Reiki for Pets and Other Animals

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Reiki for Pets and Other Animals

Suzanne Wentley August 27, 2021
Shutterstock (article on Reiki for pets and other animals)


Whether you’re one of the 84.5 million American households with a dog, cat, bird, or horse1 or you simply love animals, it’s likely there’s been a time when you wished you could alleviate their pain.

Furry and feathered (or even scaley, squishy, and leathery) friends can experience many of the same health issues humans face. Diabetes, thyroid problems, epilepsy, cancer, and infections of the immune system2 don’t discriminate among species. In addition, mental conditions such as anxietydepression, and compulsive behaviors plague all kinds.3

Although visiting a veterinarian is common when pets need medical care, other less common options, such as holistic therapies, offer valuable complements. An energy-based healing practice known as Reiki can effectively address a wide range of physical, mental, and emotional issues animals face. It can heighten the comfort of your pets and other animals and can support or even replace biomedical treatments that may be prohibitively expensive.

What Is Reiki?

Reiki, which comes from the Japanese words rei (universal) and ki (life force energy), is a healing practice that gained popularity 100 years ago when a monk named Mikao Usui Sensei envisioned sacred symbols that unlocked our connection with the limitless, healing energy in our universe. He began sharing his knowledge with others, and today there are more than one million Reiki practitioners throughout the world.4

Reiki centers on attunement, a process by which a person becomes connected to the healing life force, ki, and becomes a healer.5 Reiki therapy seeks to heal clients physically, mentally, emotionally, and karmically.5 Anyone who completes an attunement process with a Reiki master can become a therapist for both humans and pets. These classes can take between 4 hr and 2 days. The process includes a hands-on, secret ritual in which a master transfers the connection to healing energy to a student.

How Is a Reiki Practitioner Trained?

There are four levels of Reiki attunement. The first level teaches practitioners hands-on healing. Once someone has achieved the first level of attunement, they can heal others. The second level comes with increased healing energy and allows for remote treatments, which are important when it is impossible (or dangerous) to touch the recipient. In advanced Reiki training, practitioners learn additional skills to refine and improve their ability to facilitate healing for their clients. At the final level, the full-mastery level, practitioners are considered Reiki masters and can train other practitioners. The master training process takes about a year to complete.

Can Reiki Healing Be Performed on Pets and Other Animals?

Yes! I have been a Reiki master and practitioner for nearly 20 years, and I’m also a pet sitter who has cared for cats, dogs, horses, fish, and lizards throughout four continents. During this time, I have witnessed the benefits of Reiki for animals, and it has proved to be an invaluable tool for me to calm pets who miss their families.

For example, I lived in Tokyo with a cat named Mr. Handsome, who demonstrated separation anxiety with daily hissing, sulking, and messes. One day, he let me get close enough on the couch to hover my hands near him for a remote Reiki treatment. Within minutes, he started purring.

Another time, when I was living in New Zealand, I talked to friends in Argentina who were distraught over their missing dog. I had cared for that dog for months and shared a special bond, so I sent remote Reiki to the pooch. She returned home the next day.

Finally, when I lived in the Dominican Republic, there were many street dogs and few veterinarians. I volunteered at a spay-and-neuter clinic and used Reiki regularly to relax the nervous animals.

Potential Benefits of Reiki for Animals

Because animals cannot provide posttreatment reviews, it can be challenging to list the benefits of animal Reiki definitively. However, animal Reiki practitioners, including myself, have noted that Reiki can benefit animals by

  • reducing stress,
  • calming destructive behaviors,
  • easing pain,
  • improving or regulating appetite,
  • addressing traumas from the past, and
  • speeding up the healing process.

Reiki for Pets and Other Animals

Animals may have learned to hide injuries to avoid appearing vulnerable in the wild, but pet owners often know when something is off. The common myth that animals don’t feel pain like humans was rebuffed in a study for the National Research Council’s Committee on Recognition and Alleviation of Pain in Laboratory Animals.7

Reiki for Dogs

Dogs suffer from many complex conditions that can benefit from Reiki treatments, including

  • joint problems,
  • cancer-related pain,
  • emotional problems leading to overeating,
  • social anxiety, and
  • nervousness due to loud noises.

A Reiki session feels even better than a belly rub! And there’s no reason why attuned practitioners couldn’t do both at the same time.

Reiki for Cats

Cats also deal with physical, emotional, and mental problems. Like with dogs, it’s not always clear when they are in pain, where their pain is located, or what is causing their pain. Common issues faced by cats that Reiki treatments can address include

  • aggression,
  • abandonment issues,
  • pain from broken bones, and
  • lack of appetite due to cancer medical treatments.

Like with all alternative treatments, Reiki works best as a complement to veterinary medicine.

Reiki for Horses

The International Association of Reiki Professionals reports that equine vets trained in Reiki help lessen travel stress and reduce digestive problems in horses.8

Horses are especially open to receiving the healing power of Reiki as they are used to their trainers touching them. Reiki treatments can calm horses, which may facilitate healing of all kinds.

Reiki for Other Animals

Because it’s unnecessary to touch an animal to provide Reiki healing, treatments can be performed on injured animals in the wild, bored animals at zoos, sea creatures suffering in oil spills, and many other negative situations.

The Effectiveness of Reiki for Animals

While few scientific studies have directly assessed the efficacy of Reiki treatments among animals, there is quite a bit of anecdotal evidence that cannot be ignored.

For example, Bandit, a therapy horse for children and adults with special needs, suffered a fall that left him immobile. His owner thought he might need to be euthanized but first tried Reiki therapy. The Reiki practitioner was able to heal Bandit’s injuries. His owner even claimed he was in better condition than before his accident.9

I often used Reiki when I lived on the southern Baja peninsula of Mexico, where donkeys were wild. Every day, I could hear donkeys braying wildly—and one day, I figured out why. They were fighting (and perhaps trying to mate at the same time). I would give Reiki to these wild animals and discovered they were often calmer afterward.

I imagine that every pet owner attuned in Reiki has a story about how the universal healing energy work helped their animal. For a while, I had a sweet cat named Penelope, who lived with me on a sailboat. She did not like it when the loud diesel engine would roar, but just a few minutes of Reiki would help her fall back asleep.

Scientific studies are underway to illustrate the potential benefits of Reiki among humans. Initial studies compiled by Ann Baldwin and colleagues at the Holistic Nursing Practice suggest numerous benefits for humans, including reducing knee pain and alleviating chemotherapy-related suffering.10 Baldwin also conducted a study that found that Reiki therapy administered to rats exposed to noise levels similar to that of a hospital reduced their amount of noise-induced microvascular leakage.11 A similar study Baldwin conducted found that Reiki therapy helped reduce the effects of noise on rats’ heart rates.12 In addition, a 2017 study published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine by David E. McManus found that Reiki worked better than a placebo to activate the parasympathetic nervous system to heal the body and mind.13

Other Energy Healing Techniques for Animals

Reiki is best used in conjunction with other healing practices. Many pet owners and veterinarians seek out more holistic healing techniques and therapies because they treat the physical and behavioral signs of illness and injury. They may also practice preventative medicine using herbal and nutritional supplements to prevent diseases from developing.14 Other holistic practices used by veterinarians for animal wellness include15

  • acupuncture,
  • aromatherapy,
  • Bach’s flower essences (administered to the soft part of a paw),
  • low-level laser therapies, and
  • other herbal medicines.

Through experimentation with these options, biomedical practices, and dedicated use of Reiki energy, it may be possible to ease suffering among our beloved animals, be they in our homes or in the wild.


  1. American Veterinary Medical Association. (n.d.). U.S. pet ownership statistics.
  2. BBC. (2017, March 30). Five illnesses pets and humans have in common.
  3. Hauser, W. (n.d.). What to know about mental health care and dogs. ASPCA.
  4. Rand, W. L. (n.d.). The greatest healing the world has known. International Center for Reiki Training.
  5. Stein, D. (2011). Essential Reiki: A complete guide to an ancient healing art. Clarkson Potter/Ten Speed.
  6. Quest, P. (2003). Reiki and animals. International Center for Reiki Training.
  7. National Research Council (US) Committee on Recognition and Alleviation of Pain in Laboratory Animals. (2009). Recognition and alleviation of pain in laboratory animals. National Academies Press.
  8. International Association of Reiki Professionals. (n.d.). Reiki for horses, the benefits of equine Reiki.
  9. Paul, N. L. (2011). Reiki for dummies. Wiley Publishing.
  10. Baldwin, A. L., Brownell, E., Kearns, M., Scicinski, J., Vitale, A., & Williams, R. (2010). The Touchstone process: An ongoing critical evaluation of Reiki in the scientific literature. Holistic Nursing Practice, 24(5), 260–276.
  11. Baldwin, A., & Schwartz, G. E. (2006). Personal interaction with a Reiki practitioner decreases noise-induced microvascular damage in an animal model. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 12(1), 15–22.
  12. Baldwin, A., Schwartz, G. E., & Wagers, C. (2008). Reiki improves heart homeostasis in laboratory rats. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 14(4), 417–422.
  13. McManus, D. E. (2017). Reiki is better than placebo and has broad potential as a complementary health therapy. Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine, 22(4), 1051–1057.
  14. Pesch, L. (2014). Holistic pediatric veterinary medicine. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice, 44(2), 355–366.
  15. American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association. (n.d.). Holistic veterinary therapies.

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