What Is Canine Massage?
Canine massage is the non-invasive, gentle manipulation of the skin, muscles, and connective tissues of the body using various hands-on techniques in order to help your dog regain physical and emotional balance. By massaging these soft tissue structures, all systems of the body are affected which, in turn, activates the dog’s own energy to support healing and balance within.
Why Do Dogs Need Massage?
Dogs get stressed, anxious, and injured just like we do. But, they don’t have a way to relieve the stress, anxiety, or pain. As their caregivers, guardians, owners, and handlers, we must help our friends, companions, and pets achieve balance in body, mind, and spirit.
What Are the Benefits of Massage?
The physical benefits of regular massage:
- Stimulates circulation of the blood and absorption of nutrients to all body systems
- Helps flush waste products out of the body
- Lowers blood pressure
- Boosts the immune system
- Improves skin and coat through distribution of natural oils
- Aids in digestion
- Helps to relieve pain and soreness
- Relaxes tired, fatigued, or overworked muscles
- Minimizes formation of scar tissue and restrictions caused by scar tissue
- Increases flexibility of muscles and joints, and enhances range of motion
- Shortens recovery time after exercise and helps reduce risk, severity, and frequency of injuries
- Supports the healing process from illness, injury, surgery, or other trauma
- Serves as a passive form of exercise for non-active, injured, convalescing, older, or terminally ill dogs
- Promotes early detection of changes that may signal injury or disease
The emotional benefits of regular massage:
- Accustoms a dog to touch, and helps him/her develop trust in humans
- Enhances body awareness and increases self confidence
- Enhances bonding and relationship with humans
- Promotes positive social development, social skills, and behavior
- Provides comfort and fosters a sense of well-being and calm
- Helps relax the body and mind
- Lessens anxiety, tension, stress
- Reduces restlessness and improves quality of sleep
In general, massage is not frivolous pampering – it offers so many physical and emotional benefits for your dog that you could consider it as essential a component of health care as food, water, shelter, exercise, and grooming. Massage and bodywork can significantly contribute to your dog’s overall health, energy, and quality of life. And, best of all…it feels good!
What Kinds of Dogs Benefit from Massage?
Every dog can benefit from regular massage – young, old, big, small, healthy, sick, working, non-working, active, not active.
- Puppies: Massage helps puppies learn to accept touch from strangers, making handling by veterinarians and groomers less stressful. Massage can also ease “growing pains” and help puppies recover from activity.
- Older Dogs: Older dogs often suffer from digestive disorders, arthritis, muscular pain/cramping/stiffness, reduced muscle tone and poor mobility. Therapeutic massage can reduce pain, help maintain flexibility and mobility, and stimulate circulation of the blood and absorption of oxygen and nutrients to all body tissues. For non-active, convalescing, or terminally ill dogs, massage acts as a passive form of exercise that helps delay muscular atrophy related to forced inactivity. Massage is a powerful tool in palliative care.
- Companion Dogs: Many large breed dogs are prone to hip dysplasia, and many long-backed dogs are prone to back problems. Massage, as a preventative therapy, is a great way to slow down the degenerative process and help your dog maintain their optimum wellness. Massage can also help detect any changes in your dog, which may signal injury or disease. Massage is used as a method of communication and helps to increase the bond between you and your dog.
- Dogs with Anxiety, Stress, or History of Abuse/Neglect: Stress can come from internal factors (individual personality, genetics, state of health) as well as from external (environmental) factors. When your dog is stressed, his body produces chemicals (hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, for example) to cope. Prolonged elevated levels of these chemicals inhibit healthy functioning of the whole body. Massage helps move the chemicals out of the body, lowers blood pressure, relaxes the body and mind, and enables your dog to regain a healthy balance.
- Service Dogs: Police (K-9) dogs, search and rescue dogs, guide dogs, therapy dogs, and all other dogs who do important work are always on alert. The work they do, whether tracking, leading the blind, etc., puts stress on their entire bodies, both physically and mentally. In service dogs, stress tends to be more concentrated in the neck and forelimbs. Massage can help them stay strong and healthy by relieving daily stress, pain, soreness, and fatigue in their overworked muscles.
- Dog Athletes and Weekend Warriors: A massage before exercise will warm up and loosen the muscles, lessening the likelihood of injury. During exercise, chemical hormones, like adrenaline, and cellular waste products can build up in the tissues. After exercise, a massage will increase the circulation and lymphatic drainage, which helps flush these wastes out of the body, soothing sore muscles, alleviating fatigue, and shortening recovery time.
- Pre / Post-Surgical Dogs: Canine massage can comfort your dog and ease their stress before any surgical procedure while boosting the immune system. After surgery, massage assists the lymphatic system while increasing blood circulation to help tissue heal faster. Massage also prevents clotting in inactive muscles, lessens formation of scar tissue, and restores joint range of motion and movement. Your dog’s recovery time is shortened and easier.