Canine Massage: What You Need to Know
Tight, sore muscles? Joint pain? Stressed out? Sounds like someone needs a massage – and we meant your dog.
Canine massage has been around for a long time, perhaps since the Ancient Egyptians, but didn’t really begin to grow in popularity in North America until the 1970s. The US Equestrian Team formalized their horses’ pre- and post-competition “rub-downs” as therapy, bringing attention to the benefits of massage to animals as well as people.
Just like in humans, massage can be used to:
- Warm up muscles
- Relieve tension, knots and spasms
- Help control joint pain
- Increase circulation of both blood and lymph
- Stimulate internal organs through the reflex system
- Release endorphins
- Rehabilitate injuries and help with recovery after orthopedic surgeries
- Relieve stress and anxiety
While the laws vary drastically across the country, massage is one alternative therapy that can potentially be performed by someone other than your veterinarian (check out this chart from the International Association of Animal Massage and Bodywork for an overview of laws by state). In some places, any licensed massage therapist can treat your dog under the supervision of your veterinarian. In others, veterinary supervision is not even required – but of course, you’ll want to be very careful about choosing a therapist; your veterinarian would be a good source of referrals in your area.
But the really cool thing is that, just like with your human loved ones, you can even do this to a certain extent yourself. Your veterinarian can show you some at-home techniques, whether your dog is being treated for a specific problem, or you just want to bond with her and help her relax.
Remember that therapeutic massage is a medical therapy, so if you are not a professional, make sure you seek professional advice before beginning any at-home treatment - massage is not recommended in the case of open wounds, unstable fractures, clotting conditions, infection, or near the site of tumors.
With all that in mind, massage can be a great alternative therapy for a number of conditions, and a lovely opportunity to bond with your best friend.