The benefits of massage therapy for both people and animals is not a recent new age fad. In the book “Veterinary Notes for the Horse Owner” author Captain M. Horace Hayes speaks of the benefits of massage for the equine athelete. He penned this book in the year 1877.
Massage therapy for people has been practiced in every culture in most every country for countless generations from the Roman gladiators to the Polynesians to the Japanese. It is a small hop to extend the benefits of massage therapy to our animal companions.
“Why massage for dogs and cats?” you may ask. “Why isn’t me petting my pet the same thing?”
Well for one reason massage tends to go much deeper than you just petting your cat or dog. Massage breaks up the lactic acid that forms in the muscles and facilitates easier mobility. It is extremely beneficial to the elderly patient and unlike other therapies, even laser therapy, the animal really seems to enjoy the attention. It improves blood circulation and when the blood flows better the animal feels better and they tend to heal quicker. It is a good addition to whatever treatment the veterinarian has prescribed. The one downfall of massage therapy is that, like laser therapy, it should not be used if cancer is suspected. Since massage improves circulation it could also feed the cancer. However I have found massage to be very helpful in finding a lump that needs veterinary scrutiny. Many times it is a lump that the owner was unaware even existed and a dog or a cat certainly can’t tell you its there.
Other than the aforementioned instance of cancer, massage therapy can be useful at any stage of an animal’s life. It is helpful in easing labor pains in a mother about to give birth, settles an overly active puppy or kitten long enough for the vet to do their work, calms a dog nervous because they’re at the vet, is a pleasurable way to ease an animal’s arthritis and is very useful in getting the practitioner to notice things the vet needs to be made aware of.
Many different moves are associated with human massage that can be easily adapted to pet massage. Swedish massage is a light bodywork that warms and prepares the muscles by using an effleurage stroke. Deep tissue is a stroke designed to get deep into the tissue and break up any hypertonic regions. ( Otherwise called ‘crunchies’ by most people when their muscles are sore. ) Percussion or tapotement is a light rapping or tapping of the muscles meant to wake up the patient and bring them out of their relaxed state and back to the world again at the completion of the bodywork. Myofascial release can be done on an animal who is highly sensitive and cannot tolerate deep tissue pressure. However myofascial release does take an amazing amount of time to do properly because it is a very slow movement. Myofascial release is used in people usually suffering from fibromyalgia because physical contact can actually be painful to them.
In closing, massage therapy should not be looked at as a ‘luxury’ but a legitimate therapy in adjunct with whatever care the vet prescribes. It eases pain makes the animal more comfortable and is a therapy that most pets really seem to enjoy. It makes the animal easier to manage in the exam room and notifies the vet of problems that might otherwise be missed.
Massage therapy with pets is kneaded.