Posts Tagged ‘arthritis’

Infrared light therapy for kidney failure, incontinence and arthritis in dogs and cats

Saturday, October 20th, 2012

In Chinese medicine we often use a moxa stick for when we need to drive cold out of an area or to improve blood flow. Moxa is a mixture of mugwort and other herbs that are made into a charcoal stick which can be heated and lets off infrared light. Moxa is then used over acupuncture needles or points. Many of my clients have seen me use moxa in the clinic. With our animal friends you need to use caution because you are holding a charcoal hot stick and it is important to not burn our animal friends or set hair on fire.

Many times I want to use moxa treatments more often than I am treating an animal and a good way to have people get a similar action is with an infrared light. These lights can be purchased in the reptile section of pet stores and are usually 50 or 75 watts or from Never get a bulb over 75 watts as you can easily burn your dog or cat. I have people buy the bulbs and then put the bulb in a clamp lamp. Many people already have a clamp lamp around the house or you can buy one from home depot or the hardware store or more expensive ones at the pet store.

What conditions can infrared light help with?

  1. Kidney failure in cats is the number one place I have people use infrared light therapy. I only use infrared light for ischemic kidney failure, not inflammatory kidney failure. Most older cats with kidney failure have the ischemic type. If you are unsure see Kidney Failure in Cat – How Chinese Medicine and Diet Can Help. Infrared light helps to open up blood circulation into the kidneys and wake up kidney cells that are still living but have inadequate blood flow. I have had cats that have reverted back to normal kidney blood work in as little as 2-3 acupuncture and heat treatments. Of course this depends on the cat and how damaged the kidneys are and how long they have been damaged. Most cats love heat therapy!
  2. Incontinence in dogs – usually with incontinence I use a combination of infrared therapy, herbs and acupuncture. Heat therapy is however a large part of my treatments especially in young dogs. In Chinese medicine we consider incontinence in young female dogs to be cold that has gotten into the bladder during spay surgery. With acupuncture, herbs and infrared light therapy you are driving that cold out of the body. And yes it does work in about 80% of young dogs who can be gotten off western medication and live out their lives without incontinent issues. In the older dogs incontinence is considered a deficiency of kidney yang or kidney fire. Infrared therapy over the kidney yang points can help to stoke this fire and help them to hold urine. See Incontinence – stoking the blue fire sea serpent.
  3. Infrared heat can really help with arthritis support in older dogs and cats. Infrared light therapy helps improve blood circulation, drives out cold and helps with pain control. I use moxa or infrared light over any joints that are sore and often along the back. Infrared heat can also be used over the kidney points to improve energy.

So how do I use infrared heat therapy?

    1. Buy a infrared light bulb, 50 or 75 watts. Once again do not use a light over 75 watts!. Use a clamp lamp from the hardware store or the pet store. Here is a link to buy an infrared bulb on Clamp lamps can also be purchased through

One of my patients, Lucy, enjoying her infrared light at home

  1. I usually have people start out with using the bulb once or twice a week for 5-10 minutes at a time. You can do it daily if your dog or cat likes it. Also if they really like it you can set up a bulb a few feet above your dog or cat’s bed and let them sit under it and “self-medicate”. Never leave the bulb on when you are not home and if you animal can not walk or move do not use this option as it is important that they can move away if they get too hot.
  2. When you are using the bulb on your animal, hold the clamp lamp at least a light bulb width away from their body. Move it slowly in figure eights or hold it for 30 seconds or less at a time and then move it slightly to make sure you do not overheat an area. If the bulb is further away this is not as important.
  3. For kidney failure or incontinence you want to use the infrared light over the area of the acupuncture point ming men (aka GV4). The best way to find this point is to find the most caudal part of the last rib and then make a perpendicular line to the spine from it and follow it up to the spine. Ming men is the point in the middle of the spine that forms a right angle with the caudal point of the last rib. Here is a photo of a woman touching ming men in a horse, the area of her hand is where you want to focus your heat therapy.
  4. For arthritis therapy – use the same technique but work over joints and along the spine. Do not use heat therapy along the thoracic spine because there is a danger of using too much heat over the liver, which does not like to be hot. Do not worry about this if you are letting an animal “self medicate” and the bulb is up higher. I especially like the “self medicate” option for older cats who just love the heat.

A few precautions

  • If your animal is prone to seizures do not use infrared heat therapy without directions from a trained veterinarian. Used in the wrong place this treatment can potentially induce seizures in an animal prone to them.
  • If your animal has cancer do not use infrared therapy without the direct of a veterinarian. Absolutely never us it over a tumor.
  • If your animal gets worse from heat therapy – stop
  • If your animal runs very hot, gets overheated easily, or has large inflammed joints check with your veterinarian. This therapy can make these conditions worse if used incorrectly.
  • Do not use this therapy when it is very hot outside

I especially like this therapy in the fall and winter when the sessions are changing and that cold wind creeps into the joints of our old cats and dogs.

Stop the pain! Arthritis and your animal friend – holistic medicine options

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

It’s sad to see our animal companions no longer be able to do the things they once could do as they age and grow older. All older animals have some amount of arthritis, although some have many more problems with it.

Unfortunately, Western medicine has very few options for treating arthritis and uses mostly drugs, to treat the pain. This is starting to change with some veterinarians doing stem cell and plasma rich platelet injections. However these treatments can still be expensive. Ask your vet about if these treatments are right for your dog. Some animals are not able to tolerate these drugs and many times animals are on three different drugs and it still isn’t enough.

In some animals arthritis manifests as weakness caused by the inflammation pushes on the nerves. Many dogs walk around like their feet are asleep, tripping over things, stumbling and no longer having the strength to jump into the car or onto the bed. Unfortunately because they can no longer walk as far or do as much as they used to, their muscles start to atrophy or waste away, causing a vicious cycle. As the weakness increased, they do less, which causes more atrophy from disuse, leading to more weakness and more atrophy and less activity. In the end many of these animals can no longer get up on their own or even take a short walk.

In other animals arthritis will manifest as pain, which can also prevent movement and cause the weakness/atrophy cycle. Many of these animals will become moody and withdrawn and may even snap and bite at their people out of fear of pain. It is so hard to see our friends have so much pain that they no longer want our affection.

In most animals there is a combination of pain and weakness.

Usually dogs suffer more than cats because they carry more weight and are used to daily activity. Also people often don’t notice that their cats are painful because they spend so much time sitting and sleeping

So what do we do for our friends to help them live out their old years happy and pain free?

  • Acupuncture Being an acupuncturist, I always recommend acupuncture first. Of course, this is also because I have seen how well it works in the animals I treat. I often find that if I can work with animals when they first have problems, they do so well, I only need to treat them every one to three months. Unfortunately most of the animals I see have had problems for a while and their people only learned about acupuncture when they had tried everything that western medicine had to offer. In these animals, acupuncture can still work and work well but usually treatments need to be closer together.

    It is so nice to see these animals happy and able to enjoy life again!

  • Hydrotherapy is a great option especially in dogs who have muscle atrophy. Unfortunately it cannot be done with cats, although Sheila Wells at Wellspings has told me they have worked with rabbits before. Hydrotherapy is done in a small swimming pool and involves massage and physical therapy in the water. I have seen excellent results with hydrotherapy especially combined with acupuncture. Hydrotherapy helps to rebuild muscles, increase range of motion and work out sore and sensitive areas of the body without the impact on the body of exercise on land. My favorite pool is Wellsprings in Seattle Washington. They have a great website with lots of information and photos that I love to refer people to. Click on the link to check it out!
  • herbs5

  • Herbs
    I have worked with Chinese herbs with many of these arthritic dogs and some cats. The combination of acupuncture and herbs usually helps with pain and movement and helps animals maintain between treatments. I rarely use Chinese herbs in cats because they are very sensitive to them and it is hard to medicate cats. I sell an senior dog herbal formula called Senior Dog Support, through my etsy shop, that helps with arthritis pain and improves blood circulation into the joints. Your holistic veterinarian may have something else they recommend.
  • Fish oil/ Omega oils
    The Omega 3 Fatty Acids in fish and cod liver oil actually helps decrease arthritic inflammation in dogs (not true for cats although it helps with other things). Adding a little fish oil to the diet can help many animals.My favorite brand is Nordic Naturals – Pet Cod Liver Oil . Nordic Naturals is one of the best brands for quality and they test for heavy metals and contaminants.
  • Glucosamine/MSM/chondroitin
    These supplements help to decrease inflammation and rebuild damaged cartilage. They are often sold in combination. The nice thing about these supplements is that they have few side effects and are very safe. Some animals have a wonderful response to them and some have almost no response. It usually takes a month to six weeks to see if your animal will have a positive response. Adequan, similar to glucosamine is also available in an injectable form and works better in some animals. It is also a lot easier to give to cats who are hard to medicate daily. After the initial series of injections it usually only needs to be given once a month. Adequan can only be purchased through your veterinarian. My favorite glucosamine product is Sea Mobility Beef Joint Rescue jerk treats, they work well and are very tasty. There are other good ones out there.
  • Infra-red light therapy – Infrared light helps ease the pain of arthritis in joints and increase blood circulation to the area. It is very cheap to do and can be done at home. See my article Infrared Light Therapy for kidney failure, incontinence and arthritis.
  • Chiropractics
    Many animals have subluxations of their spine especially as they age. A good chiropractor can often help with mobility and pain. I have found that chiropractic adjustments work best in animals with a very tight back and more pain then weakness. For my own cat, chiropractic adjustments have worked better than anything else we have tried and have made his life much better. Make sure you find a chiropractor who is used to working with animals and knows animal anatomy.
  • Massage/Acupressure
    Massage can help to loosen tight muscles and increase blood circulation. It also can help with pain.We know it works for us, why not for our animal friends. Once again make sure you find a massage practitioner who is certified to work with animals. I have two amazing massage therapists I work with in Seattle, Kim Rogers and Jen Streit. Kim also does humans!

    Acupressure works with the acupuncture points and helps decrease pain and relax muscles.

    There are many great books on acupressure and massage for animals. Here are a few
    The Well-Connected Dog: A Guide to Canine Acupressure
    Acu-Cat: A Guide to Feline Acupressure
    The Healing Touch for Dogs: The Proven Massage Program for Dogs, Revised Edition
    The Healing Touch for Cats: The Proven Massage Program for Cats, Revised Edition
    Four Paws Five Directions: A Guide to Chinese Medicine for Cats and Dogs

  • Reiki/Bowen/Polarity/Craniosacral and other energy therapies These therapies help stimulate the body to heal and can decrease pain and improve quality of life. Since there is little regulation of these therapies it is important to get a referral before seeing someone. This is especially true of Reiki since there are so many people who practice it. A good practitioner can make a huge difference in an animal’s quality of life.

It is better to do one thing and stick with it than to jump around between therapies. Often times animals will began with me doing acupuncture and herbs and then we will add in other therapies as needed. If I can’t help an animal with acupuncture I will refer them to another practitioner to try something else. Don’t make too many changes all at once in an old animal’s life. Go slowly instead.