Holistic therapies for humans have grown in popularity over the past number of years. Many people use these therapies to manage chronic health problems, or just to stay healthy. But what about our animal friends? It seems they too can benefit from a range of holistic treatments.
What is the Holistic Approach?
A holistic approach to health is based on the principle of treating the whole person rather than merely the symptoms of illness. It’s about caring for mind, body and spirit.
Why use this approach to health? Well, there’s a growing awareness of the role our emotions play in making us sick. For instance, it’s now known that higher levels of stress impair the immune system – which explains why I always catch a cold when I’m stressed!
The holistic approach highlights the importance of many lifestyle factors for good health – such as diet, sleep quality, immune function, stress levels, emotional state, relationships and environment. Holistic practitioners see illness as the manifestation of imbalance. They seek to correct these imbalances, so that their client’s innate healing abilities will be restored.
Holistic therapies for animals operate on the same basic principles.
Sharon O’Farrell has been offering holistic therapies for animals for 16 years. She says “it’s important to understand that animals are like sponges. They take on our issues – such as trauma, grief, fear, anxiety and rejection – which materialise in behavioural problems or disease.”
Sharon is also a psychotherapist with a deep interest in the areas of human potential, psychology and metaphysics. Although she initially treated people, she naturally progressed to treating animals owing to a deep affinity with them. As a horse rider of 25 years with a qualification in Equine Science and Sport Horse Riding, she is particularly fond of horses. She offers energy healing treatments to horse and rider.
Apart from horses, Sharon has worked on cats, dogs, cows and a variety of birds. Her healing hands have even treated iguanas and chipmunks! Treatments vary depending on the animal – sometimes one session is adequate, although usually 3 to 5 sessions are required.
Sharon has treated physical injuries, emotional trauma, age-related issues and environmental stress. She says that the holistic approach can be very effective in treating stress and trauma, as well as improving confidence and relaxing a horse before travel or a race.
So, what do Sharon’s treatments involve and how do they work? She uses a unique combination of Energy Healing, Reiki and Colour Healing.
Energy healing activates the body’s subtle energy systems to remove blocks, stimulating the body’s inherent ability to heal itself. Reiki is a method of hands-on healing through which a universal energy is said to be transferred through the palms of the practitioner to the patient in order to encourage healing.
Clearing, empowering, re-energising, balancing and calming the energy field is a powerful, proven path to healing, according to Sharon. She explains that the treatments work on a mental, physical, emotional and even spiritual level. “Everything in nature is a complex system of energy fields and I tap into the electro-magnetic field to restore a positive energy flow into the animal’s body, correcting imbalance and promoting faster healing.”
Sharon also incorporates Aura-Soma Colour Healing into her treatments. It harmonises body, mind and spirit by using the vibrational powers of colour, crystals, natural aromas and light. She admits that colour healing may sound strange, but points out that hospitals have been utilising the healing effects of colour for years with their emphasis on pale blues or green colours.
Light therapy is also used in conventional medicine. High bilirubin blood levels in babies, skin disorders and seasonal affective disorder are all treated with light therapy. Scientists are now discovering that cells communicate through the medium of light and that it’s at the very basis of many bodily functions, so Sharon feels that working on this system to activate and encourage healing is not as wacky as it first seems.
Response to Treatment
Sharon has witnessed very tangible healing responses in her colour healing work with animals. This has encouraged her to spend more time exploring the healing qualities of colour. She says that animals are highly sensitive beings and horses seem particularly sensitive to energy healing, especially colour healing.
Also, theories that animals are colour-blind, or only see certain shades of grey, are not completely accurate. Studies from the 1990s revealed that dogs are only partially colour-blind. Horses, guinea pigs and even sheep have a broader visual colour spectrum.
Horse in Shock
About 10 years ago, Sharon worked on a horse who was suffering from shock after a nasty fall. The horse, previously of a calm and pleasant disposition, had become anxious and difficult to handle. Sharon used the Aura-Soma Orange Pomander which is specifically effective for Regression and Shock Absorption.
“I applied 3 drops of the orange pomander to my left hand and gently rubbed my palms together. In quiet contemplation, I began to use the colour. As he stood tall, I remained at his left side. I intuitively ‘felt’ into the horse’s electro-magnetic field and gently raised my right hand about 15 inches above the middle of his back. At the same time, I lowered my left hand just a few inches below his belly. To my astonishment, without physically touching him, his skin along his belly and above his back began to tremor. I saw the “Relaxation Response” immediately. His eyes softened, his gut started to make gurgling noises and his head drop slightly. By using the colour orange and directing colour into his electro-magnetic field, he appeared to move quickly from the Sympathetic (stressed) state into the Parasympathetic (relaxed) state.”
The owner, who had been a skeptic, reported a remarkable turnaround and improvement in the horse’s temperament. He was back to his calm, kind self. Sharon said the owner believes that the horse responded to the orange colour and was able to release the shock of the fall he had experienced some weeks earlier.
Sharon points out that animals are extremely intuitive. The ‘animal instinct’ or sixth sense’ is quite evolved and heightened in them. She believes that while their emotions differ from ours, they experience disease just as we do. However, they may present differently – through certain behavioural changes or an ongoing illness or injury that doesn’t respond to conventional treatment.
Energy Healing, in all its forms, has been successfully used for animal healing for many years – with great results, says Sharon. “Whether you have a beloved cat, dog, horse or bird, it’s all about energy and knowing how to tune into it and work with it. Many behavioural issues experienced by our animals, horses and pets can be addressed at the time of healing. They have an innate intelligence, are naturally open to healing modalities and are quick to let you know if they aren’t!”
Sharon is based in Co. Meath, but treatments can be carried out remotely for those who cannot travel to her. She wishes to stress that energy and colour healing is not a substitute for good veterinary care, although it can be a wonderful adjunct to it. A vet should always be consulted where there are concerns about an animal. You can contact Sharon at 089 4624437 or [email protected]
Acupuncture for animals – yes, it’s a thing! In fact, it has been used to treat animals in China for 2,000 years.
For many years, scientists did not understand how acupuncture worked. However, in recent years scientific research has caught up somewhat with the theory behind Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Studies using fMRI and PET scans have established a link between the stimulation of certain acupuncture points and the activation of specific areas in the brain, just as described by TCM practitioners thousands of years ago.
Now For the Science Bit…
Acupuncture has had some amazing results in research studies involving animals. It has been successfully used to relieve pain and treat wounds, and has even shown some potential to help treat epilepsy.
In one research study, the pain relief obtained with acupuncture was sufficient to carry out surgery on cattle. A group of 28 cows were given acupuncture at the appropriate points for abdominal surgery, and an excellent level of surgical analgesia was achieved in 87%. The cows remained conscious and standing. The same results didn’t occur in a separate group which received acupuncture at points that were not the correct ones.
In other research, performance horses suffering from chronic back pain benefited from just three sessions of acupuncture. This effect lasted for up to two weeks, a better result than giving the horses oral medicine. Clearly there is great potential for acupuncture to help animals in pain.
Fifteen dogs with canine idiopathic epilepsy experienced improvements after treatment with acupuncture. Four months after treatment, nine dogs had at least a 50% fewer seizures compared to the same time period before treatment. Acupuncture could prove beneficial for many dogs who suffer with this condition.
A number of practitioners carry out this treatment in Ireland and some insurance companies even cover the cost of treatments. However, due to the nature of the treatment, it’s crucial to ensure that the person carrying out the treatment is a qualified vet. After all, you don’t want just anyone sticking needles in your furry friend!
Another option for your pet or animal is homeopathy. This therapy has been the subject of controversy because some people see the evidence in its favour as unreliable, it being either anecdotal or coming from the therapists themselves. Scientific research has been ambiguous, often finding that studies have been biased or that positive effects can be explained as placebo effects.
However, there are inherent difficulties in researching homeopathy. Some scientists acknowledge that researchers themselves may be biased either towards or against the treatment. This can skew results, making research unreliable. Also, it can be difficult to ascertain whether treatments have positive effects because often results are not as clear cut as, for example, giving an antibiotic to clear up infection.
That said, many people have experienced positive results after homeopathic treatment. If you’re one of that number, it could very well be something you’d like to try for your pet. To that end, there are a number of vets in Ireland who have qualifications in homeopathy – so your pet will be in safe hands and can get the best of both worlds.