-based medicine is unable to report hard definitions of improvement in animals who receive touch therapies, scientists would not generally refute the simple line of reasoning that an animal who is cared for and appreciates attention is likely to be less stressed and therefore have a healthy edge on an animal who does not receive any form of massage or physical therapy. For animals who do seem to enjoy the handling and clients who have the funds to experiment, there is little reason not to try a treatment that doesn’t conflict with their beliefs. Side effects are uncommon in most manual physical therapies, although injuries have been reported in geriatric patients, especially those with degenerative disorders.


See the above special report on acupuncture. Various practitioners report acupressure points may be stimulated manually, with pressure device or via lasers, lights, or tuning forks. 


Also transliterated hyphenated (an-ma) or as two words (an ma), anma is the Japanese word for “press and rub.” Anma massage is characterized by a kneading manipulation attempting to restore chi. The treatment may be performed on acupressure points and is done dry, without oil or other lubrication.

Bowen Technique

Australian Tom Bowen developed the Bowen technique: intervals of gentle massage by finger and thumb pressure followed by specific rest intervals, usually two minutes in length. Practitioners believe that the rest period allows energy released to travel throughout the body and that the technique benefits numerous physical and mental problems. After the first body area is worked and rested, the practitioner moves to a new area. Before he died in 1982, Tom Bowen adapted his method to animal treatment and trained other practitioners in the technique.

mother earth news fair


Feb. 17-18, 2018
Belton, Texas

More than 150 workshops, great deals from more than 200 exhibitors, off-stage demos, inspirational keynotes, and great food!