Keyed-up canine? Or perhaps your dog is aging and experiencing stiffness and health issues. Animals experience stress or illness much in the same way we do, which can manifest in anxiety, debilitating physical aptitude, changing energy levels, loss of appetite, and more.
If your pet is unnerved by loud noises such as thunder and fireworks, or perhaps getting up in years and suffering pain from hip dysplasia or other ailments, canine massage can improve his quality of life. In fact benefits can include release of endorphins (the ‘feel good” chemical), increased range of motion and flexibility–which can prevent injury, improved circulation, more efficient excretion of toxins, general pain relief, better functioning immune system, healthier skin and coat from distribution of natural oils, tension relief and more.
When recuperating from surgery or injury, practiced in concert with a vet canine massage can speed healing by increasing blood flow to the area and relieving any muscle spasms. And while massage should never be used in place of veterinary care if the latter is warranted, used in a complementary manner it can provide extended pain-free periods of time for your pet.
Though more commonly administered today, largely by professionals, animal massage actually goes back thousands of years with evidence of equine massage in ancient Rome and China. Egyptian hieroglyphics depict animal healers practicing massage. In the 1970s, physical/massage therapist Jack Meagher applied his specialized techniques to race and show horses, and horses competing in the Montreal Olympics.
While many professional practitioners of canine massage are formally trained in canine anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology as well as in animal behavior, and know precisely how the various systems of the body work and are integrated, with a little research and practice you and your dog can reap the rewards of time spent together in this regard. Experts like Linda Tellington — www.ttouch.com — who invented the celebrated “TTouch” method for humans, horses, and companion animals, provide valuable information to get you started, though massage with your dog can also be something you begin naturally, the way a parent would soothe a small child, and work from there.
According to Dr. Forest Clark of Lewiston Veterinary Hospital in Lewiston, Maine, when massaging your canine some things are important to remember, such as the fact that animals’ muscles are closer to the surface than humans’. Even though Rex may weigh 100 lbs. and resemble a giant wolf, he is far more vulnerable and sensitive to touch and manipulation than you are, so be more gentle with your strokes than you would for a human.
In addition to therapeutic benefits, massage allows you to “survey” your pet’s body for any unusual lumps or bumps hidden under all that fur that may require veterinary attention. It promotes healthy bonding, trust, compassion, and communication between you and your pet, which may be the greatest gift of all.