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The Benefits of Bowen Therapy for Dogs

Veterinary research has shown that 80% of dogs over 8 years and 60% of cats over 6 years are suffering with pain.

Bowen Therapy is a holistic remedial massage technique that is gaining in popularity across the world. Originally developed as a treatment for humans, ongoing research and refinement of this technique has allowed trained practitioners to offer effective Bowen treatment to both small and large companion animals such as horses, dogs and cats.

We spoke to Linda McNally from Pet Bowen Therapy to learn more about what is involved and how it could help your pets.

The Origin of Bowen Therapy:

Australian-born Thomas Ambrose Bowen (Tom Bowen) pioneered this technique in the mid-20th century. Bowen therapy works on mechanoreceptors (sensing cells that respond to stimuli such as touch) and uses gentle stretching of the soft connective tissue in the body.

What is Bowen Therapy?

Bowen therapy is a technique where light touch and gentle stretching work on your pet’s soft tissue. The Bowen therapist uses thumbs and fingers to apply light pressure movements to your pet’s body, which has numerous benefits. Before going into details, it’s essential to understand what soft tissue is. It is any tissue that connects, supports, or surrounds your pet’s organs and bodily structures.

And because Bowen therapy targets these tissues, it benefits your pet’s whole body. Let’s explore these benefits in greater detail:

#1. Calming and Relaxation

Your dog or cat has a sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. Both are made up of nerves that have different functions. The sympathetic nervous system tells your pet’s brain how to respond in stressful or dangerous situations. 

On the other hand, the parasympathetic nervous system helps their bodies relax after experiencing a stressful or dangerous situation. Bowen therapy inhibits your pet’s sympathetic nerves (responding to stress) and stimulates the parasympathetic nerves (relaxing after a threat). So, it helps your pet calm down and relax, especially those prone to anxiety.

#2. Provide Pain Relief

When your pet is in pain, its body sends signals via nerves to the brain to interpret certain sensations as painful. These nerves have pain receptors all over the body, including in the skin and muscles, which are vulnerable to painful stimuli. 

They pick up a signal and send it through nerve fibres to the spinal cord and finally to the brain, where your pet interprets the pain. Traditional pain medication alters your pet’s pain receptors, which isn’t a viable long-term solution for pain management. 

But Bowen therapy is a natural way to curb these sensations in your pet. With a light touch, your Bowen therapist targets pain receptors, sending signals through your pet’s nervous system. That way, they alter how your pet’s body interprets pain and ultimately alleviate it.

#3. Release Tension by Working on Fascia

Your pet’s body has lots of soft tissue and fascia. Fascia is a thin web-like layer of tissue that surrounds organs, blood vessels, nerves, bones, and muscles, keeping them all in place. 

Unfortunately, these tissues can become dehydrated and stiff, causing pain and tension in your pet’s body. And the longer the stiffness lingers, the more it will pull on your pet’s muscles, which can lead to chronic pain. Luckily, Animal Bowen therapy movements stimulate the tissues, decreasing the tension, increasing blood flow, and relieving pain naturally.

#4. Posture Improvement

Diagram showing main canine muscles
Because your pet’s fascia surrounds bones and muscles, it profoundly impacts how these structures move. While the fascia is a protective layer, it must be supple enough to allow natural movement of the bones, joints, and muscles.

But what does this have to do with your pet’s posture? If its fascia is stiff and dehydrated, it can pull on the muscles surrounding the spine and limbs. Then, it can cause pain when your pet moves. As a result, it will alter its posture to compensate for the painful movements

In the long-term, your pet’s posture won’t be aligned as it should be, which can cause many other issues. However, with Bowen therapy, your therapist stimulates the fascia and increases blood flow to the injured, weak, or stiff parts of your pet’s body. Then, the fascia regains flexibility and helps restore and improve your pet’s posture.

#5. Enhance Range of Motion and Flexibility

Like with posture, your pet’s fascia can inhibit its natural movements when it becomes stiff or injured. Apart from the fascia, your pet’s muscles and joints might experience stiffness or inflammation, affecting its range of motion. For example, your pet’s hind legs might not be as flexible as they used to be. So, Bowen therapy gently stimulates the injured parts of your pet’s body. It targets any knots or tension, improving the cells’ deep relaxation in those areas. Then, the more these parts relax, the better your pet’s range of motion and flexibility will become.

#6. Improves Joint Movement and Function

Sore and stiff joints are usually due to injuries, inflammation, and a build-up of toxins. All these cause stiffness and pain in your pet’s joints, which decreases their ability to move freely. Luckily, Animal Bowen therapy is an excellent natural way to improve your pet’s joint movements and function. 

It relaxes the muscles around the joints that might have been stiff, causing the joints to pull in directions it’s not supposed to. At the same time, it increases blood flow and the number of healing properties in your pet’s blood to go to the injured area. Finally, it helps to promote your pet’s natural production of joint lubricants, which eases movements and, ultimately, function.

#7. Fights Inflammation and Detoxifies the Body

Many conditions, situations, foods, injuries, etc., can cause inflammation and a build-up of toxins in your pet’s body. And while inflammation is a natural response to injury, prolonged swelling can damage your pet’s arteries, veins, nerves, and organs. At the same time, too many toxins in your pet’s body can damage enzymes, cause the failure of energy production, and increase the risk of conditions like cancers.

However, Animal Bowen therapy stimulates your pet’s lymphatic system, which is responsible for maintaining fluid levels and eliminating waste. This gentle stimulation improves your pet’s ability to drain the excess fluids caused by inflammation and drain toxins that linger for too long.

#8. Heal Injuries

When your pet is injured, the muscles, fascia, ligaments, and nerves in the surrounding area are likely affected. And while you can let your pet’s body heal, animal Bowen therapy helps speed the healing process, whether old or new. It targets the affected tissues and structures while sending neurological impulses to your pet’s brain. 

Then, these impulses create a vibrational pattern that realigns the musculoskeletal system. This realignment helps support your pet’s body weight, improve mobility, and heal subsequent injuries.

#9. Aids Digestion

Sometimes your pet’s digestion is not what it’s supposed to be. It could experience constipation or decreased nutrient uptake. It usually happens because of poor dietary choices or increased stress. Luckily, with animal Bowen therapy, the light pressure movements stimulate your pet’s nutritional uptake in the bowels

It also relaxes your pet’s whole body by targeting the parasympathetic nervous system to relax. The more relaxed your pet is, its digestion and bowel movements will improve. At the same time, it helps to eliminate unnecessary toxins from your pet’s body, which means it has fewer toxins to digest.

As you can see, your pet can benefit greatly from Animal Bowen therapy. It ensures your pet’s body functions properly to improve its quality of life. 

Of course, you can do this therapy yourself, but it would be best to consult with an animal Bowen therapist first. They have proper training and perfected the technique to get the best possible results for your pet without inducing further injury.

Cleo's Case Study:

Cleo is an 11.5 years old, German Shepherd X suffering from Carpal Hyper-extension and Arthritis.

Cleo has spent most of her life as a working dog (guard dog) and in September 2022 she presented with sore hips and pain in her lower back (arthritis) plus she injured herself a few years back resulting in developing carpal hyper extension on her front right paw.

Cleo received her first of four Animal Bowen treatments all within a month with her pet parents involved in every session, providing ear rubs which she loves. Bowen Therapy treatments are 20 to 30 minute long per sessions.

Seven days after her first treatment, Cleo was less stiff in her hips and lower back. During her second, third and fourth treatments (7 days apart) new moves were added into the treatment, which reflected the fantastic progress she was making. Each week, she showed little improvements diarised by her parents in order to provide updates for her next appointment.

Cleo is now moving around a lot better, doing things she used to do when she was younger like jumping on to the bed, lounge, stretching, getting up and down from a sit position easier. On walks, she can now walk keep up the same pace as her owners. 
Her mobility and balance have improved greatly and most recently she jumped out of the car by herself, which was amazing as she had not done this for a long time. 

Bowen therapy treatments will continue with Cleo with the goal now to improve her mobility and re-balance her whole body to reduce her pain and become a happy dog again!

Please noteBowen Therapy does not replace any veterinary care; it works with your veterinarian to offer your pet the ultimate health care.

written by Linda from K9s Wellness Therapies for Australian Dog Lover, October 2022 (all rights reserved).

About the writer

Linda McNally is an Animal Bowen Practitioner and owner of K9s Wellness Therapies (formerly Linda's Bowen Therapy) located in Brisbane (Southside). 

She has been trained under the guidance of Debi Famelos from the Canine Bowen Institute and is a member of The International Association of Animal Massage and Bodywork.

As an Animal Health Care Practitioner, her training is in Bowen therapy. 

Her passion is seeing the relief and positive results appropriate treatment can provide dogs and cats.
Linda’s mission is for pets to live longer, healthier, and happier lives with their owners by empowering pet owners to make informed choices on behalf of their pets.

You can follow her on 

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