Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Guest Entry Dog Massage: Much More than Pampering

Today we welcome Justine Erickson to Happy Dog Land. Justine is a Certified Animal Massage Practitioner and professional groomer. Today, Justine shares the many benefits of canine massage and explains why massage can actually improve your pooch's body, mind and spirit.

Dog massage has been performed for thousands of years…by dogs themselves! In one of my favorite books on dog massage, Healing Touch for Dogs , Dr. Michael W. Fox explains how dogs in the wild use their own type of massage called “social grooming.” When mothers lick their young pups, this important stimulating action actually aids in their digestive process. Dr. Fox also points out that dogs that do not receive this type of maternal social grooming or ‘massage’ are less likely to develop and thrive.

The physical benefits of massage are numerous:
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Aids Digestion
  • Improves joint flexibility
  • Relieves muscle soreness, tension, stiffness and weakness
  • Helps cleanse the body of toxins
  • Improves skin elasticity and coat quality (removes dead skin and stimulates hair follicles)
Massage has many emotional benefits for you dog too:
  • Reduces anxiety in chronically nervous dogs
  • Helps calm a dog for specific events that may make her anxious, such as vet visits, grooming sessions, moving to a new home, welcoming a new pet or baby into their family, etc.
  • Creates a sense of trust
  • Is an effective and enjoyable way to bond with your dog
Dogs in every stage of life, from puppies to seniors, can benefit from massage. Indeed, a regular massage regimen can:

  • Help with socialization: Massage gets a dog used to being touched and handled, which is especially important for families with young children or other pets.
  • Serve as a consistent way to monitor your dog: When regular massages are given, the therapist can develop a sense for what is "normal" for your dog. Any changes in temperament as well as physical changes (e.g., newly sensitive areas of the body, the discovery of new lumps, bumps or other changes in the skin or coat) can alert you to something that requires veterinary attention and may aid in early detection of a serious condition or illness.
Whether it’s for general wellness or condition-specific, massage can be customized to serve your dog’s individual needs and preferences. If your dog is very active and likes to engage sports, such as agility, or if is he's your favorite running companion, massage can help keep your pooch finely tuned for his favorite activities. Massage can also help your dog stay strong and avoid injury. For dogs who have had surgery or illness, massage can help speed recovery time as well as enhance their comfort and pain relief.

In my own practice, I like to incorporate gentle stretching as well as Reiki and acupressure when I feel that they will be beneficial for the dog. I really ‘tune-in’ to the dog and follow their signals about what feels good and what doesn’t. For some dogs, a short yet continuous session is best. Other dogs like to have longer sessions with "breaks" where they can stand up, stretch, sniff around and then resume the massage. Just like humans, dogs definitely have their own individual preferences and moods, which makes every session both enjoyable and challenging.

One of the most interesting aspect of the massage is what I refer to as the “calming ripple effect.” When I’m working on an individual dog, I’ve often seen the calming effects of the massage trickle over to other dogs in the immediate area. Before you know it, all of the dogs are lying down, relaxing, some falling asleep and snoring! This effect is especially amazing in animal shelters where dogs are experiencing high levels of stress. The calming energy that flows through the room is especially beneficial to these dogs. I believe that it helps them cope until they are able to find their forever home.

What you can do at home
Touch improves a dog's well-being. In fact, I would encourage you to lightly stroke and cuddle your dog as much as possible. However, any deep massage, more advanced techniques or intense stretching should be performed only by a trained professional.

Massage professionals are trained to understand the limitations of a dog’s body including the appropriate range of motion for canine joints. In addition, dogs that are older, have health problems or have recently had surgery can be more susceptible to injury. Thus, it is important to keep your dog’s massage practitioner well-informed of your pooch's current condition as well as his health history. When in doubt of your dog’s specific limitations, always consult your veterinarian first. Share this important information with your dog’s massage provider before the massage too. Massage should be a safe and enjoyable experience for your dog. Don’t be surprised if they get ‘hooked’ and are barking for more!

Justine Erickson is a graduate of the Northwest School of Animal Massage. She is also an Animal Reiki Practitioner and has completed canine acupressure training with the Tallgrass Animal Acupressure Institute

1 comment:

  1. Oh yes, can someone get my lower spine and upper thighs?... I've been running around a bit too much lately and need a good pampering so I can go back to the beach and do more running around again tomorrow!