|September 20, 2012||Posted by Lani Varga under Good Living|
Believe it or not, just a couple of days after our fearless leader Padi asked if I’d write an article about pet massage therapy, my new boss at work began absolutely raving about her dogs’ massage therapist and how they absolutely adore her. Until then, I hadn’t realized how popular massage therapy is for pets, but apparently, my boss’s dogs have been known to watch at the window for their therapist to arrive and rush outside and lie down (belly-side-up) on the walkway to greet her when she does. They love her and the magic she brings each week. I had already begun to do a little bit of research on this phenomenon as it’s gaining in popularity, but what is it about massage therapy that is so good for pets, and what makes them absolutely love it? Today, we’ll introduce you to this new branch of veterinary science, filling you in on what massage therapy can do for your pets, what the process actually entails, and how to find a great therapist in your area.
First, let’s take a look at some of the benefits that dedicated massage therapy can bring to pets. Most of us are familiar with how important touch is, from the calming touch that we need after a long day to the healing touch of a mother’s hand, to the invigorating touch of an athletic trainer. Just as massage can help us escape from the stresses of our day and fill us with a renewed sense of energy or calm, massage therapy can instill the same benefits to our pets. According to Hand & Paw animal massage therapists, therapeutic massage can help animals suffering from stiffness, tension, and pain in the muscles (as a result of overwork or old age); injuries; various chronic conditions; social and emotional issues such as shyness, fear, stress, and aggression, and can even aid in animals’ post-surgery rehabilitation and boosting athletic agility. The main reason massage is so effective for both humans and animals alike is that when massaged, body tissues respond by dilating blood vessels, which immediately improves circulation. When blood can flow more effectively, it delivers nutrients and oxygen more efficiently to the whole body. This allows bodies to heal themselves from the outside in. Some examples of this kind of healing include improved hormonal response, improved energy, increased range of motion and decreased pain, and improved emotional response.
Next, let’s look at massage a little more specifically. One type of massage that can be done over most parts of the body is called “friction massage,” or palpitation. According to Pet Health Advisor, friction massage involves rotating the pads of your hands in a circular pattern with varying degrees of pressure. The Lightfoot Way recommends that dogs in particular enjoy armpit massages, which you can do yourself at any time. For example, you can apply gentle pressure with a friction massage while your dog is in a vet’s waiting room or at the groomer’s. This can almost immediately relax a jumpy dog and even see instant results: if s/he is enjoying it, you’ll notice a drop in head posture, a softening of the eyes, and you may even get a peek of a slack tongue. The Ojai School of Massage discusses a technique called “trigger point massage,” which involves focusing friction massage on a body’s trigger points, or spots that experience pain even while at rest. These are usually spots that have been overworked or injured in some way. Trigger point massage involves a massage therapist examining the animal for trigger points, which may or may not be points that you’d be aware of or could even notice (your dog might limp if his knee is sore, for instance, but what if he’s strained one of his tiny stomach muscles?). Once the therapist identifies these trigger points, he or she will administer friction massage just as we mentioned earlier, but in a much more intensive and focused way. You can read more about the process at Ojai’s website, found here.
To begin the process of massage therapy for your pets, you have a couple of options. You can either find a licensed therapist or you can begin therapy on your own. For information about how to find a licensed animal massage therapist in your local area, please take a look at the following link: http://naturallycomplementary.com/Find-dog-horse-cat-animal-massage-therapist-practitioner-for-canines-equines-felines.html. This site offers a great search function where you can look for therapists for not just dogs and cats, but horses and other pets as well. If you’re looking for more information on how to start a gentle massage yourself, I strongly recommend reviewing the video here: http://www.monkeysee.com/play/2163-how-to-massage-your-dog. Seeing someone perform these techniques will be much more helpful than trying to figure out what I mean by “circular pattern” and will allow you to start confidently.
Of course, as with any new treatment for your pets, you’ll want to make sure that you keep their safety and comfort in mind. Don’t attempt any massage technique if your pet is injured and in need of medical attention or if they are uncomfortable with touch. Contact your vet in an emergency and a massage therapist for more serious treatments. Good luck and let us know how it goes!
Sources: Hand & Paw Animal Massage; PetSide; Pet Health Advisor/The Lightfoot Way; Ojai School of Massage;