Category Archives: Alternative Health Care


Does your pet fear vet visits? Mine did, until one simple technique helped him overcome his fear of vet visits and his needle phobia.

Buddy – our powerful, brave, 62-pound Blue Heeler-mix dog – was a terrified wimp at the site of needles in the vet’s office. As soon as his leg was held for a blood draw, he’d start to get anxious. When he saw the needle, he would whimper, cry, and do a big alligator roll to get away.

Buddy Liked to Relax and Be Calm. Ear TTouch Helped.

One day my husband took Buddy for his annual exam. As usual, Buddy cried and tried to roll away. The more anyone tried to “help,” and the harder anyone tried to get the needle in his leg, the worse things got.

Eventually the veterinarian asked my husband to go outside and “let them do what they needed.” I don’t know, and don’t want to know, just what happened. They got the blood.

When he got home, Buddy let me know just how upset and traumatized he felt. Ear Slides – a key part of the Tellington TTouch® Method – and a soothing voice helped him calm down and recover.

That was when I said, “Never again. We can make this a better experience.” As a TTouch® practitioner in training, I knew it was possible.

A couple of months later, Buddy needed another blood draw, so I took him to the vet. When the technician and veterinarian came in, they were as tense and nervous as Buddy.

I politely stated that I’d learned a cool technique that would help make things easier for everyone and asked if they’d be willing to try. The tech gave a sigh of relief and said she’d try anything. The vet was more skeptical, but willing.

When Buddy was on the table, before he was restrained, I gave him a few gentle strokes. Then I started doing Tellington TTouch® Ear Slides. I also talked to him with a soothing voice, so that he’d keep his attention more focused on me. The tech was able to keep him in place with almost no restraint.

His leg was prepped, and the vet drew the blood. Buddy barely even noticed the needle. The entire process was quickly over – before Buddy realized what had happened.

To say that the veterinarian was impressed and the technician was surprised would be a big understatement. They stated that they would always do his draws and anything else involving a needle that way. Then the tech asked to learn what I had done, so she could use it with other pets.

Buddy’s behavior change left a lasting impression on the staff at that clinic, and it helped staff at all other clinics he went to throughout his life. Ear Slides helped Buddy every time a needle was used. This easy TTouch helped him be calm and relaxed. It also helped technicians, veterinarians – and me – be calm and relaxed.

They helped so much that he overcame his fear and didn’t need them later in his life. His last vet recently told me she wasn’t aware that he ever had needle phobia or feared vet visits.

I’ve successfully used TTouch® Ear Slides with lots of shelter animals during exams, injections and blood draws. My clients use Ear Slides to help their pets be calm at the vet and in all kinds of situations.

Learn how to do TTouch® Ear Slides with your pet:


By working the ear, we can influence the entire body, the mind, emotions, and behavior of our pets. That’s why Ear Slides (also known as Eas Ear TTouch) are one of the most useful of all Tellington TTouch® Method TTouches.

Just some of the many ways they can help your pet are to: relax and be calm; overcome fear of storms and loud noises; improve digestion, immune system, circulation, and overall wellness; and improve performance.  Read more benefits of Ear Slides, and the unusual way by which I first learned to do them!

Ear TTouches on Cat and Dog

With one exception, Ear Slides are done the same way for dogs and cats.  The pressure is light for both, but even lighter for cats.  For cats, think of stroking a rose petal.  The directions below talk about dogs, but the technique is for both.


  1. Place your dog and yourself in a comfortable position.
  2. Take a deep breath, exhale, and relax yourself.  Remember that your dog is likely to reflect your breathing pattern and your tension.
  3. Support dog’s head with one hand.
  4. Use your other hand to work your dog’s ear.
  5. Place your hand at the base of your dog’s ear, so that the thumb is on the outside, and one or more of your fingers are on the inner part of your dog’s ear.  Always include the index finger, and use more fingers if your dog’s ear is larger.
  6. Alternatively, if your wrist is in an awkward position, you can place the thumb inside the ear and the fingers on the outside.
  7. Begin working the ear:
    1. Use very light pressure.
    2. Start at the base of the ear.
    3. Rotate the base in a circular motion one time, then,
    4. Slide your finger(s) and thumb along the ear, following the natural direction of the ear – up, down, or out.
      For very large ears that hang down, support the ear as you slide.
    5. Be sure to include the tip of the ear.
    6. Finish slightly beyond the ear tip.
    7. The sliding motion should take 2-3 seconds to complete, with the lesser time needed for smaller ears and more for larger ears.
      Dogs with exceptionally large ears, like basset hounds, may take 4 seconds.
  8. Repeat this motion until the entire ear is covered.
  9. Switch hands and do the same thing on the other ear.
  10. You only need to do this once on each ear, covering the entire ear.  If you wish, you may do a few more, but no more than 4 slides on each ear, because they can increase body temperature and blood pressure.
  11. Do the Ear Slide as often as you wish and your dog will allow.
  • An alternative way to do the Ear Slide is to gently fold the ear on itself, with the thumb on one side and the fingers on the other.  The motion, pressure, and time it takes to do the TTouch are the same as above.

Ear TTouch Close Up, Ear Folded

  • Activating” Ear Slides stimulate pets and increase alertness.
  • They are used:
    • in cases of emergency to reduce shock (There are many cases of Ear Slides saving a pet’s life after a trauma);
    • to restore consciousness faster after sedation or anesthesia; and
    • to enhance performance.
  • They use the same position and motion as above.  However, they are done:
    • with a little more pressure,
    • a little faster, and
    • with extra attention being paid to the ear tips.
  • They can be done frequently or continuously, depending on the severity of the situation.
  • Because of the very strong effect on blood pressure and body temperature, they should be stopped as soon as your pet has stabilized, regains full consciousness, or seems ready to perform.

Watch this Video Demonstration of Ear Slides, presented by fellow practitioner Elaine Garley.

Buddy, our Australian Cattle Dog mix, turned into a terrified wimp when he needed his blood drawn.  Read how Ear Slides helped Buddy overcome his needle phobia and made veterinarian visits pleasant and easy.

Call or email me to learn how, when, and where to do Ear Slides to best help you and your pet.




Thundershirts and Body Wraps Help Your Pet’s Health and Behavior

Penny A. Watkins-Zdrojewski
© October 2014

“Is that a ThunderShirt?”
“Yes, it is.”
“Does that really work?”
“Yes.  It can really help dogs and cats who are afraid of thunder and loud noises.  It can help with a lot of other fears and concerns, too.”

I’ve had this conversation many times.

Most people think the Thundershirt is just for fear of thunderstorms, a reasonable assumption based on the product’s name.  It can actually help with many more situations in which pets may feel fear or anxiety, such as car rides, vet visits, and people coming into your home.  I’ve even found that it helps my dog Murphy when his arthritis is flaring up, and have used it for a variety of physical concerns.

The Thundershirt is very similar to the Body Wraps we use as a key component Tellington TTouch Training®.  Body Wraps are simple elastic bandages, wrapped around different parts of the body to apply very light, steady pressure.  Using these has proved very helpful for improving a host of behavior and health concerns, from noise phobia to increased mobility.


So how do Body Wraps and Thundershirts work, and how can we know how it feels?  In August, I had an incredible personal experience with Body Wraps, while attending an advanced training for Tellington TTouch® practitioners in British Columbia.  This special training that combined work with dogs, horses, and humans was a great opportunity to understand more about our similarities and how Body Wraps and other TTouch® work have much the same effect on all of us.

I’ve had two injuries to my left leg in the past 5 years.  Physical therapy has helped a lot, but my balance and gait are still not as good as I’d like.  Challenges with certain activities undermine my confidence, and occasional discomfort and pain can affect my mood.

Instructor Robyn Hood, sister to TTouch® founder Linda Tellington-Jones, has worked with Body Wraps since they were first used on horses decades ago.  Robyn is a genius with the wraps, and literally wrote the book – authoring the series “All Wrapped Up,” for horses, for dogs and cats, and for humans.  She outfitted me with a wrap to address my concerns.  She started with a full body wrap, using several 3” wide elastic bandages that went from both shoulders to torso and hips, then down the legs.  After a few minutes, she made a couple of adjustments to the wrap, and the results were nothing short of amazing.  My balance improved, I was standing straighter, and my gait was smooth and even.  Equally important, my confidence was greatly boosted; I did not feel the need to carefully watch where I was placing my feet and could walk with ease.

Wearing a Full Body Wrap helped with balance, gait and confidence.  Robyn uses lovely colors!

The next day, all of the participants were treated to a demonstration and experience of the Sure Foot™ and Fit Trail, systems developed by Wendy Murdoch, a training participant, equine expert, and Feldenkrais Practitioner.  The Fit Trail involves stepping onto a series of therapy devices, from foam pads to knobbly domes and more.  The goal is to establish balance in challenging situations.  Remember seeing a toddler learn to stand and walk?  Or remember when you learned to ride a bike?  To be successful, we had to find our balance point with each and every new challenge.

Wendy Murdoch (left) and Robyn Hood.
Photo by Indra McMorran

The Fit Trail.  Foam therapy devices are laid out to first challenge, then establish physical balance.
Photo by Indra McMorran

My first pass through the Fit Trail wasn’t a complete failure, but let’s say I’m glad no one will be sharing it on YouTube!

I’m in the pink blouse.  The foam pads on which I’m standing aren’t too difficult.  But notice how I’m thinking hard about how to successfully step onto the blue half-spheres that come next!
Photo by Indra McMorran

After seeing me struggle, Robyn wrapped me in the same configuration as the previous day, to see how that would influence my abilities.  The changes were dramatic and awe-inspiring.  My balance and confidence greatly increased and my discomfort and pain decreased significantly.  I stepped from one object to the next with little challenge, barely losing my balance on even the most difficult objects.   Other participants were amazed, and I got a lot of questions about how it felt.  This was a great opportunity for both me and them:  I was able explore and explain how I was affected; they were able to get descriptive, verbal, concrete feedback – communication we have to interpret when working with animals.

My second try, wearing a full body wrap.
The soft foam slopes were somewhat challenging during my first try, While standing on them this time, Wendy Murdoch tests my balance, and there is no problem!
Photo by Indra McMorran


So, what did I actually experience?  How were my physical, mental, and emotional processes influenced, giving me such a positive experience?  Because the sensory input and nervous systems of dogs, cats and humans are very similar, my experience and the ways in which I was influenced are basically the same.

First, wearing the Body Wraps created specific body awareness – the gentle, steady pressure called my mind’s attention to parts of my body that I may have forgotten, neglected, or consciously tuned out.  Second, they created sensory input – hundreds of nerve endings were gently stimulated, enhancing communication between my brain and body.  The awareness and communication stimulate the mind and body’s ability to restore balance and promote healing.  Third, they provided a sense of comfort, much like what a baby experiences with swaddling.  TTouch® Practitioner Julie Moss summarizes by stating, “TTouch is really good at filling in gaps where there are proprioceptive deficits (lack of awareness and communication between parts of the body).”


There are countless reasons to use a Body Wrap or a Thundershirt for your pet, and we’ve only scratched the surface of the many benefits.   Just as a Body Wrap helped my mobility, it can help dogs and cats who are mobility-challenged from aging, injury, or surgery.  In addition to mobility concerns, my dog Murphy is also afraid of thunderstorms and fireworks, and his Thundershirt is a great help.  Some of the many reasons you may want to use wraps or a Thundershirt for your pet include:  phobias (noise, strangers, car rides, visits to the vet); nervousness or anxiety; excessive barking or whining; balance or mobility issues; increased speed of recovery from injury or surgery; and enhanced learning with new skills.


Here are some guidelines to get started with Body Wraps:

  • Materials: Use an elastic bandage that does not stick to itself.  Self-adhering bandages do not move freely and can cause excessive pressure.  High-quality bandages, like Ace brand, work best; cheap bandages tend to be flimsy and are difficult to apply correctly.  The bandage width depends on the size of your pet, which body part is being wrapped, and how much area you want to influence at once.  If you are wrapping a larger animal or multiple body parts, you will need multiple bandages and may want to tie, pin or Velcro them together.  Bandages with Velcro ends are easier to secure, but you can also tie the ends or use a diaper pin.
  • Introduce Before Putting On: Remember that this is a new experience for your pet, so introduce the wrap before applying it.  Let your pet smell it.  Use it like a platter and place a treat on the wrap so that your pet associates it with something positive.  Rub it lightly on their fur.  Lay across their back for a just a moment, and repeat.
  • Configurations and Pressure: There are no limits to the ways in which a Body Wrap may be applied, and you are encouraged to try different configurations as you learn more about your pet’s responses.  The basic Half Wrap is a good place to start.  See the instructions at the end of this article.  The wrap should fit snugly enough to stay in place and give awareness, but should not be tight or apply excessive pressure.
  • How Long To Wear and Frequency: For the first experience, leave the wrap on for no more than 5 minutes, and remove sooner if your pet seems agitated and is unable to relax after a minute or two.  You can gradually increase to 25 minutes for dogs, 15 minutes for cats.  Between experiences, allow plenty of time for your pet to process the experience and information.  Using the wrap 2-3 days a week will have noticeable effects.  If you can use it every day, the effects will be more rapid.
  • Movement: While Body Wraps and Thundershirts give input and create positive influence in sedentary positions, their effectiveness is increased with light movement.  Any movement increases awareness and brain-body communication.  Purposeful movement provides the greatest benefit.

Ready for a Thundershirt?  Not sure?  Here is some information to help:

  • Availability: Thundershirts can be ordered through Penny at HappyPAWZ, and are available at many pet retailers, online stores, and
  • Size: For dogs and cats, size is generally determined by weight.  The material is very stretchy and the design allows for a lot of adjustment. If in doubt, buy one size larger.
  • Introduction and Movement are the same as for Body Wraps above.  If you are using the Thundershirt for any type of fear, be sure to introduce it when the fear stimulus is absent, to avoid any negative assocations with it.  For instance if your cat is afraid of storms, introduce it several times when the weather is good.
  • How Long To Wear and Frequency: For the first experience, leave the Thundershirt on for no more than 5 minutes, and remove sooner if your pet seems severely agitated and is unable to relax, as with Body Wraps.  Gradually increase the amount of time.  Once used to the Thundershirt, your pet should be able to wear it as long as needed to help with its fear or other concern.  In warm weather, be conscious of the possibility of overheating.
  • A Tip Before Buying: If you are unsure about whether a Thundershirt may help your pet, try using T-Shirt that fits snugly, but not tightly.  For a small dog or cat, use a newborn’s Onesie or large doll T-Shirt.   To further test the effectiveness, apply the Half Wrap Body Wrap illustrated below.

For additional guidance and help with Body Wraps or Thundershirts, contact Penny at Happy PAWZ.


While there is no limit to the ways in which a body wrap may be applied, the basic Half Wrap is a good place to start.  It is a basic figure-8 that begins at the chest and covers the torso.  While illustrated on a dog below, the Half Wrap is applied the same way to a cat.


Start by holding the wrap slightly off-center.  Place this point on your pet’s chest. Cross over the shoulders, under the belly, and up to the back.  Connect the wrap with Velcro, with a pin or tie it, ensuring that the connection does not sit directly on the spine.


TTouch® senior instructor Robyn Hood offers a good explanation of Body Wraps and demonstrates how to apply the quarter wrap on a dog in this YouTube video:


A dog and his guardian enjoying the benefits of his Rugby-striped Thundershirt
Photo by Penny Watkins-Zdrojewski

Applying a Body Wrap to a Labradoodle at a TTouch® Training
Photo by Penny Watkins-Zdrojewski

Penny’s dog Buddy wearing a custom Body Wrap to help with some hip issues.
Photo by Ed Zdrojewski


What is Holistic Wellness for Pets – and How Can it Help Your Pet?

Penny A. Watkins-Zdrojrewski
© May 2014

I am an animal wellness counselor, one of a growing group who practice holistic wellness.  But what does this mean, and how can it help your pet?


The word holistic comes from the Greek “holos,” meaning whole or entire.  Holistic practice is also known as integrative practice.  Holistic methods are often called alternative methods.

Simply put, holistic wellness looks at the being as a whole – the sum of its body, mind, emotions, and spirit.  Holistic practitioners believe that each aspect of a being is connected to, and interdependent on, the other.  In order to achieve optimal wellness, each aspect must be addressed as it relates to others and is a part of the whole.

Western, or allopathic, medicine looks at conditions individually and treats the symptoms with procedures or medications that have side effects.  Effective holistic methods look at the whole being, it’s individual symptoms, parts, factors, underlying causes, and environment as they relate to the whole, to create a plan to restore optimal, overall well being.


Because holistic care looks at the whole animal, everything that is done with your pet is intended to promote their overall, integrated wellbeing, rather than just treating individual symptoms.  Holistic care providers look for root causes of problems and how they may be affecting other parts of your pet and your pet’s overall wellness.  By working to influence root causes, it is often possible to improve wellness in multiple areas.  For example, many behavior problems are caused by underlying physical problems, such as pain.  Managing the pain can lead to positive changes in behavior.  The goal is to help your pet to be the healthiest, most integrated, fully balanced being he or she can be.

Holistic care includes veterinary care, nutrition, the home environment, natural methods and remedies, training, and all other aspects of your pet’s life that may affect their wellness.


Some holistic care practitioners may specialize in only one method or technique, while others will use a combination.  Holistic Veterinary Care should integrate traditional wellness methods with one or more of the methods discussed below.

Entire books have been written on each topic.  This article includes a summary of some of the most popular practices.  In future articles, I will discuss a single practice in greater depth.

Some of the methods used by holistic care practitioners are:

Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy

Nutritional Therapy is the use of properly prepared foods and nutritional supplements in order to maintain or reestablish a state of optimal health, as well as to influence specific health and behavior concerns.

When properly formulated and administered, nutritional therapy is compatible with, and can enhance, traditional medicine and all forms of holistic care.  Side effects include allergic reactions and temporary digestive distress.

Herbal Therapy — Western, Chinese, or both

One of the oldest forms of medicine, herbal therapy is the use of plants or plant extracts for medicinal purposes, especially plants that are not part of the normal diet.  Herbs are used in both Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine and Western practices.  Most herbalists use only Western or Chinese herbs and practices; few use both.

Chinese herbalism is discussed in the section on Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine below.  Western herbalism has traditionally focused on single herbs, although herbal blends are increasingly popular.  Various forms in which herbs may be prepared and used are: infusions (teas), syrups, oils, liquid extracts, distillations (tinctures), pills, capsules, or sprinkled on food.  Plants are not diluted during preparation.

Herbs can be combined with most traditional medicine and holistic therapies.  Some herbs negate some homeopathic preparations.  Overdoses and toxic reactions can occur, so it is best to consult a certified professional before using herbs.


Aromatherapy is the use of fragrance to influence the health of the mind, body and emotions.  Fragrances are conveyed by essential oils – the part of plant that carries the fragrance, or essence.  Oils may be used singularly or in combination formulas.  They are administered as a spray, by diffusion, or topically.  True aromatherapy uses only therapeutic grade, non-synthetic essential oils.  Fragrances found in candles and other “aromatherapy” products do not produce the benefits of essential oils, and may cause negative side-effects.

Aromatherapy combines well with most forms of holistic care, but may negate some homeopathic preparations.  Side-effects generally include allergic reactions; it is possible to use amounts that may be dangerous.


Homeopathy is a system of medicine which treats the pet with highly diluted substances.  The aim is to trigger the body’s natural healing system, based on the doctrine of “like cures like,” by which a substance that causes the symptoms of a disease will cure the same symptoms.

The remedies are prepared by repeatedly diluting a chosen substance, usually plant or mineral, in alcohol or distilled water, followed by forceful striking on an elastic body.  Remedies are labeled with a number, followed by the letter X or C; the higher the number, the higher the potency.  Homeopathy also employs the “law of minimum dose” – the lower the dose of medication, the greater its effectiveness.  Various forms in which homeopathic remedies are found are:  liquid; ointments; gels; drops; and creams.

There are two schools of theory, which are at odds with each other.  In classic homeopathy, only a single remedy is used.  In the other school, remedies are combined into various formulations.

Homeopathy may be safely combined with western medicine, flower essences, and body work.  Some aromatherapy and herbal preparations will negate the effects of homeopathic preparations.  There are no side effects and no risk of overdose.

Flower Essences, such as Bach Flower Remedies

Developed by Dr. Edward Bach in the 1920’s and 1930’s, the premise of Bach Flower Essences is that healing on an emotional level will allow a body and mind to find its own natural state of health.  Remedies work in the same way for pets and humans.  The system is designed to be simple; with a little careful research, anyone can choose and use flower essences for their pets.

Essences are made from flowers or other parts of plants, which are steeped in sunlit water or boiled.  They are then preserved and diluted several times to create “stock” bottles of essence that can be purchased in many health food stores and online.

There are 38 remedies in the original Bach system.  Each is associated with a basic human emotion.  For example, Mimulus is often used for a pet who is anxious or afraid about something specific; taking the remedy helps to overcome fear and face it with courage.  Several other organizations and companies have developed additional flower essences, building on Bach’s original work.

Most remedies come in a liquid form.  They may be used singly or combined to create a mix to match a pet’s current emotional situation.  Rescue Remedy, a popular blend of 5 essences, is available in cream, gel and pill form.

Flower essences have no known side effects, do not interact with other techniques or traditional medication, and cannot create overdoses.

Tellington TTouch Training®

Developed by Linda Tellington-Jones, Tellington TTouch® Training is based on the principals of mind-body communication.  It uses gentle, non-invasive techniques to influence the body and the mind, promoting self-awareness, self-confidence and optimal wellness.

The goal of TTouch is to achieve or reestablish balance – physical, mental, and emotional balance.  Through the combined use of specific, light touches, lifts, and movement exercises, TTouch helps to: release tension and increase body awareness; reduce stress; create a calm, attentive, focused state of consciousness; and influence habitual patterns of tension and posture by giving new information to the nervous system.  This allows the animal to be handled without provoking typical fear responses; to relax and learn to make better choices; and to build confidence.  As a result, physical conditions are generally improved and problem behaviors are often eliminated.

The techniques work in conjunction with veterinary care, traditional training, and all forms of holistic care, and have no known side-effects.

You can read more about TTouch® here.

Massage Therapy

Both a preventative measure and a treatment for problems, massage therapy is the skilled manipulation of muscles, tendons, ligaments and connective tissue.  A passive modality, it focuses on body mechanics to support and resolve issues in the muscular system that may be having a detrimental effect on mobility, mood and quality of life.  It can help with orthopedic issues like Arthritis, Hip Dysplasia and Spondylosis by supporting the muscles that move the bones.

Massage therapy can: increase flexibility, mobility and circulation; encourage deeper breathing and help flood the body with fresh oxygen and nutrients;  stimulate the release of endorphins, which are natural painkilling chemicals; and reduce stress and blood pressure levels in both pet and guardian

Massage therapy can help with behavior issues; by increasing a pet’s comfort in its body, there is often a decrease in unwanted behavior.

Guardians do best to use only gentle massage on their pets, and have a certified professional perform deeper or problem-focused massage, unless given specific techniques by a professional.

Massage therapy can be combined with all other forms of holistic care.  Side-effects, if they occur, are generally some temporary bruising or minor pain.

Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM, or TCM)

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is based on the theory that all organs and systems of the body work together in balance.  Illness, whether physical or emotional, is caused by imbalance. While TCM has been practiced in eastern cultures for more than 2,000 years, it is still considered an alternative practice in the west.

TCM uses a complex system of elements, principles (yin/yang, interior/exterior, cold and hot, deficiency and excessive), and environmental influences to determine what treatments will be most effective.

The main therapeutic methods in TCM are Acupuncture, Acupressure, Herbs, and Diet.  Acupuncture works with meridians that flow through various parts of the body and connect each part.  Thin needles are inserted at these points to affect organs, systems, and energy flow, or qi (pronounced chee.)  Acupressure uses the same meridians and points, with fingertip pressure applied instead of needles.  Chinese herbs are prescribed to strengthen weak or deficient functions and/or to calm down organs and systems that are excessively functioning.  Herbal combinations are tailored to individual needs.  Dietary recommendations are based on the guidelines above, and use foods to support organs and system, and re-establish the balance of the body system as a whole.

Acupuncture, acupressure, and food therapy are compatible with western medicine and all forms of holistic care.  Some herbs may negate homeopathic care.  Treatments and recommendations should be done only by a certified practitioner.

Healing Touch for Animals®

An energy-medicine modality, Healing Touch for Animals (HTA) combines philosophies, techniques, and applications to promote energy balance and healing, while providing physical, emotional, mental and instinctual stability.

It works on the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual levels, and is used to help treat injuries, illnesses, surgeries, wounds, behavioral problems, and stress-related issues.

Influencing well-being through energy and intention, the goal of Healing Touch is to restore harmony and balance in the energy system to help the person to self-heal.

Energy medicine therapies are used to integrate, balance and clear the energy body.  Stabilizing the energy system allows the natural regulation of the immune system, which encourages the healing process and promotes well-being.  Some of the tools and techniques used include touch, energy work, essential oils, and tuning forks

Most components of HTA are compatible with traditional and all holistic practices and have no known side-effects.  Some essential oils will negate homeopathic methods.


Originating in Japan, Reiki is a hands-on healing method.  Reiki is usually translated as “universal life energy”.  It is based on the idea that all living beings have life energy flowing through them. When life energy is high, a pet is healthy and balanced, more relaxed and less likely to get sick.  When it is low, he’ll often be more easily affected by stress and less resistant to illness.

The practitioner channels healing energy through her hands to the animal through a light touch, either directly on the body or from a distance.  Reiki is recommended for treating pain, anxiety and behavioral problems; can be calming; and can help ease the transition for a peaceful death.

Reiki is compatible with all forms of western medicine and holistic practices and has no known side-effects.

Emotional Freeing Technique (EFT)

EFT is an energy method that combines acupressure tapping with focused thought.  It borrows from the Chinese meridian system to determine tapping points.  The points and focused thought aim directly at emotional issues, in turn, often providing benefits for performance and physical issues.

EFT is compatible with all forms of western medicine and holistic practices and has no known side-effects.

Behavior Evaluation and Modification

Behavior Modification is the systematic approach to changing behavior, especially the way a pet reacts to a particular situation (or stimulus).  The goal of behavior modification is to decrease or eliminate problem behavior and/or to replace undesirable behavior with desirable behaviors or habits.

Evaluations are generally performed by a certified animal behaviorist or certified veterinary behaviorist.  Some holistic practitioners have extensive training in but are not specifically certified as behaviorists.  Because health and behavior are linked to each other, addressing one can help with the other.  In some cases, it is necessary to consult a veterinary behaviorist for accurate evaluation and diagnosis.

The behaviorist will ask questions as well as carefully observe the pet.  They will evaluate what the pet does and when, as well as consider the internal, physical and biochemical processes that are occur prior to or in conjunction with the behavior.

Based on the pet’s history and their own observation, they will design an intervention plan to address problems.

Techniques generally use one, or a combination of: operant conditioning; classic conditioning; and counter-conditioning.  Some forms of conditioning help to provide the animal with an alternate, appropriate behavior, such as chasing a toy instead of their human’s feet.  Counter conditioning is often used for behaviors associated with phobias, such as fear of thunderstorms.  Techniques help to reduce anxiety and stress and their associated organic and chemical reactions in the body.  Prescription medications or natural remedies may be recommended to support physical processes and enhance the modification techniques

Behavior Modification itself is compatible with all forms of western medicine and holistic practices and has no known side-effects.  When used, most prescription medications will have side effects.

Species-Appropriate Training

Training is an important part of holistic wellness because it decreases stress, reduces confusion, improves communication, and enhances the relationship between pet and guardian.  Training needs vary for different species.  A rabbit may need little more than housetraining.  Cats and dogs need some understanding of the house rules, and both can benefit from knowing some basic directions such as “wait, off, and come.”  Some basic training can make grooming and veterinary visits easier and less stressful.

Training enhances all forms of traditional and holistic care and has no side-effects.

Cleaning, Household Cleansers, and Disinfectants

Cleaning and sanitizing pet bowls and pet bedding regularly helps prevent allergies and various diseases.  The products that are used on these items, as well as elsewhere in the home, can have a very strong effect on pet health and behavior.  Therefore natural products are preferred.

Most holistic techniques work well together, but some do not.  Because a trained professional should know which methods work together, and which may work best for your pet, it is wise to consult a professional before making any changes to your pet’s care.  Traditional veterinary care is important to overall wellness, and your veterinarian should be notified of any changes you make.


When it comes to your pet’s wellness, you are in charge.  Ultimately, you decide which practitioners you want on your team and what food, activities and treatments your pet receives.

  • Ask the basic questions: What does my pet need? How can I give them what they need?
  • Read a few articles or one or more books to become familiar with basic concepts.
  • Attend a class on holistic care.  For my next Holistic Wellness class, see the schedule here.
  • Contact a holistic veterinarian.  If there is not one in your area, find one farther away and ask if they are able to consult long-distance.
  • Contact a holistic wellness counselor.  Ask questions.  Call.  Email.  Make an appointment, stating in advance that you are seeking information.  Most pet professionals are invested in the well-being of animals and in your success.  They want to help and will be willing to get you started on the path that is right for you and your pet.  Contact me for help.
  • Ask professionals to consult with each other.  A good professional care provider will want to know what others are doing, how it may be helping, and how it may affect or change what they are doing.
  • Add one method at a time.  Choose what you think may be best for your pet, taking into account how much time and energy you will have to spend to implement it.  Give that method a little time to work before deciding whether to stay with it, or before adding another method.  Changing too many things at once can be confusing for you and can confuse your pet’s body and mind.  If you add several things at once, it will be difficult to determine what is working and what is not.


  • Ask trusted friends for recommendations.  Ask what type of care their pet received and how it helped.
  • Contact me for services that I offer and for referrals those that I cannot.
  • Contact other pet professionals and ask for recommendations.
  • Look in health food stores for flyers, business cards, and holistic resource guides.
  • Check the American Holistic Veterinarian Medicine Association registry for a holistic vet in your area.

Lessons Learned from a Health Scare

Penny A. Watkins-Zdrojewski

© March 2014

Winter’s harsh grip is easing up some in our slice of the Midwest.  Even though cold, snow and ice keep coming back, we’ve been treated to hints that spring will eventually arrive.  Along with promise has also come the harshness of transition.  Bad winds and rains on top of feet of melting snow brought flash flooding and threats of tornadoes.  This year’s transition seems to be harsher than normal for the ailing, seniors, and our pets.  In the past 3 weeks, several people I know have had challenges and heartbreaks with their pets, facing serious health crises, receiving a terminal prognosis, or watching a beloved friend cross the rainbow bridge.

We had our own scare two weeks ago, when our dog Buddy developed a life-threatening emergency.  In short, he exhibited extreme distress in the middle of the night Sunday, with a distended abdomen, labored breathing, and indications of pain. A trip to the emergency room showed a mass that was bleeding into the abdominal cavity.  He had surgery Tuesday morning to remove the mass and a large part of his liver, and was able to come home late Wednesday.  Thankfully, biopsy results showed that everything is benign.  Buddy is making a full and rapid recovery, and we plan to have him with us for several more years.

Through all of the ups and downs, I’ve learned new lessons and been reminded of others.  In the hope that our experience with Buddy may help you, your pet, or that of someone you know, here are 12 Lessons I Learned from Buddy’s Health Scare.

Lesson 1:  Know What’s Normal
Know what is normal so you can tell when something isn’t.  Check each of the following details when your pet is fine, and keep a record on hand.

  • Energy level
  • Temperament
  • Tolerance for pain
  • Body temperature, heart rate, lung sounds (or normal breathing pattern) and blood pressure
  • Body shape and any growths on or just below the skin
  • Normal pliability (feel) of the body, especially the abdomen

Lesson 2: Be Prepared
Be prepared.  Have tools and supplies readily available so that you can check your pet if something seems wrong.  Know how to use the tools you have on hand.  I highly recommend taking a class in Pet First aid.  If you cannot, most care providers will be willing to teach you how to use basic tools.  At a minimum,  you should keep these in your emergency kit:

  • Thermometer, probe covers, and lubricant
  • Stethoscope
  • Disposable gloves and/or disinfecting soap
  • Harness and Leash, so that you can encourage your pet to remain still while you thoroughly check him
  • Blanket, which can be used to keep a pet warm if they are going into shock and can be used as to carry them if needed
  • Contact information for your veterinarian and local emergency clinic

Lesson 3: Time
Time can be critical.  If you think there may be a real problem, act.  Call your veterinarian or emergency clinic, go in, follow up.  It’s better to spend money and lose a little time than to wait and risk losing your pet.

Lesson 4:  Be an Advocate
Be your pet’s advocate.  He (or she) is unable to speak for himself, so you will have to speak for him.  Your care provider knows more about your pet’s health condition.  You know more about your pet — his normal activity and habits and how those may (or may not) be restricted, what he will and won’t handle well, his home environment, his likes, his overall quality of life.  Take a little time to think about what your pet would choose, and factor that into all of your decisions.

Lesson 5:  Learn About It
Learn everything you can about what is going on.  Ask a lot of questions.  Listen carefully to the answers, write things down, and ask follow-up questions.

Lesson 6:  Explore Options
Explore options.  Consider all factors and choose what is best for you, your family, and your pet.

  • If a major procedure, such as surgery, is recommended, what are the risks, likely benefits, and possible outcomes?
  • Are there alternatives?  If so, are they reasonable, and you and your pet likely to be happy with the outcome?
  • Is there a better provider or facility for the procedure?  Price is a consideration, but also consider experience, expertise, and follow-up care.

Lesson 7:  Good Health Starts Early
Support your pet’s health from an early age so that he can maintain optimal health for years.

  • Start with regular veterinarian exams and continue with wellness exams at least once a year.  If possible, choose a holistic veterinarian.
  • Provide a high-quality, species-appropriate diet.
  • Use supplements, including Probiotics, antioxidants, joint support, vitamins and minerals as needed with each life stage.
  • If you have questions about diet or supplements, contact an animal nutrition counselor.
  • Provide ample clean water, preferably filtered.
  • Use only steel or ceramic bowls; plastic and aluminum carry health risks.  Clean bowls daily or after each meal.
  • Learn about the merits and dangers of vaccinations and choose wisely.
  • Be aware of any chemicals you use, either directly on your pet or around the house.  These include items you may automatically think of as harmful, but also everyday cleaners, disinfectants, air fresheners, and fabric softeners.

Lesson 8:  Can I Visit?
Ask to visit your pet while he is hospitalized and understand if the answer is no. There are times when a visit is helpful for you and your pet.  We were even able to take our other dog, Murphy, to visit Buddy before surgery.  At other times, your pet needs to rest and recuperate.  The added excitement of seeing you may be too much.  The doctors and support staff need to be able to give your pet the medical support he requires.

Lesson 9:  Alternative and Integrative Practices
If you know an alternative practitioner or are one, draw on that skill and expertise from the onset of symptoms through recovery.  Do not rely solely on alternative practices, because they are not a substitute for veterinary care when it is needed.

  • Because I am an animal wellness counselor, I was able to help Buddy from the time that we first noticed symptoms to the time he was taken for tests.  One very valuable technique was Tellington TTouch® Ear Slides, which helped with his anxiety and pain, and helped regulate his blood pressure.  They may have also helped to save his life.  In the emergency department, his blood pressure was recorded at 90 systolic when it should have been around 120.  Ear Slides are known to help blood pressure, especially during emergencies.
  • I am also helping to speed Buddy’s recovery.  Along with several TTouch® techniques, I am also using an appropriate combination of homeopathic remedies, Bach Flower Essences, and energy work.
  • I am drawing on the expertise of fellow alternative practitioners, who can be more objective with my pet than I can.  One of my mentors and dear friends is a Healing Touch for Animals(r) practitioner.  She had a distance session with Buddy, after which he had a great deal more energy, improved comfort level, and improvement in many post-operative symptoms.
  • Buddy is getting recommended follow-up visits with our holistic veterinarian.  At the first visit, she was able to run blood tests to determine that everything was rapidly returning to normal.  Only a veterinarian would be able perform tests to confirm that he was recovering from anemia.  Buddy also received a prescription medication for liver support, which only a veterinarian could provide.

Lesson 10: Pet Insurance
Pet Insurance is worth it.  While it may seem like an added financial burden when your pet is young, a single emergency will make you glad to have it.  We did not insure either of our pets.  As they have aged, expenses have mounted.  Buddy’s crisis this week will cost several thousand dollars.  While we are quite willing to find a way to pay this to have our companion with us, insurance would have greatly eased the financial stress.

Lesson 11:  Other Pets in the Household
If you have more than one pet, remember to give the others the care and understanding they need.  It’s likely that they are confused, concerned for their companion, and may be afraid or grieving.  Talk with them as if they can understand what you are saying and explain what is happening; it will likely help them more than you expect.

Lesson 12:  Support is Important
Have a support system in place.  You need someone who can listen to and support what you are going through.  It’s best to have one or more supporters who are not part of your household.  The rest of your family is dealing with their own feelings and can’t be objective.  If you don’t already have a support system, find at least one person as quickly as you can.  Ask your veterinarian if there are support groups or help lines.


I’m very grateful to all of the wonderful people who taught me various skills over the years, as well as my dogs, who are great teachers.  Without some knowledge and preparedness, it’s very possible that Buddy would no longer be with us.  I hope that you never need to use these tips, and hope that they help you if you should.