The Importance of Massage for Our Pets

by Angelia Oliverei, LVT

Let’s face it; most of us could use a massage from time to time. So why wouldn’t our furry companions? Massage therapy is considered a manual technique that utilizes the therapist’s hands to manipulate tissues to achieve a therapeutic effect.

Benefits of Massage

Massage therapy dates back to ancient India, China, and Egypt.  Its first use in animals was in horses to keep athletes in peak condition.  It has been used for such a long time due to its many benefits, which include:

  • Relieving muscle tension and spasms
  • Reducing trigger point formation
  • Improving tone in weak muscles
  • Decreasing blood pressure
  • Interrupting the pain cycle by activating sensory receptors
  • Increasing circulation
  • Increasing lymphatic circulation and immunity
  • Calming affects and decrease stress
  • Improving performance in sporting events

Massage Techniques

When working with animals in regards to massage, it is important that the therapist has knowledge in animal anatomy and physiology including the cardiovascular, muscular, skeletal, digestive, neurologic, respiratory and integumentary systems.  Additionally, each animal is unique and therefore the massage techniques are different depending on the patient’s needs and preferences.

Some pets, just as in people, have varying degrees of preferences including types of massage strokes used and pressure applied to the tissues.  Some patients are not open to receiving a massage at all, especially if the animal has never met the massage therapist.  If pain is suspected, your pet should be evaluated by a veterinarian before scheduling a massage.  If pain is noted during a massage, your pet should also be seen by their veterinarian to determine the underlying cause.

When to Massage

When used as part of an individualized therapy program, massage may be used to warm-up the muscles prior to exercise, to relax or stimulate muscles to prevent injury, to aid in a pain management plan, or to be part of a cool down.  Massage can be even done as part of a home rehabilitation plan with the guidance of your rehabilitation veterinarian and team.  It is a great way to bond with your pet!