Animal reiki: A popular practice in healing has made its way to pet care

How hands hovering over paws has really caught on.

How hands hovering over paws has really caught on

(Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

Kathleen Prasad remembers being introduced to a rescued pit bull at Berkeley Animal Care Services in Berkeley, California. "He was shaking uncontrollably, kept his belly low to the ground and walked like a lizard." Staff asked Prasad, a leader in animal reiki, to work with him. "I took him to a private room, sat on a blanket and he crawled into my lap." She relaxed, breathed and focused on her meditation, an animal reiki practice that she teaches globally.

"After 20 minutes he had a big shake, shook his head, looked at me and sighed." The shaking stopped, and she sat with him for another 30 minutes. When they exited the room to greet staff, the dog was walking calmly. "Where is the dog we gave you?" staff asked her.

Versions of Kathleen's story are echoed by animal reiki practitioners in Canada, who apply the complementary approach to provide physical, emotional, mental and spiritual relief for pets. Practitioners use reiki as an adjunct to veterinary work to support animals with everything from arthritis, digestive disorders, post-surgical trauma, chemo-reaction and anxiety to delaying disease progress, life transitions and end-of-life issues.

Mikao Usui rediscovered reiki in 1922 in Japan, and some believed it originated in Tibet 10,000 years ago. Usui reiki incorporates the reiki symbols, distant healing methods, hand positions for working on self and others and an attunement process. Practitioners direct the universal life-force energy that surrounds us to balance the life-force energy (ki) within people, plants and animals. The practice involves channeling energy "heavenly ki" from their crown chakras and "earthly ki" from their feet chakras out through their hands. The goal is for energy to go from the chakra to the associated gland and then to the associated organ to balance excesses and deficiencies.

Dr. Julie Lahey is the practice owner, hospital manager and onsite vet at the integrative Harbourview Animal Hospital in North Vancouver, where reiki is one of the treatments offered. Lahey is an advocate of animal Reiki and a practitioner herself. "It definitely enhances regular modalities," she says. "I would recommend it to pet owners almost all the time, maybe not with a general exam, but when there's a disease process with animals and for emotional instability, too."

Lahey recalls a time when she sent a reiki practitioner to work on a cat with a bladder tumor. "Once they redid the ultrasound, they didn't find the tumor."

Not all vets are as enthusiastic about animal reiki. Dr. Kathy Kramer of Vancouver Wellness Hospital includes Traditional Chinese Medicine, veterinary acupuncture and cannabis in her practice. She says that while she has seen studies that indicate that reiki is beneficial for humans, "there is not a lot of hard-core evidence". Kramer says that a dozen animal massage therapists offer reiki as part of their services. "We don't offer reiki because there are so many people who are already doing it for their pets."

"If it does have a positive influence, I think it's great," says Kramer, adding that it must be done with, and not instead of, veterinary treatment.

"Reiki is not a substitute for veterinary medicine," concurs animal reiki practitioner Willow Mainprize. "I love veterinary medicine. It has its purpose. We're there as a supportive element." Mainprize has used reiki for animals with tumors, malnutrition and trust issues. She's helped a rescue dog into a home with a new baby and integrated a new horse into a herd.

She tells the story of a frightened pigeon at the SPCA who would attack and bite her caretaker. Willow used reiki to create a harmonized atmosphere and sense of safety for the bird. "Next thing you know, the pigeon perched on the woman's shoulder, she was able to feed it, clean the cage – no drama, no aggression."

Since she started her business 11 years ago, animal reiki and massage practitioner Tazuko Kai says she treats most of her animal clients for cancer and separation anxiety. Owners also approach her when they have seen a vet and are out of options. "I'm always the last resource."

Kai says she treats many animals in transition who are "ready to go" but whose owners are hanging on, delaying the death process. She says reiki can affect everyone involved and support humans to let go.

She teaches animal reiki to both pet owners and other reiki therapists and is seeing an increase in the number of pet owners in her classes. "People are more open now than they were 10 years ago," Kai says. "People used to laugh at animal massage."


Marni Norwich is a Vancouver-based writer, editor and writing instructor. She's also an intuitive energy practitioner.