Body therapy has long been a favorite of mine to perform on my own dogs, and in part because I know how good it feels to receive massages and acupressure on myself. Each dog I’ve had since I began into natural, whole health and the subsequent therapies for them have learned to really enjoy receiving weekly massages. The following 3 body therapies will help you both support the overall health and well being of your dog as well as encourage some good bonding between you!
Massage is one of the traditional natural healing arts which falls under the umbrella of naturopathy. It is used to promote health naturally together with proper nutrition, herbs, hydropathy or hydrotherapy, exercise, rest, sunshine, and pure air. By doing this in moderation and allowing your dog to learn how enjoyable this can be, you’ll also be building trust which in my opinion is a good thing.
Modern massage practitioners adhere to the natural health philosophy that include a preference for the natural methods of healing (as I said in the previous paragraph) which encourages the innate inner healing of the body.
Massage is a form of bodywork that assists the body in removing toxins from the body through manipulation of the muscles and joints, which encourages improved circulation for both blood and lymph. In addition, massage is rather versatile depending on the style of massage you choose whether Western Massage, Ayurvedic, Asian, etc., your dog’s body can become energized or relaxed, invigorated or calmed. Due to the pain-relieving hormones called endorphins that are released during deep muscle massage your dog’s body can be relieved of sometimes debilitating pain through the natural methods that massage encompasses.
Massage can also be complementary to traditional forms of health care to assist the your dog’s body in surgery recovery or from injuries under the guidance of your veterinarian working with the massage practitioner.
In addition, massage can be utilized to assist your dog’s body as a preventive measure for general wellbeing. If you exercise your dog on a regular basis (and I hope you do as it is a law of health after all), massage can be incorporated into your dog’s wellness regime to remove soreness and keep the toxin buildup within his or her body – especially the muscles – from occurring. This will allow him/her to not only feel better but to have better performance if you are competing with your dog in various sports such as agility or field trials, and also simply in their life in general even if they aren’t competing.
One of the most wonderful aspects of massage is that while it is often considered to be topical and localized, the reality is a licensed canine massage practitioner will keep your dog’s entire being in mind so that the session is really focused on “the whole dog” not just symptoms in your dog. Your dog’s body is a whole not individual parts operating independently of each other. Alternatively you may also learn the basic method of massage simply to bond with your dog and give them ease from any discomfort or soreness in the process.
Massage in its various forms has been around for centuries globally with the Western form of massage being the youngest and more recent form of massage. Western massage is a synthesis of two men: Pehr Henrik Ling (Swedish movement cure) of Sweden and Johann Georg Mesger of Amsterdam. They both combined both active and passive movements into massage with the approach of whole health as their focus – that is always my own focus for my own dogs and myself as well.
Massage has its roots in ancient cultures of folk and native traditions. The healing traditions and folk medicine remedies can include herbs, midwifery, and massage. The “touch” modalities (that includes of course massage) have long been a part of most folk and native traditions in virtually every culture on earth for time immemorial; touch is necessary for growth and healing.
Typically the setting for a massage with your dog ought to be a calm, quiet one where the practitioner can work on your dog in his/her own environment. Once your pet trusts the practitioner and realizes the comfort the bodywork will bring, they will come to anticipate the session much as we do when we receive bodywork therapy. I know when I do this with my own dogs I will put on very calming, soothing music, make sure the environment is calm and quiet, and then I begin the massage. My dogs have all come to enjoy this time. The minute they see me lay down the blanket on the floor they get on it before I’m even ready and set up to do the massage! Dogs aren’t very subtle when they enjoy something lol! I don’t blame them one bit – I would love having my own personal massage therapist on a weekly basis like them haha!
If you choose a licensed canine massage therapist, they will go over any health concerns, special needs, etc., with you prior to beginning – and with your pet that will often include consulting with your holistic veterinarian on the current health condition of your pet.
The practitioner should be familiar with how to recognize when your dog is not comfortable or in pain – otherwise a sharp nip might ensue! It depends on the practitioner if they will want the dog’s owner right there with them or to wait until the session is ended to join you with them. They are working to build trust with your dog also. I’ve always done my own massages with my dogs which makes it easy and uncomplicated. However, a licensed canine massage therapist will have the knowledge to know exactly how to work through any tensions in the muscles and be aware of pain, etc. to most likely better aid your dog.
As the client, you are empowered to make those decisions with the practitioner working with you to help your receive not only the massage that is most beneficial his body and needs, but to assure his comfort and ease during the process. As the client you are empowered to decide the parameters and health needs of your dog, with the practitioner working with you to help you attain your dog’s health and/or recovery goals.
Sometimes the massage is mixed with healing essential oils diluted in a carrier oil (it’s what I do). Some practitioners even use aromatherapy diffusers to diffuse the essential oils into the air for the smell and the healing effects during the massage – this approach can work well with your dog only I wouldn’t allow just any essential oil brand to be used with your dog. Also the room ought to be ventilated well. I only allow Young Living Essential Oils to be used with my own dogs.
The practitioner will always keep a hand on your dog’s body at all times during the session to keep continuity and energetic flow. They will not disengage until the end of a session. With your dog they will need to be turned over by you or the practitioner to their alternate side in order to make sure your dog’s entire body is massaged.
Your dog will let the practitioner know when a spot is too sensitive or if they are uncomfortable as animals are never subtle in their responses! I personally find massage to be one of the most pleasant forms of natural health care, even when the practitioner has been working deep tissue massage for injury healing on me – I think of it as a “good” hurt. That said, I’m still gentler with my dogs unless they lean into the stronger pressure I’m applying. My American Bully King likes a deep massage as did my Neo Mastiff Shadrach. My girl Schatzie preferred a gentler, lighter touch, especially as she aged. Be aware of your dog’s body language if you decide to pursue doing this yourself.
Some of the latest studies on massage are proving to be very beneficial in assisting with a variety of “modern” ailments. In one recent study, a group of aggressive adolescents received 20-minute therapy sessions, twice a week for five weeks. Not only did their anxiety levels lower but at the end of the study these teens felt less aggressive and perceived their parents as also being less aggressive towards them. (2)
Massage can be a great asset to any natural wellness program for those endeavoring to care for their dog more naturally and preventively.
The manual therapies of massage, reflexology, TTouch, and acupressure can be as beneficial to animals as they are to humans. The good news these other manual therapies I’m only now mentioning can ALL be incorporated into a full body massage! They all complement and work together. If you learn the basics of each you can do this yourself at home. If you prefer a more professional and knowledgeable service for your dog though, just be sure to do your homework to find a reputable practitioner to do this with your dog. A really good licensed canine massage therapist will know how to add in acupressure, TTouch and maybe even some canine foot reflexology.
You can find those specializing in animal massage and acupressure through the National Board of Certification for Animal Massage & Acupressure (NBCAAM), Tallgrass Animal Acupressure Institute, Northwest School of Animal Massage, International Association of Animal Massage & Bodywork (IAAMB). You can find out how to help your dog with reflexology at Canine Reflexology. For TTouch go to https://ttouch.com/Our_Method_for/Dogs/index.html
Here is a recent (2021) article to help you learn other ways to support your dog’s body: Healing Touch Animal Acupuncture
I hope this encourages you in helping your dog in yet one more way be well, naturally!
1. Yim VW, Ng AK, Tsang HW, Leung AY. Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong. A Review on the Effects of Aromatherapy for Patients with Depressive Symptoms J Altern Complement Med. 2009 Feb 13 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19216657?ordinalpos=1&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum
2. Diego, M.A., Field, T., Hernandez-Reif, M., Shaw, J.A., Rothe, E.M., Castellanos, D. & Mesner, L. (2002). Aggressive adolescents benefit from massage therapy. Adolescence, 37, 597-607 http://www6.miami.edu/touch-research/Massage.htm
3. Benjamin, Patricia J, Tappan, Frances M. Tappan’s Handbook of Healing Massage Techniques. Pearson Education Inc. Upper Saddle River, NJ, 07458. 2005.
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DISCLAIMER: All information contained here is intended for educational purposes only. It is not provided in order to diagnose, prevent or treat any disease, illness or injured condition of the body or pets. The author accepts no responsibility for such use. Anyone or their pets suffering from any disease, illness or injury should consult with their physician or veterinarian.