Reiki is a spiritual therapy practice designed to shift energy in the body for optimal health. Fans believe that a regular practice of Reiki can both reap health and wellbeing benefits for your dog and also improve your overall wellbeing as their caregiver.
What Is Reiki?
Reiki is a stress reduction and relaxation technique commonly used in Japanese healing therapy.1 The practice was brought to the U.S. by Mikai Usui in 1922, with the overarching goal of working with the patient, whether animal or human, to facilitate their own natural healing response.2
Reiki is based on the belief that energy that is stagnate in the body can be emotionally burdensome and may lead to physical pain, injury, or illness.3 Practitioners of Reiki refer to one’s energy as their “life force energy,” and it is believed that the reduction of one’s “life force energy” can have severe health consequences.1
Reiki uses touch to help improve this unseen “life force energy” with the goal of increasing mental positivity and health, similar to how energy is moved using acupuncture or acupressure.1,4 Because this life force energy is in everyone, Reiki can benefit anyone.2
Rei- roughly translates to “God’s wisdom or the higher power” while –ki means “life force energy”.1 Taken together, the word Reiki means “spiritually guided life force energy.”1 You may also see the practice referred to as “palm healing”, “energy healing”, or “hands-on healing”.3,4
Reiki focuses on the being as a holistic entity that includes the body, mind, spirit, and emotional state. Despite being a deeply spiritual practice, Reiki is not religiously affiliated and there is not dogma associated with it.1
Benefits of Reiki for Dogs
Reiki has been used on patients with cancer, heart disease, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, infertility, autism, Crohn’s disease, fatigue, and neurodegenerative diseases.4 The channeling of energy, or “chi”, is what incurs the health benefits for those with health conditions like those mentioned above.
This energy is considered intelligent and knows where to go based on where it’s needed.5 Reiki can assist patients in reaching a state of deep relaxation, which can help them cope with life challenges and stress while improving overall wellbeing.4
Several studies have alluded to the benefits of Reiki therapy both in human patients and laboratory animals. Unfortunately, very few studies, if any, have been done on dogs in clinical settings.
A study done through Harvard University had 99 Reiki practitioners administer the therapy for 45 to 90 minutes to 1,411 patients.6 Patients were instructed to answer a pre- and post-Reiki session questionnaire to assess their physical and psychological state.6 Results showed a significant improvement for patients who received the practice regardless of length of time, indicating that Reiki was helpful and useful.6
In a study from Drexel University, 46 patients that had undergone knee replacement surgery were administered Reiki, sham Reiki, or regular standard of care procedures.7 Of the three, only the group that received Reiki therapy noted significant reductions in pain, blood pressure, respiration rate, and anxiety.7
Reiki has been used in integrative veterinary medicine settings to reduce the anxiety and pain of animal patients, as well as to improve the wellbeing of the patient and practitioner.3
Dog lovers can also benefit because the practice creates a state of relaxation for their pet that can relieve compassion fatigue, foster a sense of peace, and help owners process grief over the illness and loss of a pet.8
Its benefits have even been noticed by the American Kennel Club, who has endorsed the practice based on several published studies involving animals.9 For example, Reiki was found to improve the heart rate of rats confined to environments with stressful levels of noise.10
Is Reiki Real?
There is a fair amount of skepticism around Reiki and other forms of energy healing. While some studies have found that it benefits patients, these studies have their flaws and weaknesses, and scientists and medical practitioners may refer to it as pseudoscience.13
That said, trying Reiki with your dog is extremely unlikely to cause harm. Its practice has many similarities to meditation, which is gaining traction even in conventional medicine. And it is also an excellent opportunity to spend time with your dog, focusing solely on them.
You do not need to “believe” in Reiki to try it and see how your dog responds.
When to Not Use Reiki for Dogs
Reiki is a safe and gentle practice that is natural and holistic, emphasizing comfort.12 Because of this, there are likely no contraindications for its use.12
However, it’s important to note that there are numerous research gaps in which scientific assessments on the side effects of Reiki have not been undertaken.13
Reiki should not be used as the only therapy for disease treatment,13 but instead should be thought of as a complementary therapy that can benefit your dog.
How to Do Reiki for Dogs
Reiki involves sharing energy with the patient, which can be done hands-on or via the sharing of an energy field that does not involve touching the animal at all.3 However, the former method is much more common.
Keep in mind that dogs with cancer may be experiencing pain that makes touch uncomfortable.11 That’s okay – your dog can enjoy Reiki so long as they are sharing the same energy field, or space, with the practitioner.5
Animal care practitioners trained in the practice typically sit in a room with the animal and invite them to participate if they so desire.5 Then the practitioner places their hands on or near the animal’s body in a series of positions based on need.1 Each position is held for three to ten minutes and may include the head, shoulders, stomach, feet or other areas.1
For humans, the whole treatment lasts about 45 to 90 minutes,1 but dogs typically take what they need energy wise based on their own timing and may exit the practice.5
Reiki is generally a peaceful, personal, and private event. Techniques may involve centering, clearing, beaming, extracting harmful energies, infusing, and soothing or raking the aura.4
Some guidelines require “Reiki attunement” before one can practice Reiki, where a more experienced Reiki practitioner bestows their energy onto you.4 However, anyone can practice Reiki, and there are many ways to teach yourself how to harness the practice of Reiki for you and your dog. You can easily access a number of video tutorials and step-by-step instructions online.
If you are practicing Reiki on your dog, start by sitting down and inviting them to participate.5 If your dog is open and comfortable to touch, lay your hand palm side down and flat on your dog’s body, while holding your fingers and thumbs outward and straight together.5
Start at your dog’s neck and then move down the rest of their body, stopping at the shoulders, midsection, and lower back.5 Hold each position for several minutes.
You may also choose to exert healing energy to your dog by touching more than one area at once. This is often used to help with emotional healing and balance restoration, and may include one hand on the back and one hand on the chest, or one hand on your dog’s head and one on their chest.5
Reiki for Your Own Benefit
Keep in mind that you as the caregiver also experience stress and emotional upheaval when your dog has cancer.11 You too can benefit from Reiki.4 Self-treatments of Reiki can be done in as little as 20-minute increments as they fit into your schedule.2
Start by finding a quiet space, removing your shoes, placing a pillow under your head, and a second pillow under the back of your knees.2 Close your eyes and do a body scan while taking deep relaxing breaths.2 Start by placing your hands in the middle of your chest below your chin and hold for two minutes or longer, as needed.2
Next, place your hands on the top of your head, and then over your eyes.2 Remember to consciously relax each area as you are touching it.2 After that, place one hand on your throat and one flat over your heart before placing both hands flat on your upper stomach, eventually moving to your lower stomach.2 Move up the body to your shoulders, placing a hand on either one, and rotate to the lower back.2 Last, place your hands on the top or bottom of your feet.2
Keep in mind that Reiki is meant to serve you and is an intelligent energy that goes where it’s needed. You can adapt your practice as needed to ensure that both you and your dog are benefiting as much as possible from it.
- The International Center for Reiki Training. www.reiki.org. Accessed on January 28, 2023.
- No author. Reiki Self-Treatment. Cleveland Clinic. No publication date available. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/21080-reiki-self-treatment. Accessed January 28, 2023.
- Lester KS. Reiki as Complementary Care in Veterinary Practice. Am Hol Vet Med Assoc 2019;54:36-43.
- Newman T. Everything you need to know about Reiki. Medical News Today. July 27, 2021. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/308772. Accessed January 28, 2023.
- Gargulinski R. 5 Easy Reiki Techniques to Try With Your Dog. Dogs Naturally. December 15, 2021. https://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/reiki-for-dogs-5-techniques-you-can-use-at-home/. Accessed January 28, 2023.
- Dyer NL, Baldwin AL, Rand WL. A Large-Scale Effectiveness Trial of Reiki for Physical and Psychological Health. J Altern Complement Med. 2019;25(12):1156-1162. doi:10.1089/acm.2019.0022.
- Baldwin AL, Vitale A, Brownell E, Kryak E, Rand W. Effects of Reiki on Pain, Anxiety, and Blood Pressure in Patients Undergoing Knee Replacement: A Pilot Study. Holist Nurs Pract. 2017;31(2):80-89.
- No author. 3 simple ways Reiki helps animals with cancer. Animal Reiki Source. No publication date available. https://animalreikisource.com/3-simple-ways-reiki-helps-animals-cancer/. Accessed on January 28, 2023.
- Crowe N. Scientific studies on Reiki and animal communication. Word and Spirit. November 30, 2021. https://njcrowe.com/2021/11/30/scratching-the-surface-of-science-on-reiki-animal-communication/. Accessed January 28, 2023.
- Baldwin AL, Wagers C, Schwartz GE. Reiki improves heart rate homeostasis in laboratory rats. J Altern Complement Med. 2008;14(4):417-422. doi:10.1089/acm.2007.0753
- Dressler D, Ettinger S. The Dog Cancer Survival Guide. Maui Media; 2011.
- No author. Reiki Therapy. Penn Medicine Abramson Cancer Center. No publication date available. https://www.pennmedicine.org/cancer/navigating-cancer-care/treatment-types/integrative-oncology/reiki-therapy. Accessed January 28, 2023.
- Jarry J. Should We Take Reiki Seriously. McGill Office for Science and Society. February 19, 2020. https://www.mcgill.ca/oss/article/health-pseudoscience/should-we-take-reiki-seriously. Accessed January 28, 2023.
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