Natural Dog Success Story: Flowing Chi

Doberman takes advantage of two natural treatments.


The dog: Bekka, an 11-year-old Doberman.

The problem: Over the years, Bekka has had more than her share of veterinary interventions, from an operation for Wobblers syndrome — a neurological disorder — to surgery for a damaged tendon. Then, this fall, she bloated.

The conventional approach: Bloat, or gastric dilatation, is a life-threatening condition in which the stomach swells dramatically. Bekka’s veterinarian removed gas and fluid from her stomach through a tube, then gave her medications to stimulate her upper gastrointestinal tract and reduce nausea. Thankfully, her condition did not progress to torsion, or volvulus, in which the stomach twists, requiring surgery.

The holistic approach: In Chinese medicine, bloat results from a blockage or stagnation of chi, also known as “qi,” the animating energy that moves through the body.

“Energy stuck in Bekka’s stomach needed to be moved out,” says Lisa Donato, DVM, a certified veterinary acupuncturist and chief of acupuncture and alternative medicine at the Center for Specialized Veterinary Care in N.Y. She had been treating Bekka for discomfort from orthopedic surgeries and coincidentally was scheduled to see her a few days after the bloat episode.

“When there is chi stagnation, there often is pain,” Donato says, noting that Bekka had some abdominal tenderness. In Chinese medicine, energy blockages are also signaled by the purplish color of the tongue, and Bekka’s was a telltale shade of lavender.

To help prevent future bloating, Donato stimulated acupuncture points that control the stomach, helping Bekka’s chi move downward, toward her colon. In addition, she showed owner Barbara Meli a Chinese medical massage called Tui Na that she could perform on Bekka at home: Placing a flat hand below the belly button, the owner lightly presses down on the abdomen — pushing toward the dog’s rear — and then releases.

The Tui Na massage touches a pressure or “alarm” point on the stomach, an area that will be tender with a chi flow problem, Donato says. “It’s the same in people. When they have a stomachache, they start rubbing that alarm point without even realizing it.”

The result: Donato saw Bekka a week later, and her abdominal tenderness seemed to have dissipated. “A lot of people don’t realize acupuncture is used for more than arthritis,” Donato says. It can be used to treat any internal medical problems, she says.

As for Meli, every day without a reoccurrence of bloat is evidence that the acupuncture and massage are working for Bekka. “I liked the way Bekka was responding so much that I started getting acupuncture myself,” she says. “I wanted to know what she was going through, and now I appreciate it quite a bit more.”

Caveats: Donato notes that massage is not appropriate in some situations. If the dog has a tumor, massage “can move the energy of the tumor around.” Tui Na massage should also be avoided in animals that have fractures, are pregnant, or are very weak.

Timing matters, too. “I don’t have clients do massage before or after the animal eats,” Donato says. “And it’s better if your hands are warm. If they’re cold, that can actually lock in the energy instead of move it.”

Denise Flaim is a DOG FANCY contributing editor.


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Leslie - 233329   Lakeside, AZ

12/18/2012 9:15:36 AM

Very interesting article. thanks

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carmen   independence, MO

7/25/2010 11:46:45 AM

I just love as natural of healing and remedy as I can possbibly come inot contact with! I like to konw it for myself use,my children,and my animmals! this massage technq sounds so familiar to the one a chiropracter had showed and I still use when I have severe bowel pain and problems,where you place your right hand over yoru left hand and the flat press down and rotate 5 times in a circular motion in the abdomnal area on right side between your pelvic bones and your naval at the 1/2 way mark,does this practice you are referring to here sound like this one,but a little diff? Man it got me out of pain,but he sd to be careful not to overstimulate the bowel either,but this removes toxins and makes the bowel work more easily and smoothly along with no pop,smoking and drinking alot of water, he studied Chinese medicine and acupuncture and keniesiology,along with chiropractic and holistic healing practices,so where can we find doctors and veternarians that can help without getting into trouble with welfare issues etc too how do we go about that legally very importantly or is it an issue? shld have the right to practice any kind of medicines we want to and with whatever doctors we choose! what food do you recommend for our dogs and rats too? I have a chocolate Lab and 2 domesticated rats fancy and ? other kind can't think of currently feel bad about that :) anyway like alot of tips in alot of areas,heard Labs are known for tummies turning and wld like some prevetion tips if have any most importantly,and her vet just sd she has fatty tumors forming,non cancerous conditions not to worry unless they get bigger and uncomfortable along with wart on here face that look red in color,r those ok too,and shld we get our animals checked out at vet b4 gettin natural rememdy treatments? thank you Carmen

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nathan   somewherein, OH

7/14/2008 8:28:26 AM


John 3:16

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