Massage for Dogs
Some of the things massage can do for your dog
Calm and Relax
Increase Flexibility and Range of Motion
Restore Natural Gait and Balance
Relieve Muscle Tension, Adhesions and "Knots"
Sooth Sore Muscles and Joints
Hasten Recovery from Injury
Aid in Preparation for Orthopedic Surgery
Contribute to Post-Surgical Rehabilitation
Accustom Dog to All-Over Touch
Make your dog feel great!
Growing puppies and young dogs
Canine bodywork can alleviate discomfort often caused by rapid growth of bones and muscles. It can also calm and focus the excitable, active adolescent. Massage reduces the risk of injury which frequently accompanies rowdy play, jumping, rolling, wrestling and generally being an adventurous, energetic young dog.
Dogs in their golden years benefit from massage in many ways. Massage reduces pain and stiffness common in aging dogs, making it easier for them to get to their feet, stabilize themselves, and move about comfortably. Massage promotes circulation, bringing nutrients and warmth to extremities-- paws, ears and tail. Massage is also good for dogs who have decreased activity levels, keeping muscles toned and slowing atrophy and musculoskeletal degeneration.
While massage cannot turn back the hands of time and make our senior dogs into pups again, many owners say that after a massage their older dogs act more lively, play and even participate in activities in which they hadn't shown interest for weeks, months or, sometimes, years.
Dogs Suffering from Arthritis and Other Joint Disorders
Dogs can develop arthritis at any age, though the condition generally worsens over time. Some dogs with hip or elbow dysplasia don't show symptoms of the disorder until middle age or older (as the muscles which normally support the affected joints become weaker.) in other cases the condition is evident and limits the dog's mobility from an early age. The keys to keeping the affects of these disorders from severely limiting comfort or mobility are to control the dog's weight, keep the dog's joints supple and Develop the dog's muscles, maintaining their bulk and tone for as long as possible.
Massage increases and maintains flexibility and range of motion, allowing many dogs improved mobility. Along with exercise and a good diet, massage can play a significant role in keeping dogs with joint disease or congenital malformation of the joints up, moving and comfortable. Young to middle-aged dogs with minor gait abnormalities can often continue in their normal activities with proper bodywork and conditioning routines.
Dogs Recovering from Injury or in Post-Surgical Rehabilitation
Whether a dog has sustained soft-tissue damage or has undergone orthopedic surgery to reconstruct or replace a ligament or joint, recovery can be long and fraught with its own risks. Increasingly, veterinary surgeons are encouraging owners to work closely with swim therapists and bodyworkers to hasten and ease rehabilitation and assure full recovery.
Massage administered in cooperation with the dog's veterinarian can shorten recovery time, prevent problems caused by muscle atrophy, decrease pain and discomfort, aid in preventing post-surgical re-injury, reduce scarring, and adhesion and ease the transition back to normal activity levels. **
Dogs Awaiting Orthopedic Surgery
In cooperation with the dog's vet, gentle massage in the weeks and days prior to orthopedic surgery can help decrease pain and discomfort, maintain existing muscle tone, promote joint flexibility and range of motion on the unaffected limbs and can be helpful to your vet and her staff in preparing your dog for surgery. **
Shy or recently-adopted dogs
Massage can reduce the stress and anxiety often experienced by dogs adjusting to new homes. It can also help shy or mistrustful dogs learn to accept human touch and build their confidence.
Brood Bitches and Neonatal Pups
Carrying and whelping a litter can be painful and stressful on a bitch's musculoskeletal system. Massage in the hours and weeks following whelping can ease some of the discomfort and aid in restoring the bitch's displaced bones, loosened joints, taxed muscles and stretched tendons and ligaments to their normal state.
Long hours in the whelping box and tending to a litter can also be stressful for some bitches. Massage calms, relaxes and counteracts stress, making it easier for many "new mothers" to care for their pups and themselves.
The puppies, too, can benefit from massage right from the outset. If the bitch is reluctant to lick her pups sufficiently to clean them, clear their lungs and stimulate respiration, a canine bodyworker can step in and assist until the dam is ready to assume these duties, herself. All-over handling in the pups' early hours, days and weeks aids in healthy development and gives the pups a head-start on socialization. Puppies born underweight or with mild musculoskeletal or respiratory problems can benefit tremendously from early massage by a trained, professional bodyworker, often catching up to (or surpassing) their siblings, developmentally-speaking. Studies have shown that, properly applied, passive range of motion exercises and stimulation of the pads of the pups' feet promote motor development and proprioception (the pups' understanding of their own body positions relative to the world around them.)
Dogs participating in performance events
Canine athletes competing in agility, fly-ball, obedience, field trials and other sports activities need to be kept in peak condition. Regular massage and stretching can increase a dog's range of motion, lengthen its stride and improve over-all muscle tone, all contributing to quicker and tighter turns, cleaner jumping and better times. Massage incorporated as part of the dog's training regime will also reduce the risk of sports-related injuries. (See the Canine Sports Massage page for more about how massage can play a role in your dog's training and performance in the sports you both enjoy.)
To do their best in the conformation ring, dogs need to be relaxed and moving comfortably. Stride, reach and balance are essential for proper gaiting. Head and tail carriage and top line movement all rely on flexibility and attitude, which, in turn may be facilitated by massage.
Dogs can be "brought up" or calmed and focused by massage prior to entering the ring. Massage, in other words, can give a dog the competitive edge that separates the BOB, BOS, group winners and BIS from the "also shown." (See the Canine Sports Massage page for more about how massage can contribute to your dog's performance in the ring.)
Guide dogs, service dogs, police dogs, search and rescue dogs, drug, explosive and arson detection dogs, sled dogs and other canines who work with their handlers to provide invaluable assistance to society can all benefit from regular massage. Walking long hours on concrete, leaning into a harness, clambering over rubble, jumping up to retrieve or deposit objects on counters and working their way through crowded baggage terminals can result in injury, chronic physical issues or low-level stress in many working dogs. Massage can help keep working dogs moving comfortably, prevent injury and counteract "background stress", adding to the dogs' "job satisfaction" and possibly even prolonging their careers.
(Be sure to ask about the 10% discount available to handlers of assistance, SAR and police dogs!)