Dog Massages: How They Can Help

Dog Massages: How They Can Help

If you’ve ever had sore muscles, you know that getting a massage can provide some much-needed relief and relaxation. If you’re a pet parent, you’ve probably wondered what massages could do for your furry friend’s wellness and well-being.

Read along as we review the possible health benefits of massages for dogs and how to properly massage your dog.

The Benefits of Dog Massage

There are many reasons why dog massages can be paw-some. The health benefits for pups are similar to the kinds that people enjoy. Plus, massage can also be an opportunity for bonding.

Let’s learn more:

Pet Massage: Potential Health Benefits

Relaxing your dog’s muscles through massage can help relieve physical pain, discomfort, and stress. Touch can comfort them as well, furthering the relaxing effects of the massage.

In addition to providing a general sense of relaxation, you can use this time to check for health concerns such as tumors or suspicious bumps. These can present as lumps under the skin, making them easily detectable during a massage.

Dog massages may also help soothe arthritis pain, post-surgical swelling, and muscle spasms. Athletic dogs might appreciate a nice massage before and after a workout to help speed up recovery time and decrease the potential chance of an injury.

Let’s review the pros of canine massages, starting with bonding:

Bonding

Canine massage can help you bond with your dog as it shows that you can give them relaxation in a safe environment.

Over time, they might begin to associate physical relief and relief from stress with massage, which could lead to them being more open to receiving it. However, if your dog appears uncomfortable, afraid, or expresses disinterest, it’s time to take a break.

Some dogs might enjoy massages with time, and others not. After all, our dogs are as unique as we are!

What Do I Need To Know About Canine Massage?

Here are some things you might want to consider before starting your doggy spa day:

Start in a Comfortable Environment

If your dog isn’t interested in this “me-time” activity, it’s time to stop and pick another activity for the day.

It is best to give the massage in a quiet environment where they can feel calm and safe. You might also want to choose a clean, flat surface where they won’t be inclined to move around too much. This could be on the floor of your home or on your couch.

Be Mindful of Touch Sensitivity

During the massage, being mindful of your dog’s comfort level can help you give them the best experience. You’ll want to take note if they flinch when certain areas are touched. If your dog has any touch sensitivity, you are already likely aware of their no-go zones.

For example, some dogs don’t enjoy having their paws touched (no thank you to that pedicure) or people petting them on top of their heads.

Introduce Them to Your Touch

It is a good idea tointroduce your dog to the sensation of your touch before you begin to apply pressure. This can lessen the chances of them becoming startled once pressure is applied.

Dogs that accept (or love) human touch will also have an easier time at the vet during routine checkups, which is a huge plus.

Canine Massage: The Basics

Canine massages are different from human massage, so you might be curious about the steps of the process itself.

Let’s dive in!

What Are the Different Types of Dog Massages?

Some common massage techniques used on dogs include petrissage, effleurage, and therapeutic massages.

1. Petrissage Massages for Dogs

This massage focuses on the muscles and tissues. To do this technique, gently knead the muscles and skin. It might be best to have a professional practice this or teach you to do it yourself.

You can massage the dog’s neck and head area first, then gradually start kneading with greater pressure as you move to other areas like the dog’s back legs and front legs, as well as the soft tissues at the base of the tail.

If your dog enjoys this one, look into skin rolling, which offers a similar sensation.

2. Effleurage Massages for Dogs

This massage is aimed at warming up muscles.

When performing an effleurage massage session, use long strokes and minimal gentle pressure. As you keep one hand on your pup, apply long strokes towards your dog’s heart.

Follow the direction of your dog’s hair growth. It is best to do this while your dog is lying down and in a calm environment. This may take more time than passive touch, as it requires more concentration to perform correctly.

3. Therapeutic Massages for Dogs

Passive touch does not involve pressure or continuous movement of your hands. Starting with the head, you can put your hand on different parts of your dog’s body, holding it on each area for a few seconds. This technique can be performed anywhere, as it does not take as much time as an effleurage massage.

What Do Professional Animal Massage Therapists Do?

If you think your dog might benefit from a professional full-body massage, you can schedule an appointment with a professional animal massage therapist. They may be able to provide more thorough treatment for your furry friend. Let’s talk about what that treatment could look like:

Animal massage therapists might sometimes only work with certain species, but other therapists are able to work with a variety of animals. A canine massage therapist may evaluate your dog to gather information about their health prior to working with them. They can communicate with you, as well as professionals involved in your dog’s care (such as your vet), to form a treatment plan.

Their comprehensive knowledge of animal physiology and various deep tissue massage techniques allows them to effectively treat your dog in a way that caters to their specific needs.

For instance, if your dog has a condition such as arthritis, they may ask you questions to determine what massage therapy techniques could best alleviate your pup’s discomfort.

Other Things To Keep in Mind

Canine massage is a great way to bond with your dog while simultaneously relieving stress and tension in their body. However, there are some things to remember, especially if you want to incorporate massage into your dog’s routine.

Here are a few things to be aware of during each session:

Avoid Uncomfortable Areas

Even though massage can help catch medical concerns such as tumors in the early stages, it is best for dog owners to avoid touching painful areas.

Don’t massage areas of the skin that look tender or might be infected. You can focus on applying light pressure to your dog’s muscles rather than massaging bones or joints.

Focus on a Calm Energy

It’s ideal that the massage takes place in a relaxing space. This allows your dog to feel calm throughout the session without any distractions to excite them. While they are in a relaxed state, it is more likely that their muscles might become relaxed, which can make the session easier.

Invite Them to the Lesson

If your dog doesn’t seem interested in receiving a massage, you can try to invite them into the session. Forcing them to relax when they are anxious or energetic might cause them to behave aggressively.

As people, we know when we’re anxious that if someone says, “Just relax,” it doesn’t help in the slightest. If anything, it makes us feel more anxious. 

Instead, slowly invite your pooch into the peaceful space you have created. Gradually, they may begin to sense that the space is meant to calm them and may be inclined to join the session. On a similar note, if your dog flops over for a belly rub, you can always use that as a great opportunity to get a mini-massage in.

The Calm Coach in Your Corner

For more support and advice on care for your furry friend, you can become a member of AskVet for 24/7 access to the Certified Pet Lifestyle Coaches™, who can advise you on every topic for every pet. No late-night frantic Googling to see if your dog/cat/bird/fish just ate something they shouldn’t have.

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Sources:

How Massage Can Help Your Dog | American Kennel Club

Dog Behaviour Guide Touch Sensitivity | Edmonton Humane Society 

Why Does My Dog Duck When I Pat Him on the Head? | AKC

Canine Therapeutic Massage | Animal Rehab Center of Michigan

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