Our beloved pets play a greater companionship role in our lives today than they did 40 years ago. Social dynamics have changed as many people lead a more insular existence and, as a result, the pet has become an important member of the modern family unit. According to a survey on a popular pet website, 91 per cent of Australians feel “very close” to their pets.
Many women also choose to have children later in life or perhaps not at all. According to Simon Clea, author of The Feline Mystique: On the Mysterious Connection between Women and Cats, women who live only with cats make up one of the fastest-growing groups of pet owners in the United States.
This social trend is confirmed by the amount of money people spend on their companion animals or “fur children”. Globally, pet ownership is a multi-million-dollar industry. Clea states in his book that Americans spend nearly US$750 million each year on food, care and treats. Many financial experts have called the pet industry recession-resistant. Even with current fears about the slowdown in the world economy, the underlying demographic trends for this industry remain very strong.
Natural remedies and therapies once thought to be only for humans are now becoming increasingly popular for our companion animals. Most people who use natural therapies for their own wellbeing wish the same for their pets. Massage, acupuncture and homoeopathy are now being extensively used on our animal friends because they are safe, cost-effective and very beneficial. Numerous animal bodywork associations have been established around the world, including the International Association of Animal Massage and Bodywork and the Holistic Animal Therapy Association of Australia.
Reflexology, a cross between massage and acupressure, is potentially part of this growing trend. Reflexology is the idea that the ears, face and feet of a person or animal represent a perfect microcosm or map of the whole body. By touching just the feet, outer ears and face you can have an effect on the whole body. This is because they connect to energy pathways that travel through the body to particular organs, structures or glands.
Reflexology is a form of therapeutic touch which can create a deep relaxation response and promote healing in the body. When stress is released, the body’s own natural healing intelligence takes over and brings the body back into a normal state of being. The immune, nervous and hormonal systems are able to function more effectively.
During a reflexology session, breathing and heart rates slow down and the nervous system begins to relax. The electrical activity in the brain is lowered so that your companion animal enters a meditative state. Other than sleep, meditation is an optimal time for the cells in the body to regenerate themselves.
Reflexology can improve circulation around specific organs as well as general blood and lymph circulation. Dr Mehmet Oz, in his book Healing from the Heart, mentions an experiment that showed that massaging just the footpads in dogs increased lymphatic drainage in the body. When circulation is improved, blood flows more freely in the body so that nutrients can easily reach cells and waste products can be removed more efficiently.