Don't give Rover a bone – give him acupuncture (or perhaps he'd prefer Reiki healing and group therapy)
23:20 GMT, 22 August 2012
As a nation of dog lovers it is, perhaps, not surprising that many pet owners leave no stone unturned in their attempts to ensure their animal is in tip-top health. But the days of relying on regular exercise, a healthy diet and trips to the vet are gone.
Today, a dog is just as likely to be found on a therapist’s couch as a vet’s examining table. Even at a time of economic uncertainty, many devoted owners are splashing out on alternative remedies such as acupuncture and homeopathy, while data from Lincoln University recently found that more than 15,000 pets are referred to animal psychologists every year in the UK.
On the couch: Sue Bubenzer, pictured right, turned to dog psychologist Ben Evans for support after she rescued William, a Jack Russell-collie cross, from a shelter
And some of these treatments are even more traditionally ‘human’.
When Lorna Arrowsmith, 43, from Shrewsbury, grew concerned about her rescue dog Cassie, a 12-month-old bull terrier, she turned to a Reiki master for help. Lorna wasn’t fully aware of Cassie’s history, but says it was obvious that the dog had experienced some abuse or trauma.
‘We got her home and she stayed rooted under the kitchen table for three days, constantly shaking,’ she says. ‘She was petrified of everything from cars to brooms.’
Then, in January last year, Lorna saw an advert for Rob Fellows, a Reiki master who works with animals with emotional and physical problems and decided to take Cassie for a complimentary treatment.
Despite the fact Reiki, a traditional Japanese form of therapy that involves the transfer of energy through the hands to the patient, is thought of as a ‘human’ treatment, Lorna was amazed to see immediate results.
Therapy success: William has been transformed from an unruly rescue dog to a well-behaved pet
During their first session, Cassie was
so anxious it took Lorna ten minutes just to persuade her to lie down.
After that, Rob gently stroked her before laying his hands on her. He
explained he was unblocking energy, stimulating Cassie’s natural healing
process, dissolving stress and putting her at ease.
‘/08/22/article-2192190-13FF0A4E000005DC-693_634x482.jpg” width=”634″ height=”482″ alt=”Unusual solution: Lorna Arrowsmith cured her dog Cassie of nervous behaviour by using Reiki treatments” class=”blkBorder” />
Unusual solution: Lorna Arrowsmith cured her dog Cassie of nervous behaviour by using Reiki treatments
Tyson, her Staffordshire bull terrier,
was born with a displaced hip and, when he was just four, developed
arthritis in his elbows. /08/22/article-2192190-1402547D000005DC-289_634x850.jpg” width=”634″ height=”850″ alt=”Needlework: Alice Shaw took her dog Tyson to have acupuncture to ease his arthritis ” class=”blkBorder” />
Needlework: Alice Shaw took her dog Tyson to have acupuncture to ease his arthritis
Candice Roundell, the 34-year-old
veterinary surgeon at the Blue Cross who administers Tyson’s
acupuncture, says: ‘I’d had it done a couple of times for my back pain
and knew it could work, so in 2009 I did a course at a clinic in Glasgow
which inspired me to carry acupuncture out on animals.
response can be dramatic. I had one cat who couldn’t jump after being
in a road accident and, after just one session, he was leaping over
When Anna Webb, a
46-year-old presenter on BBC Radio London heard Molly, her ten-year-old
miniature bull terrier, needed surgery, she feared that she might lose
her. Molly had developed an irritable wart on her neck and vets urged
Anna to have it surgically removed.
had had a general anaesthetic a few years previously and she was sick
for weeks. Plus, the wart was close to the jugular vein and the risk of
her bleeding to death was too dreadful to think about,’ says Anna from
Dalston, North-East London.
Then, through her radio show, she met Dr Richard Allport, founder of the Natural Medicine Centre in Potters Bar, Hertfordshire.
says: ‘Richard prescribed a homeopathic treatment of three tablets and
three doses of Thuja (a plant extract) tincture each day. Within ten
days the wart had fallen off — I’d been as sceptical as anyone about
homeopathic treatments, but I’d gone from thinking I might lose Molly to
finding a completely painless path to recovery.’
paid 14 for the homeopathic treatment and 40 for her 20-minute
consultation with Dr Allport, compared to 75 for a 15-minute
consultation with her regular vet — before any surgery or medicine
bills. Now Anna says that, although she still uses conventional vets,
she always turns to homeopathic treatment first for Molly and has used
it to treat everything from bad bruising to an ear infection.
Pampered pooches: Are treatments like acupuncture a step too far for our pets
Sue Bubenzer, a 61-year-old retired charity worker from
Carmarthenshire, rescued William, a Jack Russell-collie cross, from a
nearby shelter she hoped he would be a loving companion for her and
However, when William displayed signs of aggression and barked relentlessly, Sue, an experienced handler of rescued animals, turned to dog psychologist Ben Evans for support.
Sue says: ‘We got William four years ago, when he was one, but none of the usual tricks made any difference.’
William was terrified of everything and would bark hysterically when anyone came to the door, or if Sue or Gunter ever met anyone on walks.
‘It was like William was ruling our lives, leaving me in tears on several occasions,’ Sue says.
Vets say dogs can suffer from OCD, depression, agoraphobia and separation anxiety
The turning point came this March when, on a recommendation, they contacted Ben, who visited them at home.
William barked when Ben approached, but, as Ben calmly stood his ground, the dog backed down. ‘Ben explained that William was terrified of so many situations because he didn’t have any trust in our leadership skills,’ Sue says.
Along with the group sessions — where William learned to recognise other dogs as non-threatening — Ben used positive reinforcement techniques during his 40 individual sessions to show William that a situation he perceived as threatening was, in fact, safe.
For instance, Sue or Gunter repeatedly went out the front door and came back in with either a little ball or a food treat, until William associated people coming to the door with a positive experience.
‘Firmly but without anger, we told William what was and wasn’t acceptable behaviour. We faced up to walks where we knew we would meet other people and stood strong, showing him our calm confidence where previously we’d let William get his way,’ Sue says.
‘We’ve stopped him going up the stairs — from where he had a sense of power — and he’s not allowed to jump on the furniture and growl at us, staking out his territory. We still go to Ben’s classes and, although William’s far from perfect, his transformation has been miraculous.’
Ben Evans has worked in animal rescue centres since he was 14 and now has a diploma in dog psychology and behaviour.
He says: ‘Every dog is different and my job is to understand what they’re trying to communicate through their actions. With the right treatment, any dog can be helped. When I see a dog like William find his own peace and give so much joy to owners like Sue and Gunter, it’s wonderful.’