Massage can have great health and psychological benefits for pets of all ages, size and breed. Whilst there are some professionals trained in pet massage, it is something that you can do daily, easily and at no cost at home to improve your pets well-being.
Massage has a variety of benefits from the mechanical effect on the soft tissues. It helps to relieve muscle tension, decrease pain, stimulate circulation and improve lymph flow. Massage may also help to lower blood pressure, improve immune function and stimulate digestion. It helps to reduce stress in anxious pets and massaging your own pet can help to improve the bond between you and your pet.
Massage is particularly beneficial for pets with arthritis, muscle stiffness and those recovering from injuries. It helps to maintain mobility and flexibility in pets that need to be confined after surgery or due to injury. Working and competitive dogs will benefit from massage to help to prevent injury and improve recovery.
Whilst there are specialised pet massage techniques, you don’t need any training to start massaging your pet. Treat your pet as you would do a human. Work along the lines of the muscles and pay special attention to areas where the muscles feel stiff and tense. Common areas of tension are the neck, lower back, lumbar area and also the triceps muscles (back part of the upper arm). You need to start very gently and not cause any pain or discomfort to your pet. For some pets (especially cats and frail dogs) very little pressure is required.
During my home vet visits I tailor a physical therapy program to each pet combining acupuncture, massage, stretching and exercises. Vets at Home can also teach owners how to massage, do stretches, perform acupressure and relieve muscle trigger points on their pets. If you would like guidance on how to best perform these techniques, find a vet or therapist with an interest in massage or physical therapies to help you.