Like all mammals, dogs require the same basic constituents that their ancestors did in ancient times. Though dogs have been re-designed by human needs over the centuries, their need for proper food, exercise, rest, play, social interaction, and touch remain the same.
In Chinese medicine, health and emotional well-being are considered to be highly dependent on lifestyle, which can be further supported by acupuncture or acupressure and herbs.
From the perspective of this ancient medicine, everything is medicine. Health is defined as both an internal and external balance of nutrients and energy so that the human and dog alike can function within its environment. The Chinese were interested in how the living body maintains health, thus preventing illness, from season to season and location to location. The goal is to help the body adapt to constant environmental change.
To achieve this goal consistently, Chinese medicine incorporates the Five Branches, or stems, as a guide to balance and health. The Five Branches are:
Tui Na (Chinese meridian massage)
Chi Gong (exercise)
Species-appropriate food is essential. Exercise and body movement to enliven energy is absolutely necessary. All mammals need to be touched so that the body receives sensory, caring stimulation.
To support the effectiveness of a balanced lifestyle, dog guardians can provide acupressure that corresponds directly with the Five Branches of Chinese medicine. Only holistic veterinarians are allowed to prescribe herbal supplements in most western countries, but as dog guardians we can enhance how well herbs are metabolized by using acupressure. The same is true with acupuncture; only trained veterinarians (or a trained acupuncturist working under the supervision of a veterinarian) can legally perform acupuncture since it is invasive. Guardians, however, can readily offer acupressure for similar effect.
The Five Branches of Chinese medicine offer a model for living a long, full, and healthy life. The intention underlying the Five Branches is for the animal to remain energetically balanced no matter what the season, the animals stage within the canine life cycle, or whether living in a generally cold or hot environment. A dogs health is dependent on his bodys ability to adapt, and given the right ingredients, all dogs can thrive.
An older dog has different requirements for exercise than a younger dog, for instance, but both need exercise to be healthy. In the winter, according to traditional Chinese medicine, a dog needs to retain body heat and should not exercise as exuberantly as he can in the other seasons. This is about paying attention to the animal within the context of the current environment and supporting the dogs ability to adapt. Each of the Five Branches provides the day-to-day constituents of health.
Acupressure points and the Five Branches
There are specific acupressure points that every dog guardian can use to maintain their dogs health and further support the animals lifestyle.
The first acupressure point, also called acupoint, addresses the first essential branch of Chinese medicine (food) as well as the absorption of herbs. The second acupoint identified supports Chi Gong, or body movement and exercise. The Third point relates to Tui Na (pronounced Tway Nah, original Chinese meridian massage, which offers calming and mental clarity). The fourth acupoint supports the dogs overall immune system. And the fifth point is commonly used in health emergencies.
■Stomach 36 (ST 36), Leg 3 Mile, is the master point for the gastrointestinal tract and is known to enhance the function of digestion and absorption process, so that the body can break down nutrients from food and herbs, making them bioavailable for absorption.
■Gall Bladder 34 (GB 34), Yang Mound Spring, is the influential point for strengthening and increasing the flexibility of tendons and ligaments. Though dogs are cave animals and usually stretch after resting and before exercising, GB 34 maintains the bodys ability to move by keeping the tendons and ligaments supple. Stimulating this point will help minimize physical injuries. This point is known to support emotional balance as well.
■Heart 7 (HT 7), Spirits Gate, offers the dogs heart original, essential energy so that his mind can attain clarity and his emotional state can be generally calm. This point can be used with any stressful situation for your dog.
■Large Intestine 11 (LI 11), Crooked Pond, is known as a powerful immune system strengthening point. LI 11 is a tonification point; it enhances the flow of blood and energy throughout the body. It is part of most health-maintenance acupressure protocols.
■Governing Vessel 26 (GV 26), Middle of Man (Dog), promotes resuscitation and consciousness and is often used during a seizure and for traumatic emergencies especially when there is a loss of consciousness. This point is often included in canine first aid courses since it can be used to keep a dog alive while on the way to veterinary care.
These five acupoints are gifts from ancient medicine that we can offer our dogs so that their lives will be filled with optimal physical and emotional health. Sitting down with your dog once a week and slowly holding these points on both sides of his body will go a long way to letting him know how much you treasure his life.
Amy Snow and Nancy Zidonis are the authors of TheWell-ConnectedDog:AGuidetoCanineAcupressure,Acu-Cat:AGuidetoFelineAcupressure,and EquineAcupressure:AWorkingManual. They own Tallgrass Publishers, which offers meridian charts and acupressure DVDs for dogs, cats, and horses. They are also founders of Tallgrass Animal Acupressure Institute, offering hands-on and online training courses worldwide, including a Practitioner Certification Program. See animalacupressure.com or call (888) 841-7211 for more information.