Alternative approaches to animal health


In recent years, people have begun to explore new avenues of staying healthy and addressing chronic health problems. Some of the new approaches are actually a return to older traditions that emphasize healing the whole person – mind, body and spirit.

This trend can also be seen in how people take care of their animals. Such holistic approaches are often used in conjunction with good medical care, so they are referred to as “complementary.” In addition to regular care with a veterinarian, many are exploring alternatives, including Reiki, improved communication with animals and the use of flower formulas and essential oils.

Reiki to relax

Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It is administered by “laying on hands” and is based on the idea that an unseen “life force energy” flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. If one’s “life force energy” is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy, according to The International Center for Reiki Training.

The creation of Reiki is usually attributed to Dr. Mikao Usui during the 1920s in Japan. He was drawing on the idea that all life is made up of “chi” or “ki,” meaning life force – a concept that had been around for thousands of years in Eastern traditions.

Scientific studies in hospitals and hospice settings are showing that Reiki can significantly reduce pain, depression and anxiety. Similar benefits are being seen for animals. “In animal studies, Reiki treatment produced clear signs of reduced stress as indicated by changes in autonomic, biological measurements such as heart rate,” researchers report in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

Patti Sampson of Taos Reiki treats both people and animals. She say s that most importantly, Reiki is a technique for relaxation. She first learned Reiki 10 years ago to help her dog, Peanut, who was suffering from cancer. She began to use it to assist friends and family and other animals. With more advanced study at the University of New Mexico in Reiki and other holistic approaches, she has established a practice in El Prado.

She enjoys working with animals because, as she says, “Animals, especially dogs, are pure love.” She treats animals in her home and also goes to people’s houses to help with problems like injuries, chronic ailments, emotional distress, surgical recovery and allergic reactions.

On a recent afternoon, Sampson demonstrated the use of Reiki on her cat, Saki, and dog, Raider, who had been suffering from stomach problems. Although animals can’t give her feedback, people receiving Reiki experience it differently from person to person. “Some may feel no sensation; others a sense of warmth coming from my hands or a tingling sensation like little zaps of energy,” said Sampson.

To begin the treatment, she climbed on the bed where Saki was sleeping. She put her hands on the cat’s head and body and seemed to transmit calm energy. Both she and the cat stayed still for a period of moments. Sampson finished with the process by stroking Saki and drawing some Reiki symbols in the air.

Raider is a 10-year-old blue heeler/Australian shepherd mix. He had been to the veterinarian that day because he woke Sampson the night before troubled by an stomach upset. The vet said that there seemed to be undigested food in Raider’s stomach, but that he should recover. As part of his healing, Sampson used Reiki. With Sampson’s hands on his head and neck, Raider began to relax and breathe deeply, seemingly on the edge of sleep. As she placed her hands on his stomach, he sighed. A feeling of calm pervaded the room, the coming together of relaxing Reiki energy, the soft light of candles and music. As of the writing of this article, Raider had completely recovered.

In addition to her work locally, Sampson assists rescue groups in Los Angeles, California, sending healing energy to dogs and cats in need. In Taos, she offers free 20-minute consultations for people and animals to assess health concerns. Look for Taos Reiki on Facebook coming soon or contact Sampson at (575) 224- 4272 or

Communicating for health

Janice Sandeen of Communing with Animals works with people and their animal companions to help them better understand each other. She observes their interaction and offers suggestions and techniques to address what may seem like misbehavior to the human, but like natural, instinctive behavior to the animal.

“The word ‘communing’ in the naming of my work with animals speaks to the heart of the actual way that humans and animals connect. There is a shared experiencing between ourselves and animals, whether or not we recognize this or participate in those relationships consciously as a communing,” said Sandeen.

 Her clients contact her when odd behaviors or aggressive tendencies appear in their animals. In Sandeen’s view, animals want to serve us in a profoundly selfless way. Echoing Sampson, she said, “It could be said that animals are a form of universal life force consciousness. It could also be said that they are pure love or unconditional in their relating.”

When there is discord in a relationship between a person and their companion animal, stress and discomfort can arise. Sandeen helps people understand the dynamics of the situation, so that both parties can benefit from increased harmony.

“In my view, relationships between animals and humans are inherently healing and nourishing,” she said. “When our relationships are less than healthy, that current reality highlights for me that a new way of seeing and experiencing is being called for at the heart of that relationship. Strained relating can, indeed, be turned around toward optimum health through harmonization and understanding, as well as relaxation away from stressful habits that we humans tend to fall into. This more natural way of relating with yourself and your animal makes once difficult situations into something entirely positive and enjoyable.”

Look for Communing with Animals on Facebook or visit

Flower essences do no harm

Polly Fox of Pet Essences has been working with flower essences for almost 50 years and with essences for pets for 40 years. She began her training with legendary herbalist Hanna Kroeger in Boulder, Colorado. She says, “After I first learned about the ‘do no harm joy of flower essences,’ it didn’t take long to start working with animals.”

Fox explains that the original flower essence was a dew drop. When the sun makes contact with the dew, it picks up the energy of the flower, then insects and animals drink it. She says, “It contains the energetic pattern of the flower; our bodies just receive it.”

Among the most popular formulas are calming solution, emotional stability, anxiety/fear and seizure remedies. Fox explains, “Seizures are no longer uncommon in pets. Be sure that you are serving organic food and don’t keep chemicals in the house.”

The formulas are sold all over the world and are available at Cid’s Food Market and Taos Herb. For more information, visit

Essential oils support life change

Lisa Enkoff of Animal Espresso Café works with animal communications and essential oils in order to support any life changes going on for animals and their humans. “Essential oils pack the core compounds of a plant – aka the powerhouse of the plant – into a wonderful aromatic bottle,” Enkoff said. “My experience with animals and oils is that animals are open to receiving the aromas of the oils and are very soothed and comforted.”

According to Enkoff, when this calm state is achieved, both the animal and their human find balance and growth.

Enkoff is based in Taos. Email to find out more about her work.

Preventive care

Animal companions need regular health checkups and care, just like humans.

For advice on good standard medical care for your pet, visit the website for the American Veterinary Medical Association at