Canine Massage Therapy Treatment For Dogs

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    What is Canine Massage Therapy for Dogs?

    boston terrier laying on a massage table with a woman in a black shirt standing behind him with both hands on the dog

    Canine massage therapy for dogs is a type of rehabilitation that involves using particular hand motions on a patient to enhance muscle and joint function by releasing tension, spasms, and other impediments to improve mobility. It can be used to warm up, relax or stimulate muscles to avoid damage, or to help a patient recover after an accident. Massage can also help to compensate for poor circulation by increasing blood and lymphatic fluid flow. Finally, massage is used to activate the activity of numerous internal organs via reflexively connected and outwardly located portals of entry, which are commonly referred to as trigger points and/or acupressure sites.

    What Does Canine Massage Therapy Treat?

    There are several advantages to canine massage therapy. Canine massage improves blood flow, relieves tension, reduces discomfort, relaxes stiff and tired muscles, and aids in the healing of sprains and strains by working directly on the soft tissues of the dog. Many people also believe it aids digestion, enhances the immune system, and decreases blood pressure. Massage is frequently used in combination with canine training and chiropractic adjustments by many dog owners. Here is a list of common reasons that dogs get canine massage therapy:

    Is Canine Massage Therapy Safe?

    Massage is one of those alternative practices that is often considered to be “harmless,” despite the fact that it may be harmful in rare situations. Massage should be avoided in dogs with certain disorders (such as mast cell cancer and osteosarcoma), and dogs with spinal injuries who need special care. Consult a veterinarian before massaging a dog that has a fever, has just been hurt, or “just isn’t right.”

    close up of dog's leg being massaged

    How Do I Get Started With Canine Massage Therapy For My Dog?

    If you are interested in canine massage therapy, ask your vet if they think your dog might benefit from it. Most veterinarians are qualified to teach clients how to use passive range of motion procedures to help recovering dogs preserve mobility through passive limb motions. Other massage methods and applications are even more specialized, and they need extra education. For example,  acupressure frequently necessitates some academic education in Chinese medical theory. 

    A licensed massage therapist can also practice massage on animals when a veterinarian has made a diagnosis in accordance with state or regional veterinary laws. If the treatment will be performed by someone other than a veterinarian, the patient must be referred by a veterinarian, who will then be in charge of assessing and directing the patient’s care. If you have a preferred therapist, make sure to bring that up to your vet. You can find a list of canine massage therapy specialist in our specialist directory.

    What Happens During a Canine Massage Therapy Treatment Session?

    yellow lab getting canine massage therapy

    Before the first massage therapy treatment, the practitioner will usually want the dog’s owner to fill out an intake form which would include any physical or behavioral issues the dog may have, and then review the information with you. The therapist working on your dog should allow you to be present during the session and may even prefer it as your dog might be more relaxed. This may be done either in your home or at the office, usually a physical therapy/rehabilitation facility.

    Depending on how the dog acts and whether they are nervous/scared or relaxed, the therapist might spray a calming pheromone like Adaptil or play calming music. The therapist should be aware of dogs’ body language and avoid massaging areas that the dog is expressing that they are uncomfortable with.

    Sessions can vary in length depending on the dog’s reaction, condition, owner’s financial situation, and what is recommended by the vet. If the dog is willing, the therapist can progress from warming-up strokes (like effleurage and compression) to deeper methods (like petrissage and direct pressure) and to additional parts of the body. Various techniques may be used including but not limited to:

    • Swedish Massage: great for warming up tissue to allow for deeper strokes as well as working most minor muscle problems. 
    • Trigger Point Therapy: Trigger point therapy will soften up the knots in the muscle using direct pressure.
    • Myofascial: Myofascial release is a technique that employs light pressure to change the tissue that surrounds muscles.
    • Acupressure: In Acupressure, physical pressure is given on acupuncture points or ashi trigger points in order to alleviate blockages in these meridians during treatment. Pressure can be administered with the hand, elbow, or a variety of devices. This technique is also often done in conjunction with acupuncture.
    Canine Massage Therapy for Dogs
    Massage Therapy for Dogs
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