Today’s post is a long overdue review of the latest book by Tallgrass Animal Acupressure Institute founders Amy Snow and Nancy Zidonis. Acu-Dog – A Guide to Canine Acupressure is essentially a new and revised edition of The Well-Connected Dog (which I reviewed here a few years ago), and this version is printed in color on glossy pages, has lots of photos and illustrations, and most important, thorough explanations of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and canine acupressure.
TCM is an incredibly complex system of diagnosing, preventing and treating illness – it’s not something you learn in a weekend workshop and dabble in on the side. It can be quite difficult to wrap ones head around the whole concept, and I’ll be the first to admit that I struggled with understanding and grasping it all in our acupressure class at Bancroft. But Amy and Nancy explain TCM, Yin/Yang, Zang Fu, etc. really, really well, and after reading this book, I feel like I finally “get it”. I found myself nodding and thinking “oh, ok, now I understand” often while reading it.
The authors also cover some of the history behind the origins and development of TCM, which is both interesting and helpful when learning. I always find that knowing why something is done a certain way (rather than just being told “it’s the way it is”) really helps me both remember and understand it.
The book opens with an intro about the origins of dogs and how they developed into the animals we know them as today, and then goes into several chapters about TCM, breaking it down into smaller components, explaining what each is and how it works, all with helpful examples of how a TCM practitioner would look at a particular imbalance to determine what the problem is and how best to treat it.
Topics covered include universal law, law of integrity, chi, disharmony, Yin/Yang, five-element theory (with a very helpful chart of which element corresponds to what), Zang Fu, meridians, and how to use “cun” measurements to find the correct points on your dog.
Chapter seven is a big chapter, covering the Zang-Fu organ systems and the meridians in detail. Each meridian has an intro, a detailed list of its functions, health and emotional issues connected to it, and an explanation of its location. And for each, there is an illustration of the meridian and important points outlined on a dog. Some also have a photo of a dog with the meridian outlined, which I thought was particularly helpful, because for me at least, it is not always easy to locate them on your own dog.
Chapter eight talks about the assessment tools, i.e. TCM diagnostic methods – The four examinations, the eight principles, and the patterns of disharmony. The authors explain why each assessment is done and what the findings can tell a practitioner (with helpful examples). The chapter ends with a great list of TCM concepts that give you a quick overview/reminder of each, which is hugely helpful.
Chapter nine takes you through an acupressure session from start (finding a good spot, asking your dog for permission, etc.) to finish (what to look for in your dog after a session), covering things like opening, finger techniques, how to use the Association points to assess the organ system, the Alarm points to figure out how deep an imbalance goes, how to work on Source points, closing the session, and what to feel for all along the way.
Chapter ten lists many different common conditions from emotional (grief, fear, etc.) to physical (arthritis, diarrhea, hip dysplasia, conjunctivitis, etc.) to some more general in nature (aging, strengthening the immune system) and outlines which points to work for each. The book ends with a glossary of both anatomical and TCM terms and a bibliography.
I would absolutely recommend this book to anybody who is interested in learning about TCM in general, and acupressure for dogs in particular. And if you’re planning to take one of Tallgrass’ introductory acupressure workshops, I’d say read this beforehand and you’ll be way ahead of the curve.