Helping Puppy Mill Survivors
Pet shop puppies are adorable. Your heart melts and you have to go inside to see them. The sales clerk assures you the pups are pedigreed and from a reputable breeder. You want to believe her, but you’ve heard that pet shop puppies often have health and behavioral issues.
Sadly, that cute puppy in the pet store is most likely the product of a puppy mill, also referred to as a “commercial breeder”. There are over 14,000 of these facilities in North America, and this doesn’t even count the “backyard breeders”.
Unfortunately, the profit motives of these commercial operators lead to miserable conditions for breeding dogs and severe health and socialization problems for the puppies. Breeding females are kept in small, filthy cages. The dams are malnourished, receive little or no veterinary care, and are bred continuously. When their reproductive years are over, they are killed. It’s a life of pure misery.
The puppies are taken from the dams at five or six weeks of age and shipped to pet stores. The International Humane Society estimates that over 50% of the puppies die before reaching a store. Unsuspecting buyers assume they are getting a “quality” dog, but the truth is, they’re paying a premium price for a puppy that will probably have or develop congenital or hereditary conditions. Other common health issues these animals experience include musculoskeletal disorders, blood problems, respiratory conditions, kidney disease, epilepsy, and a host of other illnesses and infirmities.
Governmental agricultural departments are supposed to be the watchdogs of commercial breeding facilities, but they have lax standards and not enough people to monitor the huge number of puppy mills. However, many non-profit animal welfare organizations are trying their best to close down puppy mills and commercial breeders, even though their resources are limited.
Caring for Puppy Mill Survivors
If you have adopted a pup or breeding dog rescued from a puppy mill or commercial breeder, what’s the best way to care for her? How can you make life as healthy and loving as possible for your new friend? An integrative approach that combines conventional veterinary care with alternative therapies is the best way to help a breeding dog recover from the horrific conditions she has endured, or help a puppy learn to enjoy being a household companion.
All dogs rescued from these facilities must first receive immediate and ongoing medical attention. Most mill dogs are in poor condition and need extensive care. Though they may be extremely fearful because they have no experience of positive contact with humans, veterinary assessment and care are essential.
Plenty of TLC and gentle human touch
You need to get the dog used to being touched and stroked in a loving, positive, non-threatening manner. Be patient and take it slow and steady – it will take time for him to adjust.
This complementary therapy has proven over thousands of years to be effective in resolving health and behavioral issues in animals. Once your puppy mill survivor has become comfortably receptive to touch, he can be given an acupressure-massage session.
Acupressure– Massage Session – How to do it
There are two basic techniques for stimulating acupoints:
Gently place the soft tip of your thumb on the acupoint and count to 20 slowly, then move to the next point. This technique works best on larger dogs and on a medium-sized dog’s trunk and neck.
Place your middle finger on top of your index finger to create a little tent. Lightly put the soft tip of your index finger on the acupoint and count slowly to 20. This technique is good for small dogs and for the lower extremities on medium-sized to large dogs.
To begin, use the flat portion on the heel of one hand to gently trace the Bladder meridian shown in Figure 1. By doing this, you are introducing the dog to intentional touch in a non-invasive manner. The Bladder median is located just to the side of the dog’s midline. It begins at the inner corner of the dog’s eye, although we suggest you begin to trace the meridian from the top of his head for the sake of ease and comfort. Your opposite hand can rest comfortably somewhere on his body.
Slowly and gently stroke from head to hind paw, tracing the meridian three times on each side of the dog. Use light pressure, but make sure it’s firm enough that he is aware of your caring intent.
After you have completed tracing the Bladder meridian segment, the dog is usually relaxed and will be open to more specific acupressure point work. Li 4, St 36 and Bai Hui are three acupressure points that when stimulated are known to offer dogs a general balancing of energy and a sense of well-being (Figure 2).
Benefits Of Acupressure- Massage
Acupressure-massage is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The intent of an acupressure-massage session is to balance the flow of energy throughout the dog’s body. When energy is flowing harmoniously, the dog’s body and psyche can function optimally. In Chinese medicine, when a dog’s internal organs are functioning properly, his entire body is receiving the nourishment necessary to be healthy and happy, both mentally and physically.
Specific acupressure points located on the dog’s body are known to enhance the flow of energy to provide general balancing. There are also acupressure points that address specific health issues, but this approach would require an assessment of the individual dog and the issues he’s presenting with.
The acupressure-massage session included with this article can offer puppy mill survivors a sense of well-being. And that’s an excellent way to start you and your rescue on a shared journey of creating a healthy, loving bond.
This article first appeared in Animal Wellness Magazine.
Learn how to use acupressure to treat a variety of conditions in Amy and Nancy’s articles here on Animal Wellness Guide, in their hands-on and online courses, and in their books on canine, feline and equine acupressure: