Whether young or old, weak or strong, injured or not, lean or overweight, canine massage benefits all canines. Below are a few of the ways in which massage can benefit our dogs:
- Improves function and tonality of muscles
- Decreases muscle soreness, fatigue, weakness and tension
- Improves joint mobility and flexibility
- Improves circulation
- Encourages flushing of metabolic waste
- Improves digestion
- Improves coat quality
- Improves skin tone
- Helps reduce restlessness and calm anxious pets
Dogs That Can Benefit From Massage
Dogs that compete in agility, flyball, field trials, obedience, and other activities can benefit from massage and stretching. It improves muscle tone, lengthens their stride, increases range of motion, and allows for more fluid movement. This reduces the rate of sports-related injuries.
Show dogs must show the proper balance, reach and gait that conforms to a specific standard for their breed. It is important that they be moving fluidly and comfortably in order to perform their best. Massage helps to achieve that ideal fluidity of movement and balance in gait. Massage can also calm show dogs and give them focus before getting into the ring. It can give that dog the competitive edge over other dogs in the ring. It can be the defining difference between a dog that is “Best in Breed” or “Best In Show” and a dog that was also shown but didn’t win any titles.
Dogs who provide a service to us humans in the work they do can also benefit from regular massage. Herding dogs, police dogs, service dogs, hunting dogs, search and rescue dogs, and drug/bomb detection dogs fall into this category. Massage can reduce the tension and muscle soreness from pulling against a harness, walking over rough surfaces for long periods, climbing over rubble or debris, or racing through the woods after a downed water fowl. It also helps to counteract the high stress level that some dogs acquire along with their demanding jobs.
Shelter dogs recently adopted and brought into a new home, or just dogs that have a nervous personality can benefit from a massage. It helps build confidence and trust in human touch for those dogs that have trust issues.
Whether recovering from soft tissue damage or orthopedic surgery to have a joint or ligament repaired or replaced, veterinarians are increasingly recommending swim therapy and massage therapy. It speeds up the rehabilitation/healing process and helps to ensure the animal makes a full recovery. Rehabilitation massage can be beneficial when used in conjuction with veterinary care. It can shorten recovery time, keep muscles from reaching a state of atrophy, aid in preventing re-injury, decrease pain and discomfort of recovery, and ease the transition back into normal movement.
Puppies and young dogs are highly active and are still in the process of learning how their bodies move. The constant activity level of these spunky little devils, combined with growth spurts, and put stress on their bodies and cause a moderate amount of pain (growing pains). Massage can help ease the discomfort of rapidly growing bones and muscles. It can also help the young pup to calm down and relax, and help to reduce injuries induced by rough-and-tumble play.
Just like with humans, dogs experience aches and pains with getting older. Stiff joints, a decrease in flexibility and range of motion, and fatigue or atrophy in certain muscles from lack of use are common. Massage helps to improve muscle tone and restore balance to dogs who may have weakness or atrophy in certain muscles from lack of activity. It aids in joint flexibility and an increase in range of motion. It can help older pets achieve a higher level of movement with more ease/less discomfort.
Carrying and whelping a litter can be highly stressful on a dog’s body. Massage can aid in adjusting her displaced bones and easing the stress in her taxed joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments from carrying extra weight. It can also help to alleviate the psychological stress of carrying the litter. Massage can benefit her once the litter has been born by helping to calm her throughout the whelping and weaning process.
Dogs With Joint Conditions
Dogs with arthritis, hip dysplasia, patellar luxation, or other similar disorders can benefit from massage. When combined with a proper diet and exercise, massage can increase flexibility and range of motion in a dog’s joints and muscles, allowing for more mobility. Regular massage of dogs with joint disease or malformations can play a significant role in keeping their joints moving and comfortable.
Dogs That Should Not Receive Massage
- Dogs with Fever/Contagious Disease – If your animal has a fever or a contagious disease such as ringworm, a skin infection, anemia, or leukemia.
- Dogs Exhibiting Human Aggression – If your animal exhibits human aggression, a massage may not be possible.
- Dogs with Severe Fear or Trust Issues – A massage is not recommended for these animals, as they may never fully relax and enjoy the benefits of a massage.
Pet massage is similar to human massage in some ways. It is to be used in conjunction with regular medical care and is not to be used as a treatment for an illness. It cannot reverse or cure diseases. *Animal massage practitioners are not qualified to diagnose, give prognoses, or treat any suspected medical problems.* You will be referred to a veterinarian if any new problems are identified that contraindicate massage. Massage practitioners may work in conjunction with your veterinarian to address your pet’s specific problems. You can find a certified animal massage practitioner in your area by searching the member directory, located here: IAAMB Member Directory