Canine massage therapy is used to promote health and healing in dogs. It is considered an alternative therapy but it has many benefits. Some of the benefits that can result from canine massage therapy include pain relief, increased joint flexibility, improved range of motion, and benefits to the immune system. Canine massage therapy also has a relaxing effect on dogs. It can be used to improve a dog’s physical and emotional well-being.

Massage therapy is a very old form of healing in humans and it has also been used with animals for many centuries. The ancient Chinese, Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Turks, Persians, and Japanese all used massage therapies and the Egyptians practiced massage on animals and had animal healers. The Chinese and ancient Romans practiced massage on horses. In the United States, equine massage became popular in the 1970s with show horses and racehorses, and massage subsequently became popular with other animals, including dogs.

Dogs get the same kind of benefits from massage therapy that humans enjoy and it can be used for relaxation, therapeutic rehabilitation, and to improve muscle tone for competition as in sports massage. Some of the benefits that have been documented in studies on canine massage include:

  • Healthy skin and coat by distributing natural oils
  • Improved athletic performance and endurance
  • Improved circulation
  • Improved digestion
  • Improving mental focus and attitude
  • Increased toxin excretion
  • Injury prevention by increasing range of motion and enhancing muscle tone
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Posture maintenance and better balance
  • Reduced stiffness helping to restore mobility to injured areas
  • Relaxation and tension relief
  • Release of endorphins

When used in combination with veterinary care for rehabilitation, canine massage can help dogs with the following problems:

  • Chronic pain and discomfort due to arthritis, hip dysplasia, and other joint problems through the release of endorphins
  • Health issues related to age
  • Muscle atrophy caused by inactivity
  • Muscle tension, soreness, spasms, and weaknesses

Canine massage can also be used to calm feelings of anxiety and nervousness.

Canine massage therapists use seven basic techniques in massaging dogs: compression, direct pressure, effleurage, friction, petrissage, tapotement, and vibration movement. These techniques can be used to work on a specific area or achieve a certain benefit according to what a dog needs.

Qualified canine massage therapists are trained to use these techniques and some of them should not be applied to dogs without proper training as injuries can result. Most pet owners are already using some of these strokes at home with their pets without knowing it when they pet their dogs in different ways.

One easy stroke that you can use on your dog at home is effleurage. If you run the flat palm of your hand along your dog’s spine from head to tail, this basic stroke can help soothe your dog’s nerves. It will calm his nerves and soothe his skin by drawing oils from the skin. It helps distribute blood and lymph fluids to improve circulation. If you perform 10 minutes of this kind of purpose-driven petting three times per week, it can do a lot to improve your dog’s overall health and make their coat shine.

Nearly all dogs can benefit from canine massage therapy and it is especially good for senior dogs. In addition to lightly massaging your pet at home regularly, you can find local canine massage practitioners in most areas. Dogs can usually benefit from monthly professional canine massages or from seeing a canine massage practitioner if they have a specific ailment.

Article by Nancy Cope, Owner of the online boutique