September 12, 2009

Cinnamon enjoying a massage

Our animal companions provide infinite amounts of unconditional love, devotion and friendship. Massage is a wonderful way to give back to our animal friends all the joy they bring to our lives each and every day.

Some therapeutic benefits of massage for your pet include:
  • Increased mobility, range of motion and reduce stiffness and swelling throughout their body.
  • Increased energy level and stamina.
  • Decreased healing and recover time following injury, illness or surgery.
  • Reduced pain and discomfort from arthritis, hip & joint dysplasia and other painful conditions, both acute and chronic.
  • Improved focus and mental clarity.
  • Improved sociability and decrease problematic behavioral issues.
  • Alleviated emotional imbalances such as stress, anxiety, fear and grief.
  • Creates trust and a healthy bond with their human caretakers.
  • Improved circulation.
  • Improve general muscle function.
  • And, of course, relaxation!

How do you know if your pet needs massage?

Our pets can almost always benefit from massage, even if they are not showing signs of discomfort or have suffered an injury, etc. (There are, of course, times when massage is not appropriate.) Keep in mind that dogs are not naturally accustomed to exhibiting their weakness. They will not ordinarily cry out, shed tears, quit working or playing like us humans tend to do. They usually will not let you know they are hurt until the situation is extreme. Also, dogs do not “fake” injury. Domestic dogs will persevere through a high level of pain in order to please us.

Herding dogs, as an example, will keep herding, day after day, until the pads on their feet are raw! If your dog suddenly begins to limp, stop following commands or refuses to work, pay attention! They are trying to tell you something! Dogs especially prone to muscle imbalances and repetitive motion strains and injury are those involved in agility, fly-ball, obedience, herding or other forms of work or competition. They will keep working and continue to perform long past the point that they should in order to please us. It is up to us, their benevolent caretakers, to recognize the signs of discomfort or injury and to respond with compassion and wisdom.

Here some indicators that your dog may be suffering from pain, injury or imbalance:
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • A preference for lying on one side vs. the other and a reluctance or refusal to lie on the opposite side
  • A preference to sit to one side, not squarely on both hips
  • Difficulty getting up from a lying or sitting position, very slow to rise
  • A reluctance to perform usual work or play
  • An uneven or imbalanced gait
  • Look for subtle shifts in the way your dog moves or holds his body
  • Is his walking gait balance, symmetrical, smooth and effortless?
  • How is he holding his head, high or low? Off to one side? Tipped?
  • How is he holding his tail? High or low? Off to one side? Excessive movement to one side when walking?
  • Is there excessive movement in his back, either side to side or up and down? Does he maintain a level topline or do you notice any arching or roaching of the back?
  • Watch his movement climbing up and down, jumping up or down. Is there a reluctance to do either?
  • Notice his movements in his front and back leg joints and assembly when he turns or pivots as well as when he is walking straight. Do you notice any signs of a lack of flexibility?
  • Any observation of imbalance or asymmetry is a possible sign that your dog is compensating for an underlying source of discomfort, strain, soreness or pain.

    There are many professionally trained and competent Canine Massage Practitioners and the number is growing. To locate one near you, try inquiring with your local holistic veterinarian or take a look at the member directory for the International Association of Animal Massage and bodywork.