Massage is the manual manipulation of tissue, and it has been developed over hundreds and thousands of years to achieve specific physical responses, depending on the desired effect. Massage works to relieve pain and loosen physical tension. It is a living experience of communication between the body of the client and the hands of the therapist resulting in the detection of pain and tension or restriction. The hands then provide relaxation and relief aimed at improving the emotional and physical health of the client. Massage is likely as old as man himself - originally it was performed by healers, priests, or doctors to alleviate pain, as well as creating a sense of well-being.
Any dog (and other animals) of any size, age, breed or activity level can benefit from massage, including: canine athletes, dogs with jobs, pets recovering from illness, surgery, or injury, elderly pets, puppies, animals in need of palliative care, rescue dogs and cats, nervous or shy dogs, and pets with a history of abuse, neglect, or abandonment.
Your K9 friend or family member can benefit from massage both physically and psychologically in a number of ways. Massage increases the blood supply to muscles, bringing much needed oxygen and nutrients to the muscle tissues. Massage strokes can help prevent lesions as well as loosening and stretching muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Massage helps increase range of motion, allowing more free movement and gained strength. As well, increased muscle tone equals increased elasticity.
The pressure involved in massage also stimulates blood circulation to the bone, directly nourishing it. Mild postural problems can be helped and even prevented by massage, especially in young pups (including large breed puppies prone to rapid growth issues). Massage also prevents muscle atrophy in inactive, compensating muscles. Nourished joints are also well lubricated joints, which helps to maintain or increase range of motion. Massage improves circulation overall, affecting the flow of blood, encouraging veins to carry away waste products, and arteries to carry a steady flow of oxygen and nutrients to keep cells healthy. Lymphatic circulation is also increased by massage, draining lymph fluid into glands where it can be cleansed of toxins.
Massage improves lung conditions by increasing the flow of blood (and therefore, the flow of oxygen, assisting the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide). Blood circulation to the skin keeps it nourished and removes wastes efficiently. The skin glands are also stimulated, helping to keep skin soft and supple. The texture and durability of hair is also increased. Secretion of sweat also rids the body of excess water, salt, and toxins. Dead skin cells are also removed and the skin is able to breath more easily. The heat created by massage even softens fat tissue, breaking down solid fat deposits - coupled with a scheme of weight reduction and exercise, this can help slim a dog down.
The experience of touch and massage is also a very comforting, close, one-on-one experience which can create a sense of trust, relaxation, and well-being. Dogs that have trust issues, anxiety, or that have been neglected or abused at some point in their lives can learn to trust, and gain confidence. This psychological boost can impact their physical health as well. Illnesses gain a foothold when stress diminishes the body's immune system. Massage therapy reduces the physical and mental components of stress, which in turn helps the body feel balanced and rejuvenated, able to defend itself properly.
For active pets, massage can improve physical abilities and athletic performance, while minimizing the potential for injury. For dogs with injuries, massage reduces recovery time. Early detection of possible health changes is also possible through massage therapy.
REMEMBER: Canine massage is not a replacement for Veterinary treatment. Any injury or illness your dog may have must be assessed by a Veterinarian prior to receiving any form of massage therapy. I will work closely with your Veterinarian for optimal, supportive healing.
Please see the sections on Types of Massage, Related Treatments, and Precautions/Informed Consent for even more information on specific massage techniques and other related therapies.