Question: What are the benefits of massage for dogs?
Answer: Massage therapy for animals is a touch technique used to maintain and improve physical and mental health.
Animal massage causes your pet’s body to release endorphins, natural chemicals that relieve pain and make your pet feel good.
Massage can strengthen the bond between you and your pet. A good massage can help any dog reduce anxiety and it’s a proven stress-reliever; any dog can benefit from that.
You might find it particularly helpful if your dog is easily worried or stressed; a nightly massage can help to relax him and establish a comforting routine.
Another important aspect is improved blood circulation which helps the entire body with its day to day functioning.
Dogs with arthritis can benefit greatly from this practice. The act of pressuring and releasing muscles causes blood flow to increase, which heals and benefits your dog’s entire body.
However, proceed slowly at first, as a massage may be somewhat foreign to your dog.
Chances are, once your dog realises how good a massage feels, he’ll come to look forward to the treatment, and will associate you with being the one who provides it.
How to massage your dog:
Have your dog lie down on a soft but firm surface; no pillows or cushions – that may cause the dog to twist or bend in unexpected ways.
Start with soft, slow strokes from head to tail.
Scratch behind the ears, rub along the cheeks and under the chin, over the nose, between the eyes. Always use light pressure and small, circular strokes; nothing fast, hard or abrupt.
When you move to the neck, shoulders and chest, it’s perfectly fine to gather small folds of loose skin for a gentle pinch. You can use three fingers on each side of the leg, too, rubbing softly in opposite directions. You can even give the paws a prolonged and gentle squeeze, if your dog is comfortable with having his or her feet handled (not all are).
Walk your thumb and index finger down the length of the spine; not on the spine, but along the long muscles on each side.
End with those long, slow strokes again.
Throughout the massage, take your time. When your dog is ready for it to end he’ll make it clear, usually by becoming restless or unco-operative; stop immediately.
Dr Hansel is a veterinary consultant and surgeon for the BSPCA and Charis Vets. Please send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org