Arthritis is one of the most common ailments an older pet can suffer from. It is a chronic pain that occurs when an unstable joint causes the bones to move abnormally within the joint. Over time this unnatural movement causes the cartilage that lines the joints to erode. Then the bone rubs against bone, which creates chronic inflammation. Large and Giant breed dogs are probably the most prone, but it can happen in any dog or cat breed.
Massage therapy eases arthritis because it improves range of motion by stimulating blood circulation to the bone, directly nourishing it. Regular sessions keep joints well nourished and therefore well lubricated, which maintains, and even increases, range of motion. Your pet experiences less pain, and their mobility improves.
Why is massage even more essential for arthritis in the winter? Cold weather exacerbates this condition, causing your pet to get even stiffer than before.
Even it your pet is inside more often during cold and even not so cold days, there is a compromise. They are getting less exercise, which normally helps keep joints loose (in addition to helping with muscle tone and keeping weight off, which would otherwise be even harder on the joints). So, if your pet is less active during colder temperatures, massage is needed to lubricate those joints!
Even with something like intervertebral disc disease (as long as you are well past 2 weeks after any associated surgery), massage therapy increases circulation, which will get blood where it needs to go—those overcompensating muscles, and underused, atrophied muscles that will need stimulation to increase and maintain tone to support the back. Inactivity due to winter (or whatever else) is the enemy, as weight may increase and cause extra strain, too.
All in all, massage therapy will help increase circulation when movement may be reduced due to the cold weather—whether joints are stiffer due to the cold, or it’s just plain too cold to go outside. Don’t hesitate to continue (or start!) massage therapy for your pet during the chilly winter months!
Regan is a certified Canine Massage Therapist (CCMT), has certification in First Aid and CPR for Pets, and some beginner training in Herbal Remedies and Aromatherapy for personal use.