Corey McCusker 00:03
Hello dog lovers, and welcome to Muttz with Mannerz™ Canine Academy Podcast, where we’ll share dog training tips and educational information to help you raise your pup, young or old, so they can be a loving part of your family and your community for life. I’m your host, Corey McCusker, Canine Coach. And today I’m thrilled to have with me Jesse McCowan, from Birch Animal Wellness, and we’re going to learn all about her approach to help animals. I’ll just tell you a bit about Jesse before I introduce her and get her speaking. She had a love of animals starting very young. She completed an Honours Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Behavior and began getting certified in various therapies after that. Not only is she dual certified in Animal Iridology, but also in Animal Acupressure. In 2019, she became Canada’s first dual certified Animal Acupressure Instructor. She teaches both small animal classes – which I have actually taken – and equine classes. Shortly after she became the educational director for Tall Grass North America, which is a comprehensive online and hands-on animal acupressure program available globally. Jesse uses a combination of her therapies with her clients to better approach both physical and behavioral imbalances. The therapies are gentle and noninvasive, while allowing for dogs that are more nervous around people. We’re going to learn more about her unique approach coming up. Let me just tell you a bit about some of her credentials. She has an honours specialization in animal behavior. She has equine, canine, and feline iridology technician. She is a Reiki Master. She’s a small animal acupressure, equine acupressure practitioner. And she has many more other things that she’s researched to enhance the approach and therapy she offers to people. So welcome, Jesse.
Jesse McCowan 02:11
Thank you so much for having me, Corey. I’m delighted to be here.
Corey McCusker 02:15
You know, we’re neighbors, and we live down the street from each other, but I’ve also been a student of yours. And before I even took your program, I had a senior miniature poodle, Cleo, who was having some issues. And we, I was a little bit concerned. And I had tried some things with her but I really, I know that your techniques, and that can really help certain things once you kind of come in and meet the animal and that. So you know, you came in and it was a wonderful session, it actually did relieve some of the stress and some of her pain that she was in at the time. So it was really beneficial. And then I actually went, because of what I had heard about you, learned about from you, I went and took your program which was so interesting and detailed. And there’s just so much. I know I only took the the first level but I know there’s so much more that’s there and I would love to take future courses. But let’s talk about you first and I want you to share your story of how you got into doing what you’re doing right now.
Jesse McCowan 03:21
That’s one of my favorite questions because I actually grew up in a household where holistic therapies were the norm. My mom actually does holistic therapies for people. And I have loved animals since I could say the word dog. I asked for a dog every year on my birthday. And because I grew up surrounded by that, all of the jobs I had growing up were actually involving animals. So first at a therapeutic equestrian center for kids with autism. Then a petting zoo / pony farm for a few summers. And then I ended up at a doggy daycare before I took over what I’m doing now while I was taking all of my therapies, but I decided to take that passion for animals and make my own career out of it because it’s actually not a very well-known field. And because I have so many different specializations, it’s more of a broad approach. So I can work with animals with different types of issues. I actually got my first dog after I took my very first acupressure class, who’s now seven years old. And she is a very great teacher. She’s very patient with me, but she actually has some anxiety and digestive based issues that make really good case studies, not only for me when I was learning, but also for my students when they practice on her in the class. And I now get to teach some of my favorite therapies. So to share the joy of seeing animals with behavioral issues that maybe struggle getting along in new environments or with other dogs, or animals with chronic health issues, kind of become themselves again and not just, are in pain and everything like that every day, is why I do what I do.
Corey McCusker 04:55
Yeah, no, it’s great. And it’s very, I mean, you said it holistic and that’s where you we’re raised, in a holistic family. So I find that these therapies, I think, are becoming a little bit more known to people too. So you’re providing these alternative options and they’re really amazing therapies, and you’ve helped many animals. And I think your desire is for the animals to have the highest quality of life possible, which is what I think any pet parent would want too. So let’s talk about your therapies and what are they.
Jesse McCowan 05:30
All right, so I’m going to start with two of my most popular ones and then we’ll talk a tiny bit about the less popular ones. But two that I do the most are acupressure and cold laser. So we’re going to talk a lot about acupressure, a little later. But cold laser is best for animals that have inflammation in their body, conditions like arthritis, joint pain, they’re recovering from surgery. It also helps with lymphatic drainage. It actually causes a spike in endorphins in the body so it can help with pain management, especially if it’s a limb that they’re walking on quite a lot. And post surgery is really helpful. I’ve actually used this laser on myself after a car accident and I tore a tendon in my hand, and I’m right handed. So I wouldn’t have proper motion in my hand, full range of motion to be able to write and do basic things without the laser. So I am a huge believer in that and I’ve seen it evidenced in a lot of my clients also. Acupressure is both an assessment and a working session. So using as a general description, using association points along the spine, and four exams of traditional Chinese medicine, which is our mode of assessment that you learned about, I can determine which meridians or organ systems in your dog are unbalanced. And then by applying gentle pressure to specific acupressure points along those meridians, you’re rebalancing all the energetic systems of the dog’s chi, which is their energy. Disclaimer, I am not a vet, I cannot diagnose after a session, I won’t say your dog has stage two kidney disease, I could say that they have a weakness or there’s some inflammation in the kidney and that you can support it using various methods ABC. I also operate iridology sessions, which I am dual certified in both species. And this one’s a little less common because people don’t really know what it is. So if you think about the colored part of your eye is called the iris, and it’s laid out much like a map of the body where the organs in the top of the body are the top part of the eye, the organs in the bottom part of the body are in the bottom. So you can tell how well the organs are functioning based on coloration and markings in the eye. So if there’s a lot of inflammation, or there’s toxins in certain areas, you can actually see it by looking at their eye, which is especially helpful for rescue dogs where you’re not quite sure of their medical history because it can give you okay, maybe they have some weakness in their joints, or they had some type of injury to their shoulder . . . You can get a little bit about their medical history using that. Flower Essences are another one, they are especially helpful for behavioral issues. So it’s essentially plant-based drops, you can put directly in your pet’s food or in their water. And it basically helps to rebalance their emotions. This is especially helpful for things like anxiety, or dogs that have difficulty, for example, going in the car or dogs that are reactive to certain triggers, like men wearing hats, for example. It’s all about deprogramming, which is part of the lifestyle changes that you make when you work with a trainer and they teach you how to work with your dog when you’re responding to certain things. But also you get it on an everyday front when you’re combining them with using the drops.
Corey McCusker 08:52
No… that’s great. And I mean, you’ve mentioned a lot of different ailments or some of the things. So let’s talk about some of the common reasons pet parents would come to you, if you had to kind of say, the three or four that they might come to you for.
Jesse McCowan 09:10
Okay, it also changes by season. But right now, I would say joint pain is probably one of the most common. Most of the animals I work with are seniors because preventative care for animals is still up and coming as an area. So usually it’s animals that already have chronic issues. So usually in that case, it’s either arthritis or some type of injury, digestive pain or issues is a close second. So it’s usually dogs with sensitive stomachs, dogs with diarrhea or all of a sudden they stopped eating, and they’re a little bit concerned. Lately, there’s been a rise in skin issues, I think because of the pesticides outside and the change of season, which are usually allergen related or toxin, so something in their environment, or something that they’re eating. And everyone’s favorite, anxiety and separation anxiety, is probably the top four.
Corey McCusker 10:03
Those would be really key ones. And I think if we look at, you know, you talk about the joint pains, the arthritis, you know, digestive issues, what are some of the complaints that a pet parent would have about those digestive issues?
Jesse McCowan 10:20
For digestive issues, often it’s diarrhea. So unfortunately, one of the things I do get a lot of pictures of sent to me is pictures of dogs stool, and learning how to kind of look at it and determine what’s going on based on what it looks like, lack of appetite or sensitive stomachs, so dogs that can’t handle certain foods.
Corey McCusker 10:39
Jesse McCowan 10:39
I’ve seen pets with allergies to chicken, to fish, to saltwater fish, specifically, where they have to kind of do a bit of an elimination diet for that. But acupressure in combination with supplements is my favorite way to support the digestive system.
Corey McCusker 10:56
Okay, that’s great. So the skin issues like the one, things I think I’m familiar with what I’ve seen with dogs that I come in contact or my own, it’s like hives. Now, you mentioned some of them. It’s seasonal, too. So I mean, if you’ve got dogs that are scratching themselves, or you can tell they’re irritated or you see things, what are the skin issues that you find common that need help?
Jesse McCowan 11:22
I’ve seen a lot of allergy ones, especially in the spring and the fall, because that’s usually when a lot of trees are blooming. And if it’s environmental, that’s usually when you’ll see it. Sometimes it’s toxin related. I’ve seen some where you know, they live next to a park and the park got sprayed with pesticide and then dog went and rolled and played and then all of a sudden, they’re itchy. It can be something like weed killer, or a toxic cleaning product you’re using in your own home, I’ve actually seen someone who decided to try a new laundry detergent in their house and wash the dog’s bed and all the blankets and the next day the dog woke up and was just covered in hives. And all they had to do was figure out what it is, swap out. Have you made any new changes? Usually one of the things I talked to the owners about in that case, and she realized it, swapped it out and within two days it was gone.
Corey McCusker 12:12
That’s awesome. Yeah, so I think we both can say anxiety is one of the things that we see common. I mean, what I’m seeing too, is a lot more rescues are happening, like that’s where people are rescuing dogs, and you’re going to see it there. We had a pandemic before and you know, everybody was home with their dogs. And then now their know, routines are going back to normal. So we’re seeing that separation anxiety. And as a trainer, those to me, it’s not if they come to me, it’s like, okay, you know what, this isn’t obedience. This isn’t like we can teach the dog to do a sit, down, and a stay and it’s going to be corrected. It is something that’s going on within the emotional side of the dog, and it’s affecting them physically, too. So talk about how your therapies can help.
Jesse McCowan 12:59
Anxiety is probably one of the most complex issues actually, believe it or not, over some of the other ones, because it has so many different causes. And I’ve actually done an entire webinar on anxiety from a traditional Chinese medicine perspective, because we had so many questions about it. But as a general, ultimately it comes down to understanding where the anxiety is coming from. And there’s a couple of different routes. So it could be fear-based, that for example, they lived on the street, and they live in this new house with this lovely family, and that they’re worried that this new resource that feeds them and keeps them warm and safe is going to be taken away. So they become overly protective of the people that they live with. It could be a dog that’s been attacked a few times before, and is afraid of physically being harmed or someone in their immediate – I say pack, but I mean the humans that they live with – being attacked, that at least that’s the case for my dog because she’s been attacked four separate times by off-leash dogs and each time we work on it, she gets a little better and then she gets attacked, and it backslides. So building confidence in them is really important. Sometimes it’s due to timidity, where they’ve never had good relationships with other dogs where that bonding from a young age, quite often in puppy mills this is the case, where they didn’t get that love from their litter and from their mother. So their sense of belonging is really weak. And in Traditional Chinese Medicine, this is actually rooted in the stomach and the spleen. So dogs with anxiety quite often present with diarrhea and vomiting and all of the things that come with that nervousness because they don’t feel grounded and don’t feel like they belong, which can be really sad to see but knowing that you can kind of work through that and work on building your dog’s confidence by setting them up on, I call them positive playdates, but dogs that you know are very friendly and won’t overreact to it. Dogs that have been abandoned quite often also show separation anxiety. But sometimes it’s in senior dogs, and I’ll see it, especially if they’ve just been diagnosed with something that’s chronic, and they’re kind of end stage in their life, that they’ve become defenseless. And they’re worried about someone coming and taking either their place in the dominance hierarchy or, it could be taking a resource from them like their food or their favorite toy, or the affection from their favorite person, that they become a little more clingy to the people that look after them and their caretakers. So once you figure out where it’s coming from, it’s a little bit easier behaviorally to work with it. Acupressure actually works really well because you can see which of the meridian systems is unbalanced. And each one is linked to an emotion. If it’s kidney, if it’s fear-based, usually that imbalance shows up in the kidney meridia. You can do some kidney points to help rebalance and that will slowly start to change the dog’s behavior. With anxiety-based in not feeling grounded and present, that can be stomach, spleen, so working on points to help keep them relaxed, in certain environments, especially when they’re stressed out, can be really helpful. If it’s a little more extreme case, sometimes I pair them with flower essences, because they work at an emotional level to help the dog start to respond in a more positive way. So instead of the dog reacting, if another dog takes their toy, instead of reacting by being snippy, they might slowly learn to react like okay, you can have it for now, kind of a more positive response to the same trigger. If that makes sense.
Corey McCusker 16:39
No, that’s really good. And I know there’s so much with what you do and the knowledge that you have and the resources too. So for the listeners that are with us today, can you share what a session would look like if they were to come, if someone was to come to you.
Jesse McCowan 16:56
Let’s walk through an acupressure session for a dog with anxiety. So that’s really common and it’s helpful to see how it’s all laid out. So let’s say the owner called and all they told me was that their dog is constantly stressed out, especially if left alone. They didn’t give me any context or any other information about the dog’s background. Usually they will, if they have that information, but sometimes they don’t. Something I want to mention is that usually, if I’m going into the space of any animal, but especially those that have anxiety, or are nervous around new people, I like to make sure that the energy I’m bringing into this space is calm. Because if I come in and I’m you know, slugging back coffee, and I’m shaking, and I got all this stuff going on, he’s not going to want anything to do with me. So in order for me to be able to do my job, and actually, you know, work with the dog with my hands on them, I have to be really calm. So there’s a lot of tools for that and I’m not going to get into it now, but making sure that I’m relaxed to go in. As soon as I see the dog, I start observing them without making direct eye contact, because sometimes that can be seen as aggression. I make mental notes on some of the various Traditional Chinese Medicine indicators. So this includes, but obviously, this is not the whole list, the health of their coat, in terms of softness, texture, if it’s flaking a lot if they have any rashes, discharge from any orifices – this is ears, eyes, nose mouth – the fluidity of their movements. So how is their gait? Are they a little bit stiff? Are they walking smoothly? Are they sore on one side? How is their muscle tone? Are they a little bit older, maybe they’re starting to atrophy a little bit in the hind end. We’re looking at their dental health, if they will let you look into their mouth, the quality of their nails, the brightness of their eyes, these are all things that we can then link to meridian systems to help us balance. So the more information here I can get, the better. I explain to the owner of what I’m looking for, and if I notice anything abnormal, I always inquire about how long it’s been going on for or when did they notice this, because getting their medical background can be really helpful. Usually, they’ll tell me the reason that they called, they’ll give me a little bit of background. So this can be helpful. The second part is listening for any abnormal sounds or any abnormal smells. So if there’s like a really rotten ripe smell coming from them, it could be something like an ear infection. I’ve actually had a client whose dog had a very serious ear infection and he didn’t even know because he didn’t know what the inside of the dog’s ear looked like in a normal day. When we know there’s redness in there and the pus coming out of the ear is actually an infection. So you need to do something about that. I then talk to the owner about the dog’s daily routine, their diet, their exercise, their medical history, and any bowel movements. So making sure I understand what a day in the life of this dog actually is, because it’ll help me better understand how they’re responding to their environment. After I’ve gathered what I need, I can touch the dog for the first time, if I haven’t already petted them to introduce myself, to assess for any areas of heat or coolness in the body, because it’ll tell me if there’s any inflammation. If there’s any sensitive areas or scars, maybe they don’t want to be touched in that area, because then I can pick acupressure points away from that area because there are so many to choose from, and begin the rebalancing part of the session. There’s a category of points along the back called association points, which give me a general idea of how balanced the meridians are. If there are any imbalanced meridians, I check the related alarm points, this is the second category, which tells me how chronic the issue is. So essentially, the longer the issue’s been in the animal’s body, the deeper it goes into their system. So if you think about someone who has a cold for a day, and they get better, they have a strong immune system. But if they’ve had a weak immune system for a long time, it can lead to something like pneumonia, or bronchitis. So that would be more chronic in nature. Using all this information, I can then determine a session plan and choose the appropriate acupoints to help rebalance the dog’s chi. After gently pressing on the chosen acupoints, I can close out the session and make recommendations to the owner on next steps. Sometimes this includes a follow up session, showing the owner an acupoint or to to do in-between because I always like to get the owner involved in making changes to feel like they’re participating, or any lifestyle changes I think would help the dog. That’s generally how an acupressure session goes.
Corey McCusker 21:35
Which is I mean, that’s a lot that you’re taking into consideration before you even touch the dog. And you know, having taken your program, I know what I had to do before even showing up into class and all of the knowledge that I learned about the Chinese medicine, the meridian points and everything else. So it’s really valuable information. And it is a different holistic therapy that can really benefit the dogs. So that’s great. What I do want to do is wrap up. I know there’s so much more that we could talk about. I want to make sure that we leave the listeners with your information today. And you’ve shared quite a bit also and we probably will have you back on another one. And maybe we’ll dig a little bit deeper into one of those. Those listening, if you want to learn more about Jesse and Birch Animal Wellness, you can visit her website and we have included it in the show notes. But Jesse, what is your website just to make sure that they’re aware?
Jesse McCowan 22:34
The website is birchanimalwellness.com. And if you’re more interested in learning about acupressure and discovering a little more about that, the website for that is tallgrassnorthamerica.com.
Corey McCusker 22:45
Okay. And I’ll make sure we put those in the show notes. So Jesse, thank you so much for joining us today and sharing what you do and how you help. My dog has benefited from it. I have benefited from it. And it is really valuable information for those dog owners out there that are looking to help their pets be healthier, which in terms means they’re happier and hopefully with us longer. So as Jesse said her website is www.birchanimalwellness.com, Thank you, Jesse so much.
Jesse McCowan 23:19
You’re very welcome. It’s always fun to have a chat with another like-minded dog practitioner.
Corey McCusker 23:26
Jesse McCowan 23:26
Thank you so much for having me.
Corey McCusker 23:27
No problem. We loved having you. And thanks everyone for joining us today to discuss the holistic therapies that Jesse offers and how they can help your pet live a longer, healthier life. If you would like to learn more or listen to other podcasts, please visit our website at www.muttzwithmannerz.com. Thanks everyone for listening in today. Have a great day, and bye