Posts Tagged ‘incontinence’

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.

Incontinence – stoke the blue fire serpent and add a little praying mantis

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

Incontinence may not be life threatening but it is sure hard to deal with. Dog diapers are expensive and messy and many dogs are just horrified when they accidentally pee in the house. As much as we love our animal friends it is difficult to always have to worry what they will leak on next.

The Chinese view of old dog incontinence is fascinating. They see the kidneys as a large black lake with a fiery blue sea serpent that raises out of the water. The fire of the serpent decreases as we age and when it gets low enough the kidneys can no longer hold the urine and it leaks out of the body.

Deficiency in the kidneys also cause many of the symptoms we view with old age, weaker bone, gray hair and poor hearing.

When I treat incontinence, I get to be the snake charmer, circling the burning moxa stick over the kidneys to raise the mighty fire serpent out of the lake water.

With this form of incontinence, the main herb I use is praying mantis egg casings (along with herbs which strengthen the kidneys). These little casings work wonders! I’ve often had clients ask, “can you please make up some more mantis for my dog? She’s been dry since she started them!” In addition I have found that clients like to tell their friends and family that their dog is on praying mantis.

How many of you have jobs where you get to work with praying mantises and mythical sea serpents?

So a little about incontinence: there are two main types of urinary incontinence, not related to disease or structural abnormalities, one in young female dogs and one in older dogs.

I’ve seen a great response with both these conditions to acupuncture and Chinese herbal treatments without the side effects of drugs.

Old dog incontinence occurs in older dogs of either sex and often develops when the muscles that keep the urine in start getting weaker with age or there is a lack of nerve function to these muscles.

Incontinence in young female dogs usually develops shortly after they are spayed. This is not a reason to avoid spaying a dog. Unspayed dogs have many more disease problems including mammary cancer and life threatening pyometra.

Chinese medicine views young dog incontinence as cold that has found its way into the body during the spay operation. Treatments are aimed at warming the kidneys and bladder and expelling the cold. I usually use a heated moxa stick over the kidneys, as with the sea serpent, to chase the cold away and warm this area.

Out, cold, out!

The moxa stick lets off infrared heat which penetrates down into the kidneys to warm and increase circulation to that area. In addition warming herbs are used. The goal with these dogs is to cure them so that they do not need long term treatments, herbs, or drugs.

I love when acupuncture can cure conditions that are not supposed to be curable!

Love me for who I am today

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

jake-2Beautiful, strong and proud, he leaps across the field with graceful steps, able to turn on his heals in a second’s time if something fun to chase crosses his path. But slowly the gray hairs form on his muzzle and his step slows, his eyes are no longer as clear as in his youth and he no longer hears the door when it opens.

For many dogs, aging is a difficult transition from being able to take on the world to not being able to take on the steps. The fun things they used to do like going to the dog park, going for long walks on the beach, or just making it around the block or into the car become impossible. Many of the very active or herding dogs have an equally difficult time mentally accepting that they can no longer do what they see to be their job.

My own dog Jake recently went through a very difficult period which started when he reached the point of not being able to climb the stairs between the first and second story of our home. Jake had always been the protector and organizer of our family, following everyone around, many times backwards bumping into walls as he went, so that he would not have to take his eyes off of us. He even made it a job trying to herd our four cats, which as any of you with cats know is clearly impossible.

He became extremely anxious about his limitations and would walk around panting nervously until he fell over with exhaustion. This was very difficult because his anxiety was not only very uncomfortable for him but also for us, especially when there was little we could do about it. We quickly got into a pattern of Jake becoming extremely anxious, us leaving the room because he was so anxious, and him becoming more anxious because he wasn’t with us. This was compounded by his anxiety causing him to lose continence and end up walking around panting and peeing as he went or pooping on the living room rug. I became convinced that not only was he losing his footing but that he was also losing his mind.

I would get so frustrated with him that I would shout,” just stay there, can’t you just sit still and relax!” Of course I was not making things any better with my frustration. Jake was not accepting his condition and I certainly wasn’t either. This just made him more agitated because I was upset with him in addition to him not being able to do his job. And he had always tried so hard to be a good dog. Having a career working with older dogs you would think I would have realized right away that we were both stuck in a very bad pattern but it is always harder to see the things that are closest to home.

jake-4Gradually as a family we realized that there was a large problem with acceptance and the first thing to do was accept Jake for where he was at. We also made some changes to our home and routines to improve things. We changed our schedules so that we were able to let him out at the same times every day to poop and pee. One very important change was to put up a gate between our two floors so that Jake could not go up or down the stairs on his own. In the morning we would help him down the stairs and in the evening we would help him up so he could sleep in my son’s room and do his job of protecting him. Because the gate was there he knew that we were purposely stopping him from going on the stairs and he no longer felt that he had to follow us where he could not.

We let him know that we accepted him for who he was and that we valued his job of protecting us and watching over us but that his most important job now was to keep his strength and be our companion instead of our protector. He received more pets and we tried our best to make him understand that he was loved for being Jake and that was separate from what he could or could not do. We praised him when he was calm and sitting still and took more time to sit and talk to him.

In a short period of time he because more calm and stopped following us around everywhere. After about two weeks we were able to take the gate down and he no longer went on the stairs except in the morning and the evening. Now most of the time he doesn’t even need help to get up and down the stairs the two times a day he climbs them. His continence also improved and he no longer pees or poops in the house and can make it much longer without being let out.

Of all the things we did I think the most important was to accept and love him unconditionally. I have had other clients tell me as well that when they were able to truly accept and love their animal companions in the condition that they were in, there was improvement not just for their animals both mentally and physically but also for themselves. I had one client explain to me that when she was able to accept that her dog needed to go out multiple times in the evening and realize how happy she was just to have her here in her old age that she no longer found it so difficult to get up in the middle of the night. In addition I noticed a huge improvement in her dog’s physical condition, she was much more present and less painful.

When we have friends or family who truly accept us regardless of state it makes us feel very loved and protected. We no longer have to pretend to be something we are not. I think it is no different with our animal friends. Through accepting them we are sharing our love and letting them be what they are at that moment. After all with older animals every moment we have with them is precious.

jake-1Love me for who I am today
Tomorrow I will be someone different
Gray may shine through my hair
Like stars in the sky
My eyes may be cloudy
Like the far off sea
But we are together
Our hearts touch as one
I am forever your friend
You are the one I love

Photographs in this story from Jennifer Kogut