Written by Disha Ramanan
Increasingly, there are many issues and ailments for which conventional veterinary medicine (or allopathy) may not provide all the answers. Especially as age becomes a factor in our pets’ lives, issues such as arthritis take over and we may not always readily know how to tackle something for which there may not be an adequate treatment in allopathy.
Enter alternative therapies, such as Bowen Therapy. In tandem with veterinary visits and conventional diagnoses, such alternate, miraculous therapies really shine.
Bowen Therapy, developed by Tom Bowen in Australia, is a body-work technique that was actually initially developed for humans, and later adapted to animals such as dogs, horses etc. Essentially, it involves very soft, light touches to certain soft tissue points on the dog’s body.
And while there are a couple of hundred Bowen therapists for humans in the country, Ms Nisha Jaggi has the distinction of being the only Canine Bowen Therapist in all of India. Here, Nisha joins us for a chat as we get to pick her brain to understand Canine Bowen Therapy, which is at the core of her practice as a therapist, and additionally, a little bit about her work and experiences with animal reiki, energy healing, laser therapy and Bach flower remedies.
So how did you come to practice canine Bowen Therapy?
I’d actually gotten Bowen done on myself. I run marathons so I have a long-standing issue with my back. My physiotherapist knew I had a passion for dogs because I used to keep doing small events and fundraisers for Friendicoes and Karma Foundation (as well as a lot of voluntary work as they have paralyzed dogs). He suggested that I could possibly explore this as a profession.
At that point of time, I had quit my earlier work which was home baking and I'd been doing that for 12-13 years. I was in the phase where I wasn’t doing anything but looking to do something.
I had always wanted a profession which involves dogs but I was not a science student or trained in veterinary medicine. Then I started looking this up and I realized that this could very well be a good, viable option for me. Somehow everything just fell into place after that.
What kinds of issues do clients come to you for?
Arthritis, hip dysplasia, IVDD (intervertebral disc disease) which is like a slipped disc in humans, and it involves temporary paralysis. For instance, I had a case of this dog with IVDD. Obviously, the basic veterinary requirements such as steroids etc were being given, but I got her back to her feet in 10 days. Since then I get regular recommendations from renowned vets, such as Dr Rana, Dr Bhawna Kalra etc for their patients.
What is important to understand is that I practice an alternate therapy. I am very dependent on the diagnosis made by the vet, I do not diagnose. So it’s in conjunction; it can be used as an alternate, or in parallel…but I cannot take over exclusively.
People also come to me with dogs, post injuries. But if, for instance, the dog has a fracture, I will not touch it till it's totally healed. I would probably work on the rest of the body. Because of the fracture for example, maybe if the dog has an injury in one of the hind legs, there will be overcompensation by using the stronger parts - maybe the shoulders or the spine. So basically, I keep releasing the rest of the body for good circulation and to keep it mobile and pain-free. For instance, I have this dog, a lab who's about 2 years old. He had bone cancer in his front foreleg. It was so serious that it had to be amputated from the joint, so he can’t even be on prosthetics. He's fairly hale and hearty and he's on chemo but now I'll be doing Bowen for him because to be on 3 legs is not going to be the easiest thing.
How does the dog generally react while receiving?
They're quite ok. They quite enjoy it as there is no pressure. I basically work on the soft tissue level which is more manoeuvring - not pressure or massage. More manoeuvring. Mostly Bowen is quite soft and it's supposed to be soft. Yes, but if the dog has some tender points they do tend to react, but overall, they are quite relaxed. In the first session, sometimes they'll be a little restless because you know they don't know what's happening but then by the middle of the session, they get a little better, more relaxed.
Bowen is actually done only once a week. Not like you can do continuous sessions because it doesn’t work like that. From the day I do a session till the next, that one week is also considered to be a healing period. The body will go through changes. For instance, if a dog has arthritis for some dogs the symptoms may aggravate for a day or two and then the healing process starts.
Anxious dogs I get all the time, especially indies. I have about 2-3 who I treat (people's pets) and one of them (Uno) is about 7 or 8 but still she's very anxious. So I would not say that Bowen is something for anxiety levels to go down. After a long period of time, after many sessions, then yes you may feel that dog is calmed down but it isn't something that I would advertise Bowen for.
For that I would say, use Bach flower remedies or do Reiki or things like that, which also I do but my main work is of Bowen. That’s my core work.
I do reiki for animals and humans. I don’t always inform the client before doing reiki - for example, if I feel like the dog is not sort of settling down or not letting me touch a particular leg and he may get a little feisty with me then there I sort of add Reiki.
But I do have clientele who is only getting Reiki done for their dogs. Many of these people are also out of station and that works because Reiki can be distant healing. It doesn’t have to be that the dog must meet. Even when I'm doing Bowen, it's flowing through the hands. It's like a double benefit.
Bowen is my passion and focus, but once you're in a certain kind of profession, you just increase your knowledge.
That’s why I added Laser Therapy and Bach Flower Remedy (which is more for behavioural issues).
I find that the "physical" for dogs is also the manifestation of something emotional. If a dog has a serious issue, then I do recommend Bach flower so that things work in tandem - I'm taking care of the physical but the mental issues are also taken care of.
Do you do home visits? Or do they come to your office?
Initially, when I started I did do home visits but now I've completely discontinued them. I work from home in Gurgaon and because I work on appointments, I have only one dog at a time. It's almost been 2 years and it's been working fine.
How often do you recommend your clients generally continuing therapy? Is it kind of maintenance based i.e. long term or does BT work in acute cases as well i.e. more short term? Or both?
It depends on the age group of the dog. For instance, take the case of Fidget the dog - I've had a relationship for almost 2 years now. He's 13 now. I started because of his arthritis. I've been doing a weekly session for the last two years. Sometimes we've even been able to increase the gap to 10 days.
In any case, for the first 5 sessions, I'm very particular about a weekly appointment. I need the chance to treat for 5 sessions so that then you can figure out if it's working for you or not. And 90% of the times, by the second or third sessions, we know that the client has figured out that the therapy is working on the dog. After that, I myself say if it’s a young dog if we've been able to maintain and manage, we'll increase the gap to 10 days, then maybe twice a month. Depending on the situation, the age, what is the requirement etc. The good thing is we manage to get them off painkillers. So, Bowen is non-invasive and very safe.
I have clientele from Ghaziabad, NOIDA, Punjabi Bagh and I do accommodate them sometimes on the weekend, the first half of Sunday. I don’t want them to not get the therapy done for the dog just because of traffic. Once a week works out well because it is taken as a healing period and also, nobody feels the pressure.
So when we speak of things such as Arthritis, is that something Bowen can manage or cure?
Things like arthritis cannot be cured, it can only be managed but people do want to take that chance because they don’t want to give medication. So mostly it's been good.
It won't be possible to reverse it but we'll probably be able to manage or maybe 'remission' could be an apt word. Having said that, I have seen reversals in IVDD - paralysed dogs have started walking again.
Are there any basic tips you'd like pet parents to know? Can certain issues be avoided by taking any simple steps/precautions? Any supplement?
I always recommend that once you see initial symptoms of pain and immobility, please take the first step. Don’t wait for the dog to stop walking. Be aware, proactive and more preventive.
I also always suggest golden paste, it works amazingly for dogs.
I'm very pro hydrotherapy for dogs. It's not the same as swimming. Here, the instructor gets in the pool and exercises the dog. But since hydrotherapy isn't accessible everywhere. I suggest at least make your dog swim. It's an amazing exercise and is relaxing as well.
I'm a strong believer of homoeopathy. Especially for management of arthritis, hip dysplasia, and even seizures.
I mostly recommend home food, unless it's a very good brand of dog food. I do golden paste with home cooked food. Sometimes I'll add salmon oil. Now that the weather is changing, I might add coconut oil etc.
Any unique or interesting cases you'd like to mention?
I started treating a golden retriever for the degeneration in his right shoulder. He's 8 now. But he always had gastric issues - severe gastroenteritis. He'd be bleeding, he'd have to be taken to the hospital and all.
And Bowen has helped that issue also settle down for him.
Then there was my first ever case. Bowen helped him walk alone after he spent his life being paralysed and walking with a cart.
What plans do you have for the future?
I still have a long way to go because most people don’t know of the therapy. The bigger challenge is to deal with the people to get them to believe in it. First of all the whole "who does therapy for dogs" that mindset has to change. Whoever comes to me is ardent, 'your pet is your child' category of people. The ones that would do anything.
I'm very, very keen on being a trained rehab therapist for dogs, that’s on my radar for the future. Courses are available for such therapists, and obviously I do want to open my clinic but all these are future plans.
Gurgaon-based Nisha Jaggi can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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