Tai Chi-huahua™

Tai chi is a centuries-old Chinese martial art that descends from qigong, an ancient Chinese discipline that has its roots in traditional Chinese medicine. It is a discipline that involves the mind, breath, and movement to create a calm, natural balance of energy, Qi (chee). It is a form of meditation in motion promoting serenity through gentle, flowing movements. Many of the movements are based on animals. The legend of Chang San Feng says that he (a Daoist monk) watched a battle between a snake and a crane. Their graceful movements inspired him to observe other movements in nature and how they could be applied to a martial art.

Tai chi is a low impact exercise, putting minimal stress on muscles and joints increasing flexibility of legs and the spine, while improving balance and maintaining healthy function of the torso. The deep stretching on the arms (or front legs) will help loosening up the shoulders, lifting up the rib cage and benefit movement of the lungs. In so doing this tends to free up any blockages, ensure the smooth flow of Qi and blood, and promote the balance of Yin and Yang.

Enjoying Tai chi and observing the strong animal connection, I decided to create for animals a similar program, calling it Tai Chi-huahua™. Animals are very efficient in their use of energy and power. They use this relaxed energy to keep their bodies from burning out.  Human Tai chi exercise imitates the actions of animals based on their habits. By emulating these animals we get a sense of their power and an appreciation of the vast store of energy they possess. These animals include the dragon, tiger, monkey, bear, deer, horse, birds, snake, and leopard.

Tai chi type exercises in animals (Tai Chi-huahua™) can positively affect the ‘give and take’ action of muscles, thereby improving proprioceptive (knowing where ones extremities are in association with the surroundings) signaling and posture. Good posture is a state of musculoskeletal balance that protects the supporting structures of the body against injury or progressive deformity. This musculoskeletal balance is important not only at rest but also with dynamic activity.

There are some differences to be considered when taking a biped exercise and transferring it to a quadruped. Quadrupeds have a 4-point connection to earth. Their movement includes diagonal interactions. Suspension and energy flow is achieved with different gravitational forces than the upright bipedal musculoskeletal system experiences. Posture, paw placement, stability, and support are all important factors the person delivering Tai Chi-huahua exercises should be very observant of. Focusing on these points will raise the dog’s comfort level and make Tai Chi-huahua more successful and fun for everyone.

My Tai Chi-huahua™ program is delivered in three compartments: The Awakening, The Moves, and The Close. It is available on a DVD at www.AvaFrick.com. When you begin you want to be in a quiet calm relaxed place, both environmentally and spiritually. And your dog should be in a comfortable position. You can use a slightly deflated ball or peanut to help support him if he is old or recovering from an injury. I am sharing The Awakening with you here.

THE AWAKENING

PURPOSE: To stimulate nerve flow throughout the circulatory system and reconnect the body via meridian pathways

RESULT: Relaxation, improved circulation, reduced tension, and improved ability to move about

NOTE: These exercise directions are given with the handler in a position from behind the dog facing forward. If you are using a different position then some of the directions will need to be modified. SQUARE-UP the dog (Like doing the Wuji stance!) You (the one delivering the exercise) also need to have good posture, positioning, and breathing. Your relaxation helps the animal relax.

STEP 1: With the pointer finger of each hand place one on either side of the spine starting at the neck just behind the head (at the occiput) and run all the way down the spine. The pressure should be light and slow. Do not press. Do this 3 times.

STEP 2: Reverse Step 1, starting near the tail and moving forward up the spine to the back of the head. Do this 3 times.

STEP 3: With both hands spread fingers apart, like a fan. Sweep from top down and around to the midline (dorsal to ventral). Start at the neck and make 5 passes – 2 at the neck and 3 around the torso (more if a large body, less if really small) going from neck to pelvis. Do this 3 times.

STEP 4: Using the same hand position sweep the length of the body from neck to back and then belly to back (ventral to dorsal). Make about 5 passes (more if a large body, less if really small) going from neck to pelvis. Do this 3 times.

The Benefits of Rehab Stretching Exercises for Pets

In the present human medical world it would be very rare for a surgeon not to recommend some form of rehabilitation or physiotherapy following a procedure. This is an important aspect of regaining full recovery and tissue function. So, it should be for our pets too.

Rehab for pets comes in many forms including stretching and exercise routines, microcurrent therapy, laser, massage and soft tissue body work, chiropractic, and water therapy. The program can be simple or tiered to adequately fit the age, breed, expectations for return to performance, and your ability to provide time and investment. It is fun to get the family involved with the overall program as at home therapy creates greater and more rapid gains. Even if your pet has not had surgery, there are conditions that will benefit from physical rehabilitation. A pet with arthritis, advanced age, weak muscles, nerve deficits, any that are overweight, or even athletes working regularly at their sport can all improve by having all joints in motion and a regular stretching exercise routine.

Without adequate pre-exercise massage techniques, warm-up, and post-exercise ground stretches, a canine athlete could be at risk for an injury. Stiffness is a symptom and reaction to pain or discomfort, be it from overworking unprepared muscle groups (sore muscles), arthritis, spinal bone instability or fixation and even dental malocclusion. Any of these etiologies can lead to a tissue’s inability to stretch. If the tissue cannot adequately stretch, then neither can the pet. Massaging the body and properly stretching the joints will loosen muscles and connective tissue, sending signals to the mechanoreceptors about the joints and their capacity to flex and extend. Massage will also help to eliminate toxins and lactic acid by improving circulation to the tissue, further reducing soreness.

Passive or relaxed stretching is the most common type used with stretching exercises in animals as the person controls the motion and positioning desired. Slow, relaxed stretching is useful in relieving spasms in muscles that are healing after an injury. Relaxed stretching is also good for “cooling down” after a workout and helps reduce post workout muscle fatigue and soreness.

    Anyone can learn to be effective and safe when stretching their pet. Improved flexibility is achieved when stretching becomes a regular part of the athlete’s routine. If you are looking to improve balance, balls are a fun addition and they create a variety of options for working with your young or older dog. Here are a few key points:

  • Find an exercise program that is recommended by a veterinarian or professional therapist. I have a DVD called “Fitness in Motion® Stretching & Exercises for Dogs” available at www.AvaFrick.com. With this you can learn how to effectively deliver exercises for all zones of the body along with ones designed for specific conditions and how to successfully use balls.
  • Understand the goals or purpose and how to effectively deliver the exercises.
  • Take the time to do them correctly (no short cuts).
  • Always start conservatively then gradually increase the length of stretch, the angle or height of the stretch, and the number or repetitions.
  • Pay attention to the behavior or response(s) your pet gives with each stretch.
  • Keep notes on the changes you see and periodically re-evaluate posture, movement and balance from a distance.

A good stretch will be comfortable and effective if you follow the above steps. A “bad” stretch will be met with resistance or failure to make any positive gain in flexibility, range of motion, or performance.

HOLIDAYS – A SEASON OF STRESS FOR YOUR PET



Stress can push a body to the limit and beyond. Stress for an animal can be changes in your routine and theirs, meals not at regular time, change in their environment (i.e. decorations and furniture moved around), heaven forbid being taken to the kennel (even if they have fun there it is still a bit of stress), and yes; your stress can become their stress too. The signs of stress can be anxiety; tearing up the house, whining, crying, acting fearful, and barking. Also biting or growling where she normally would not, and hiding,

Here are some of the reasons a dog or cat may show the signs of being stressed:

  • When a body goes outside of the endocrine systems “comfort zone” we start to see altered behavior to environmental situations. The endocrine system comprises the hypothalamus, thalamus, pituitary, pineal gland, thyroid, parathyroid, adrenal glands and pancreas. These glands are in constant communication to balance messages that signal the body to work. If they become imbalanced and cannot reset, for whatever the reason, abnormal behavior can be the result.
  • Nutritional deficiencies of calcium and magnesium, the calming minerals, is very common. The body needs calcium and magnesium in order for the nervous system to be calm and relaxed. Lacking these vital nutrients your pup or kitty cannot be calm. He will ramp up in a stressed situation escalating without the ability to slow down, until exhaustion hits.
  • Prior life experiences that have created a mental state where similar events trigger fear or stress.

Solutions to eliminating the signs of stress in your dog or cat first involve identifying the etiology. Finding the cause and changing that part of the animal’s lifestyle or health status may resolve the stress reactions. Don’t expect an overnight miracle. If the anxiety has been going on for a long time it may take down regulating, which could be weeks or months of gradual improvement.

Steps you can take to help reduce the stress and anxiety and eliminate it in the future:

  • For the short term, if your pet gets super stressed during the holidays, try to minimize those situations that set her off.
  • Run a diffuser with calming essential oils from doTerra®. There are ones specifically designed for the holidays that help the whole house smell good and all inhabitants ‘chill’ helping you to relax too.
  • It only takes the analysis of a sample of your dog’s or cat’s fur to find out if calcium and magnesium are low. The test is called “Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis”. You can find out more about this on my website: www.avafrick.com. Once the mineral and toxic metal levels are known, a customized nutritional balancing program targeting specific minerals and vitamins for your pet can then be designed to alleviate the mechanisms setting off the signs of stress.
  • Herbs are also helpful in transitioning from the nervous state while waiting for nutrients to achieve their cellular positions. Oral calming herbs include St. John’s Wort, Valerian, Passion Flower, Kava, Eleuthero, and Skull Cap. Verify the safety and dosing for your pet before starting.
  • Pheramone collars like NurtueCALM 24/7 will help some cats and dogs. This therapy mimics the pheromone that the mother dog or cat produces to calm and reassure her pups or kittens. Animals recognize these pheromones throughout life. Usually an improvement in specific behavior signs is seen during the first two weeks after wearing the collar, but some animals require a month to exhibit visible improvement. The active ingredient in the NurtureCALM collar is androsterone, which is an interomone.
  • Alpha- Stim® microcurrent therapy is a prescription device FDA cleared for stress related behavior. It has no systemic side effects and the treatments are cumulative and long lasting. A very low level microamperage waveform is delivered to the body via little ear clips (like an IPod). This helps to normalize the body by inducing a balance in signals or frequencies between the endocrine organs. Physiologically it also increases blood and cerebral spinal fluid levels of beta endorphin and serotonin. Alpha-Stim can successfully treat a variety of human and animal stress conditions like anxiety, depression, and insomnia. I am available to consult with you for your pet about the benefits and uses of Alpha-Stim.

Try some of these suggestions to help get your pet through the holiday season and into a calmer life in the new year. They have worked for others.

Ava Frick, DVM, CVC, FAIS

Why your dog needs Taurine Dog Supplements

In 2012 there was an article in VitaHound titled: Taurine Supplements are Usually Required in Present Day Dog Diets. Yes, as far back at 2012 the word was out – no diet has adequate taurine to match the stress and inflammation that dogs dealing with. And why to dogs have inflammation and stress? That fact I have been diagnosing since 2005 by doing hair Tissue Mineral Analysis testing. Inflammation and stress are related to adrenal gland function, aldosterone production, sodium retention, loss of potassium, calcium, and magnesium, inadequate levels of choline, taurine, inositol, vitamin A and E. Basically inadequate availability of whole food minerals, vitamins, and amino acids.

Other factors that can influence this includes:

  • Glyphosate – commonly known as Roundup – blocks and binds minerals from being available to the body. Even if it is in the food it may not get to the cells.
  • Herbicides and pesticides can leach calcium out of the cells.
  • Processed foods – the protein is no longer real meat. It has been treated so that the quality content of what was meat is not the same. The body does not digest it as it would unprocessed protein. And meat is a major source of taurine.
  • Toxins in the environment getting into the body can interfere with metabolism.
  • Busy lives, upset routines, mental stress

Facts about the benefits of taurine are:

It is one of the most plentiful amino acids in the body and thus provides many benefits. Potassium is an important mineral needed by the body for balancing acids, nerve impulse transmission, and enzymatic reactions. Taurine helps the cells to hold onto the needed potassium. Managing this in the tissues of the heart along with helping to control the heart beat makes it one of the most important amino acids in the heart.

It is also involved in the control of the release of neurotransmitters in the brain. This is believed to help prevent epileptic seizures. By helping to control cholesterol in the bile it is very effective in averting gall stones. Also being very high in white blood cells it promotes a proper immune system.

Taurine is found naturally in milk, meat, fish, eggs, and sea vegetables such as kelp and seaweed. As for meat (not meat meal or by-products) mice have three times more taurine than chicken, next highest beef, followed distantly by lamb. Kelp is a good supplement source since it contains all 21 amino acids and is also rich in minerals and many vitamins. Adding the needed taurine to your dog’s diet is reasonably safe with a natural supplement. Dosages range from 200mg to 2000mg per day best taken 2 to 3 times a day.

The Human-Animal Connection

REFLECTIONS FROM A VETERINARIAN

What is it about animals that make us feel good when we are in their space?
How do they bring out the best in us? How do they improve our health and overall well-being?

There are all kinds of research studies proving the rewards of human animal connections. But even those who do not read know this to be true. It is a feeling they emanate of wanting us, kindred spirits, sharing souls, the look from those eyes, that pulls us in and warms our hearts. It is what and how we feel when we are with them.

At the age of three I already knew my purpose in life was to be an animal doc- tor. Growing up on a farm in Missouri I spent many hours in the barn with the cats and kittens. Watching their behav- ior, mostly for the goal of being better able to catch them! Then there were the cows and calves, sows and piglets, horses, chickens, and later a funny goat. (Oh yeah that’s right, all goats are funny.) We generally had a dog or two, some indoors, some not. That’s the farm life I suppose.

With each encounter and time spent with the animals I learned by observing, yet grew by feeling. Those feelings, or emo- tions, were related to some kind of com- munication, received and perceived.

That communication was sometimes translated into; “She likes me” or “I need you too” or “thank you for that” and the occasional “I’ve had enough now.”

This becomes more accurate as we learn the communicating signals a specific spe-cies uses. Animals are much more in tune to all facets of body language be- cause, different than humans, they do not exist by our extensive use of verbal communication. Animal signals can be the eye; changes in shape and size of the pupil, position of ears, nose, lips, swish- ing of the tail, erection of feathers or fur, body contour to exhibit definition of size or intent, an odor, showing of teeth, or dancing for joy.” Click here to read the entire article.