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Weekend Workshop Teaches New Acupoint Treatment for Dogs

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Posted: Thursday, September 6, 2012 10:10 am

There's a whole new holistic animal care concept coming to town.

Bowen Therapy for Animals, says founder Barbara Ahern, is a safe, gentle, complementary therapy for pets.

"The practitioner activates a specific series of key acupoints on the animal that encourage a chain of events to take place," she says. "Animal Bowen stimulates the immune system, accelerating the healing process by as much as 80 percent. So, the animal recovers much quicker from injury or surgery."

With a Bowen workshop coming up in Carmel this weekend and all September, the Weekly wanted to learn more. Here's what Ahern illuminated on the topic.

How was the Animal Bowen approach developed? The Bowen technique is a unique hands-on therapy developed by Tom Bowen of Australia in the 1950s and adapted for use on animals by Carol Bennett in 1997.

What kind of science does it incorporate? Through a series of specific activations performed across muscle fiber, Animal Bowen seeks to restore balance to the body by sending neurological impulses (signals) to the brain.

Simultaneously, electrical impulses are also sent through the nervous system—stimulating the body to “remember” normal movement in the joints, muscles, and tendons.

This “neuromuscular re-education” results in the release of contracted muscles, increase in blood oxygen and acceleration of the body's own innate healing response.

You've said the technique is "overdue" in Monterey. Where is it more common? Due to Bowen Therapy’s origination in Australia, and the fairly recent development of Animal Bowen, this treatment is most well-known and widely practiced in Australia, New Zealand, and the U.K. However, Animal Bowen is increasingly being used in veterinary clinics in the U.S. and Canada—as well as in rehabilitation facilities, sanctuaries and homes.

How can you tell if your dog is feeling sore or uncomfortable? Because pain is linked to changes in behavior, some active indicators of pain in an animal include: slower movement, a reluctance to respond, chronic pacing or panting, whimpering, and unsettled demeanor. To evaluate pain, practitioners commonly use a checklist such as the Glasgow Acute Pain Scale to better determine the degree of pain and discomfort in animals.

Can this technique help with training and acclimating newly adopted animals? The Monterey Peninsula has taken rescue animals into their hearts and homes. But, along with these loving companions comes the unknown history of physical and emotional trauma.

The contribution that Animal Bowen makes to improving negative emotional states and behavior is without exception.

One simple move can remove mistrust and fear in some animals. While in others, it may take several full treatments to achieve the same result. Usually within several moves, the animal grasps that this treatment is beneficial to them and they relax into their treatments—just as we might relax when treating ourselves to a luxurious day at the spa.

How does it affect arthritic animals? Arthritis is an auto-immune disease; a direct effect of an overactive immune system. This condition attacks the soft tissue and the cartilage between joints. Animal Bowen helps to restore balance to the immune system, addressing pain and inflammation in the animal.

In a study published by the Association of Veterinary Anesthetists in 2005 on Animal Bowen for chronic pain in geriatric dogs aged 13 to 16 years, one of the dogs in this study had complete resolution of hind limb lameness—of 5 years duration—after three sessions of Animal Bowen treatments.

How long does it take? And how long does it take to see results? Animal Bowen is a minimally invasive, highly relaxing, and low stress therapy that can be performed even on a painful or stressed animal. A session takes an average of 30 to 45 minutes to perform. In some cases, the animal responds with the first treatment. However, neurologists say it takes six weeks to restore autonomic balance to the body. Therefore, a series of Animal Bowen treatments—spaced one week apart for six weeks—is recommended to change the neural-response pattern in the animal.

Tell me about the first time you treated an animal. How have you changed your treatments since? The very first time I treated an animal with Bowen therapy was on my own dog. My 6-year-old cocker spaniel had been diagnosed with having suffered a stroke affecting the left side of her face.

The recommended treatment for her condition included manual lubrication of her eye several times a day, clearing out the food on left side of her mouth after each time she ate. In other words, I had to compensate for what her nervous system was no longer taking care of automatically. I was given no indication by the doctor as to when, or if, the condition may resolve itself.

So I decided to mimic a Bowen treatment on her, in the same way that I performed it on my human clients. The next day there was no change. However, 48 hours after her treatment, my little Mitzi with symptom-free.

That experience convinced me to pursue advanced training to make Animal Bowen the new focus in my career.

Holistic Canine Therapy workshops happens 9am-5pm Sundays in September at The Raw Connection, 26549 Carmel Rancho Blvd., Carmel. Intro modules take place Sept. 9 and 16, with professional series Sept. 23 and 30. $250/module one; $450/both modules. For more on Animal Bowen treatment call 250-8800 or visit


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