Features October 2003 Issue

Holistic Veterinarians Discuss Holistic Healing

A holistic vet discusses the basis of many unconventional medical models.

By Randy Kidd, DVM, PHD

My dog has Qi; your dog has Qi; all God’s creatures have Qi. In fact, the earth below, the heavens above, and the entire universe around us has Qi. More than energy, more than air, more than life itself, Qi is an ever-present essence that gives us, our animal comrades, and our surrounding environment the vitality we call life.

The look of healthy Qi, says Dr. Kidd, is expressed primarily through bright, shiny, alert eyes and the general appearance of the dog: a bright, shiny hair coat, a head-held-high posture of self-confidence, the jaunty gait of an animal with a purpose.

Qi, pronounced “chee,” is also spelled chi or ch’i. In Japanese, it is expressed as Ki. Prana is Qi’s sister from India, and some of the other “relatives” of Qi include the “vital force” of homeopathy, chiropractic’s “innate,” and Wilhelm Reich’s “orgone.” Some people relate Christianity’s concept of the soul or spirit to Qi.

Qi may be the most important health-maintenance component for any animal’s well-being. When you evaluate an animal’s Qi, not only are you given an accurate assessment of overall health, you can also pinpoint specific areas of the body where Qi needs to be moved around, supported, or “tamed down.” When you understand Qi, you can, with some practice, learn how to manipulate it to heal the sick, and you can learn how to accumulate it in your own body in order to enhance personal health . . . or to use as projected Qi for healing others.

Qi is a moving force. According to Chinese medicine, it circulates through body channels (meridians) in a predictable, cyclic fashion throughout the day. These meridians are connected to inner organs, which are in turn supported by the healthy circulation of Qi. Disease results whenever there is a blockage or abnormal flow of the Qi, or whenever the overall Qi is either excessive or deficient.

Acupuncturists use needles (and herbs) to move Qi along the meridians and into organ systems to help bring the body into a balanced state of Qi. People the world over practice Qi-enhancing forms of moving- or sitting-meditation (such as qigong, tai qi, or yoga). Qigong healing practitioners accumulate their own Qi, which they project to others for its healing powers.

Finally, because the ultimate purpose of creating a healthy balance of Qi in the body is to merge the physical body with Earth Qi and Heaven Qi, Qi balancing is the way of returning an animal’s physiology to a healthy union with its environment.

How to recognize Qi
As a holistic veterinarian, I watch intently as a dog walks from the waiting room into the exam room; I want to see how much vital Qi there is within and around the animal as he or she enters. Take it from this old skeptic: You don’t have to be a psychic or an inscrutable one with Oriental heritage to feel Qi, and the effects of well-balanced Qi are easy to see if you know what to look for.

The look of Qi is, in a word, “radiance.” It is expressed primarily through an animal’s eyes – the appearance of bright, shiny, alert eyes; the look of aliveness; the inner focus of vibrant “animal-ness” beaming outward as rays of energetic intensity. Healthy Qi is also expressed in the general appearance of the dog: a bright and shiny hair coat, a head-held-high posture of self-confidence, the jaunty gait of an animal with a purpose.

The feeling of Qi may present as a different sensation – depending on its quality at the time and the skill level of the examiner, but Qi is easy to feel, so long as you feel with your fingertips as they are connected with your heart, and so long as you don’t let your mind interfere with the sensations.

Qi most often has a tingly quality, but sometimes a healthy flow of Qi creates a feeling of added heat; a lack or imbalance or blockage of Qi may be felt as an area that feels cool, relative to the rest of the body.

Perhaps the easiest way to feel your own Qi is to bend your elbows so your hands are facing each other about shoulder width apart at a level slightly below your belly button. Imagine you are holding a lightly filled balloon between your hands, and gently bounce the air within the balloon. The naturally repelling force you feel, the gentle energetic bounce, the tingle is Qi.

For years I have asked “normal” Kansans to run their hands over their own pet’s back and to stop wherever they sense something different from the rest of the body. Invariably they stop at the same point I have already recognized as having some difference in energetic (Qi) sensation. Then they’ll often be apologetic, saying something like, “But I’m no good at this sort of thing. I don’t know if I’m really feeling anything, or if I’m just imagining it.”

As a scientific observation, I think it is significant that, even in this culture, where we have a tendency to question our innate abilities to feel anything we cannot see (i.e., in a culture of disbelievers), the sensation of Qi is a highly reproducible phenomenon, even for folks without advanced training.

Explainable, or not
There may be a physical equivalent of Qi, but it is more than blood, enzymes, and brain chemistry; it is more closely related to the body’s functionality, the physiological coherence between mind and body, a coherence that creates a healthily functioning physiology.

Part of this functionality can be explained biochemically. Acupuncture, acupressure, or Qigong treatments enhance the production of endorphins, measurable biochemicals that ease pain and cause a general feeling of well-being, much like the “runner’s high” or like the feeling one gets after eating chocolate.

Improved functionality may also be explained by the accepted concepts of biofields. Western medicine uses bioelectricity to diagnose and monitor heart (EKG) and brain (EEG) function. Master Qigong practitioners can create bioelectrical surges that are 10,000 times those recorded on EKG and 100,000 times those recorded on EEG – definite validation of “some type” of force, the force Traditional Chinese practitioners would call Qi.

The ability of Qi practitioners to heal patients from afar is a well-proven phenomena, and the understanding of the Chinese (and many other cultures) that a person’s Qi and therefore his being extends well beyond his fingertips are two examples for how we will need to extend our current concepts of the person’s being.

To fully explain the concepts of balanced and healthy functionality, we may need to go beyond some of the outdated concepts of Western medicine into other fields of well-accepted science. These fields are currently being explored by many respected scientists (see sidebar below). We veterinarians simply need to catch up with the new science of today.

Building and balancing Qi
Working with Qi is easier than most folks realize. The underlying idea is to create an environment where a dog (or person) can enhance and balance his own healthy Qi. The best way to do this is slowly and gradually, day by day. Dramatic Qi-balancing methods such as acupuncture are reserved for the times when absolutely necessary, and these times should be few and far between.

There are several aspects to consider when building and balancing Qi, including:

• Initial Qi: Puppies receive this Qi from their parents. It is a puppy’s energetic raw material to work with throughout his life. As a puppy ages, he gradually uses up whatever Initial Qi he was given, and our objective is to try to slow down this depletion by continually adding health-enhancing Qi. Thus, it is extremely important to select pups who have been given a healthy dose of Initial Qi – puppies who are active; who look and feel energetic, bright, and alert; who have a happy puppy swagger; and whose parents also have obvious amounts of healthy Qi.

• Qi Chang Gong: Your dog’s best chance to develop Qi health is to be continually bathed in positive and balanced Qi, and this can easily be accomplished in any home environment. For millennia the Chinese have understood the tremendously beneficial effects of practicing Qi-enhancement in groups (called Qi Chang Gong). Anywhere there exists an Oriental population you’ll see folks practicing Tai Chi or qigong, often in groups congregated in a local park. This group practice works with the idea that Qi and its field of influence is limitless, and practitioners work together to create a group-generated healing field.

You can duplicate this Qi Chang Gong effect in your home; simply learn a Qi-enhancing form or meditation, and practice it daily. Your dog doesn’t need to learn Tai Chi, nor does he even need to be there in the room as you practice; he can actually be anywhere nearby to receive many of the same benefits you will reap for yourself.

• Enhancing Qi: After soaking your dog’s environment with your own healthy Qi, your next step is to make absolutely certain you are letting your dog be a dog. Then, when you’ve made it possible for her to be a dog, help her be a dog with a mission.

In Chinese terms, this is letting the physical Qi unite with the Heavenly Qi, which can be thought of as our spiritual reason for being here on earth. There’s nothing happier (and more Qi-full) than a Border Collie who is able to spend much of her time actually herding sheep, and nothing any sadder (and more Qi-depleted) than a retriever who has never seen the water.

Daily exercise also enhances Qi, especially a nice, long, slow walk or trot several times a day, preferably over a surface where your dog can actually make direct contact with the Qi of the Earth. Qi practitioners feel that the best time to receive Heaven Qi is at sunrise, and my personal experience would indicate that greeting the sun every morning adds vitality to the spirit and soul – to say nothing of the positive benefits it has for energizing the pineal gland, the master gland of the body’s hormonal system and the gland that is directly affected by sunlight.

Since, like us, our dogs are what they eat, their Qi depends on the vitality of their food – high quality, non-processed food that is as similar as possible to what a canine in the wild would eat. And, if it is good to develop your personal Qi to help your dog enhance his own, it is even better to make sure he can feel the connection between his heart/mind and yours – a simple process of opening your heart energy to his, a simple act of letting love happen.

Qi depletion
There are a number of things in our world that deplete Qi, among them: processed, poor quality foods loaded with preservatives and artificial colors and flavors; a whole litany of household toxins; loud noises and the perpetual frenzy associated with families on the go; constant exposure to bright, artificial lights; an overzealous use of vaccines or antibiotics; and a life spent running on and surrounded by concrete. The stress of a dog trying to be something other than a dog is Qi-depleting, as is any environment where the dog is not recognized as being an integral part of the “pack of the family.”

Finally, in the terms of Chinese Medicine, most of today’s so called “chronic diseases” are considered to be caused by an imbalance of Qi – an excess or scattering of Qi (evidenced in aggressive behavior or separation anxiety), or a blockage of Qi at some specific point in the body (as seen with diseases such as arthritis or cancer).

The point is this: In our everyday world, a dog will inevitably be exposed to various and sundry “Qi depletors.” Most of the Qi depletors are unavoidable and not what we would consider life-threatening. Rather, their effects on Qi are slow and insidious and they tend to be cumulative, ultimately leading to the increased likelihood of chronic disease. As your dog’s guardian, your best course of action is to make it your discipline to enhance, accumulate, and project healthy Qi on a daily basis.

Pick your battles
As a hard-core scientist, I’m willing to accept Qi at face value, because I can feel something with my fingertips, even though I’m not exactly sure what it is I feel; because I see results when I manipulate it with acupuncture needles; because my own Tai Qi and Qigong practices have healed me from diseases where Western medicine had failed miserably; and because the accumulation of Qi I have gained from my daily practices have made me feel healthier at age 60 than I ever did previously.

I actually feel that arguing the presence of Qi is a colossal waste of time; I am much more interested in what I can do with the Qi I have to help reconnect the human spirit, through their pets, to the soul of nature. I’m convinced this is where the “Next Medicine” will be applied; to my way of thinking we have already gone far beyond merely worrying about the scientific proof of the existence of Qi.


Dr. Randy Kidd has a DVM degree from Ohio State University and a Ph.D. in Pathology/Clinical Pathology from Kansas State University. He is a past president of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, and author of Dr. Kidd’s Guide to Herbal Dog Care and Dr. Kidd’s Guide to Herbal Cat Care. To purchase the books, see “Resources."


Also With This Article
Click here to view "What You Can Do."
Click here to view "Qi, Chi, Whee! Are We Full Of It?"
Click here to view "Other Sciences Explain."
Click here to view "Massage Your Dog for Improved Qi."
Click here to view "My Experiences With Qi."


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