Acupressure points for dogs were first described during the Tang Dynasty between 618-907AD. Massaging acupressure points has been proven to provide a host of measurable therapeutic benefits to animals. Here’s how you can massage real life force into your pet, make him or her feel great, and bond in a beautiful way.
Several studies have proven the benefits of massage in both animals and people. Massage has been directly linked to:
- an increase in blood flow to areas of the body in need of healing;
- decreased high blood pressure;
- increased flow of healthy lymphatic fluid;
- a stronger immune system;
- improved digestion;
- decreased anxiety;
- and an increase in one’s sense of wellbeing and happiness.
What is Acupressure?
Acupressure is the application of pressure to certain points on the body that are associated with the flow of ‘qi’ or life force. According to Michigan’s Rogel Cancer Center, a hospital that recognizes the benefits of acupressure points for its patients,
“Acupressure is an ancient form of massage that is one of the treatment methods used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. The goal of acupressure (as well as other Chinese Medicine treatments) is to encourage the movement of qi (“life energy”) through the 14 channels (meridians) inside the body. These are the same energy meridians and acupoints as those targeted with acupuncture. Chinese Medicine theory states that the constant flow of qi through these channels is essential for a person to keep their health. If this energy flow is blocked, the body can no longer maintain the balance that is needed to maintain high energy and deal with health issues.”
Acupressure targets the same areas that are targeted by acupuncture, but does not require needles. When combined with massage, pets typically tolerate acupressure very well. It’s not uncommon for pets to luxuriate in a massage/acupressure session. Such sessions provide both the pet and therapy-provider a wonderful sense of wellbeing and reassurance.
How Can Acupressure Help My Pet?
Acupressure may be used to improve any of the following issues:
- Digestive disorders
- Chronic illnesses like liver, kidney, or heart disease
- Old age
- End of life
What are the Acupressure Points on A Dog or Cat?
There are dozens of acupressure points on people and pets, but for the purpose of this article, we’re going to focus on nine that pets typically love to have massaged and which have significant therapeutic value.
Head and Face
There are three areas of acupressure points in the head and the face of your pet that are especially therapeutic.
The Yin Tang point can be thought of as the ‘third eye’ spot on your pet. It is a single point in the center of your pet’s forehead located directly between and slightly above the eyes. Massage this area using one or two fingers and watch your pet melt into relaxation. This point is especially important for the flow of calming energy through your pet’s body.
The Yang Tang points are located on either side of the eyes where the skull indents a bit. You can think of it as the equivalent of your pet’s temples, the same place that you might massage on yourself if you had a headache. Apply pressure to this area by stretching your hand over your pet’s forehead and massaging one side of his face with your thumb and the other side with one of your other fingers. Animals typically close their eyes and fall into a half sleep when this part of their body is massaged. The points are associated with overall wellbeing, calm, focus, and pain reduction.
Almost all pets love to have their ears rubbed, but some need to be relaxed first before they will allow you to touch them. Do not attempt to use massage to treat a painful ear that has not been properly examined by one of our veterinarians. If your pet is shaking his or her head a lot, if the ear is hot to the touch, inflamed, or red, get a diagnosis first, and then ask about supplementing treatment with acupressure or massage.
Lightly hold the ear between your thumb and one or more of your other fingers and then rub the ear between them. Start from the tip and work your way to the base of the ear where it meets the skull. Your pet will likely love this and lean into the massage. If you notice excessive dirt, smell or pain when you massage the ears of your pet, contact your veterinarian
The GV-14 point, The Meeting Point For All Yang Meridians
This powerful point is located just below the point where the skull attaches to the spine. The point is considered to be a large nexus for many life energy channels in the body. In human acupressure, the point is targeted in individuals that are suffering from fever, common cold, lung ailments, stiffness, and upper back pain. Cup your hand over the base of your pet’s head and use your thumb and fingers to massage on both sides of base of the skull. Once your pet is relaxed, you can use your forefinger or thumb to apply direct pressure or use a circular massage movement directly onto the center of the spine, just below the base of the skull. As you pet continues to relax, work your fingers further up the spine to the back of the head where you’ll find the ‘Gates of Consciousness‘, another spot that both dogs and cats love to have massaged.
There are three areas of the front leg that are especially important areas of qi or ‘life force’. These are:
1) The Heart-1 Point or the Armpit
This point is located in the armpit of your pet, just where the front leg meets the inside of your pet’s body. Massage this area using a back and forth or circular motion. Most pets fall into a half sleep when you massage Heart-1. Massaging this area will be deeply soothing to both of you.
2) The Heart-7 and Pericardium-6 and 7, the Wrist, or ‘Spirit’s Gate’
There are three important pressure points on the wrist of your pet. The Heart-7 is located on the outside, and the Pericardium-6 and 7 are located on the inside of your pet’s wrist. Animals that are experiencing arthritic pain, suffering from nausea or stomach issues, or who are anxious benefit from overall massage and pressure to this area. Grasp your pet’s entire wrist area with your fingers and thumb and massage. Focus on the inside and outside of the carpus. Some pets do not like their legs and feet touched, so work slowly and do not force the issue.
There are a vast number of pressure points located in your pet’s feet. Unfortunately, many pets do not like their feet touched. Still, if you work patiently, some pets will let you work your way from the wrist area down to their feet where you can massage individual toes, between toes, and apply gentle pressure in all of these areas. Applying pressure to points in the feet helps heal chronic disease, eases pain associated with arthritis, and increases blood flow. Take note of any excessive redness between the toes or staining of the fur, usually a sign of infection, itchiness, or other kinds of irritation.
The Conception Vessel, The Chest Region Running Down Through the Center of the Belly
There’s a reason why your pet loves to have his or her belly rubbed; there are very important acupressure points located in the center of the chest running down to the abdomen one of which is called the Conception Vessel. This area is great for everything related to digestion, the breath, and centeredness. The exact Conception Vessel point is located at the center of your pet’s stomach region halfway between your pet’s front and back legs and right on the midline of the body, but we like rubbing this entire region because pet’s love it. Use one or both hands to apply gentle circular or back and forth massage to your pet’s belly. Experiment with directing the flow of the massage from the center of your pet’s stomach to the inside of the armpits and the Heart-1 point described above.
Base of the Spine, the Bai Hui, or ‘Heaven’s Gate’
There are dozens of pressure points located up and down a pet’s spine, but a significant one is known as the Bai Hui or Heaven’s Gate point. Bai Hui is located in the sacral part of your pet’s back. Stimulating this area with massage and pressure can decrease pain, increase blood flow, reduce anxiety, and improve the health of organs like the spleen, liver and kidneys. Dogs usually love to be massaged in this area, but rubbing a cat in this body section may arouse him enough to bite or swipe at you, so exercise caution. If your pet shies away from the massage because of pain, stop and try again another time, or call one of our veterinarians for an exam. This is especially important for dogs like Dachshunds that are prone to back issues.
Like the front legs, major nexuses of acupressure points exist in the joint regions, specifically the knee and the hip. As you did with your pet’s elbow, massage both the inside and outside of your pet’s knee using your thumb on one side and your forefingers on the other. Apply pressure as your pet will allow. Take note if the area is warmer than other parts of the leg, typically a sign of inflammation due to arthritis or injury. You can also massage the hip by pressing your forefingers into the area where the upper leg meets the pelvis and rubbing back and forth or in a circular manner. Attempt to extend your pet’s leg forward and back if he will allow, but go gently. Watch for signs of pain and take note if you feel as though something is crackling in the joints, typically a sign of arthritis.
Author: Dr. Lisa Schenkel and Staff
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