HEALTH & CARE

How to Massage A Dog: Tips & Tricks on How to Help Rover Relax

Dog massage
Wyatt Robinson
Written by Wyatt Robinson

Everyone loves getting a massage. It allows our bodies to relax from the stress and all the tension from our daily chores. The relaxation that a massage provides significantly decreases blood pressure, and it can go a long way in promoting health and well-being. Who would have thought that our fur babies could also benefit from these age-old methods of improving overall health? Canine massages are starting to become popular because they are easy, and you can do such massages for just several minutes a day.

Canine massage is a division of massage therapy in animals that promotes health specifically for dogs. Canine massage therapy is a type of alternative therapy, the benefits of which may include increased oxygenation, improved joint flexibility, relaxation, pain relief, as well as varying benefits to the dog’s immune system.

Massage A Dog

Canine massage therapy utilizes touch to improve or maintain emotional and physical well-being. Through the progressive scientific studies that have been supported by earlier research and application, canine massage therapy has been in the scene since the World War era but was not completely utilized because of the prevailing conditions during that time. Since then, there has been progressive application, and this type of therapy has been gaining significant attention and importance in recent years.

From ancient to current medical application

We all know that massages and reflexology have been around for several centuries already. These therapies have been the most reliable aspects of alternative medicine in humans because of the relief that they can provide for minor injuries, agitation, and soreness. Through the years, it has been found that dogs can also benefit from this alternative medical approach, and since then, massage therapy has been a rapidly growing method that allows pet parents to create a stronger bond with their fur babies.

Dog ready for massage

The technique of applying gentle pressure enables improvement in circulation, mobilization of the muscles, and even the improvement of hair strands through the touching and parting of fur. Dog massage is an alternative medicine approach that has established itself in terms of promoting dog health and well-being, alongside different diet schemes and training methods.

Professional therapeutic canine massage practitioner vs home massages with the pet parent

Larger communities and online groups have professional therapeutic canine massage practitioners. These individuals have been trained to provide systematic and problem-targeted massaging techniques, which are more targeted toward dogs that have chronic muscle problems and exhibit agitation. These individuals perform collaborative work with a veterinarian to make sure that the prepared intervention will achieve the expected results. For pet parents who can spare enough time, there is a training course for therapeutic canine massages.

Professional massager

However, for pet parents who would like to perform the basic kinds of massages to their dogs, you just need to know the basic canine massage approach. These basic massages may not be as effective as the ones done by a professional canine massage practitioner, but this massage type can give something that the former cannot provide – a deeper connection between the dog and its owner.

Benefits of dog massage

There are numerous benefits and advantages that a dog massage can offer. These include the following:

Enhances connection between owners and newly adopted dogs – in the situation that an owner and the dog have just been with each other for a couple of days, a massage can establish the important connection between the pet parent and the fur baby. It establishes a relationship that involves trust and compassion.

Enhances blood circulation in the skin and underlying structure – by applying pressure and movement to the skin, muscles, and bones, circulation is improved because the pressure and movement of a massage affect the blood vessels and allow better passing of blood and its components.

Better circulation is very helpful in promoting animal well-being, especially in larger breeds in which there can be a compromise in circulation due to the distance between the heart and the upper and lower extremities. Massage inhibits fluid accumulation and the possibility of forming an infection, while promoting better cellular integrity.

Increases flexibility – massages promote flexibility and improve the state of the muscles and skeletal structure both before and after the activity. Flexibility is important in dogs because it reduces the possibility of contracting injury. Again, medium and large-sized breeds will benefit from this more than the smaller breeds.

Develops and maintains muscle tone – in conjunction with the improvement of overall circulation, massages aids in the development and maintenance of muscle tone. The development part is essential for growing puppies, and maintenance is more for the adult dogs.

Benefits of dog massage

Improves skeletal frame – while massages in dogs are different in terms of chiropractics, canine massages can aid in the improvement of skeletal frame and posture in particular. This allows them to maintain proper posture, stance, and shape.

Massages help in dog rehabilitation post-surgery – dogs that underwent surgery will benefit from pressure and kneading movement to relieve pain and anxiety. This is more evident in dogs that had surgery that involves bones and muscles. Dogs that had a previous fracture will also appreciate the release of tension from injury.

Massages aid in palliative care – canine massage is starting to become an integral part of palliative care in dogs that are in the end-stage cycle. Massages can provide a temporary relief from pain, while serving as a natural anxiolytic for agitated and stressed dogs that have terminal illnesses.

Things to remember in giving massages in dogs

While the principles of massages in humans and dogs are quite similar, some aspects should not be present in giving massages in dogs. Pressure is definitely variable between dog sizes and breeds, and it should not be forceful because you can actually introduce injuries by applying excessive pressure.

Pet parents love aromatherapy involved in their massages because it enhances the relaxing experience. Such scents and oils can work wonders in humans, but that is not the case in dogs. Oils can cause digestive problems and may even end up poisoning the dog. Massages in dogs will only require strokes, pressure, and petting without the aid of oils and other substances.

Types of dog massages

There are several types of dog massages that pet parents can do at home. These basic massage techniques can be done as a daily routine because they are easy to do, and they only require a very little amount of time. In this discussion, we will focus on four types of basic dog massages:

  • Daily dog massage
  • Soreness relief massage
  • Warm-up massage
  • Calming massage

Daily dog massage

According to experts and licensed canine massage therapists, pet parents can give daily dog massages for about ten minutes each day. This is called the daily routine or maintenance massage.

Canine massage

These mild dog massage therapies help improve circulation of the blood into the skin and muscles, and they allow ventilation of the hair strands by applying pressure and segmenting of the body parts that will be massaged. By using a flat palm to touch the parts of your dog’s body at a slow pace, focus on the layers of the body, from the hair, skin, the layer of fat, and deep into the bone.

Daily massages actually provide a relaxing moment for the pet parent as well, and they promote intimacy and deeper connection between the dog and its owner. It promotes trust and affection as well. Another benefit of providing daily massages to your dog is that you are more aware of the dog’s body. This means that you will notice any changes in appearance, or any emergence of lumps and bumps that didn’t use to be there.

Early detection of malignant tumors leads to prompt treatment and better prognosis. After a week of giving your dog a massage, you will experience a better connection with your dog.

Soreness relief dog massage

Dogs, especially those with advancing age, can experience muscle and joint soreness. This can be due to progressive age or a mild injury after a particular activity. This can also be alleviated by providing a dog massage to relieve soreness. The massage can be initiated by warming the tissue around the affected area. This can be done by gently petting the area. Gentle compressions should follow by placing your hand over the area that will be massaged.

Joint massage

Remember: Muscle and joint soreness in dogs can be different from that in humans. Do not implement any intervention that you usually do at home. Warm compresses, even if you think they are not warm enough to scald the dog’s skin, can actually burn your pet.

If you think the soreness is quite serious, do not perform any additional action and consult the injury with your veterinarian. There are numerous injuries or levels of soreness that may be camouflaged as an injury when, in fact, they can be a fracture. Gentle pressure is very important in providing massages intended to relieve soreness. Also, never use direct force to the bone even if you are 100% sure that it is not broken.

Warm-up dog massage

A warm-up massage for dogs is ideal for active pets that will be engaged in a walking or playing activity. This mobilizes and activates their muscles and bones, as well as improves their vigor to get the most out of the activity. Just like humans who prepare for a specific exercise routine, stretching, striding, and stroking of the legs and paws will go a long way for dogs. These actions prevent injury, as the body is more prepared and mobile to perform a particular routine.

Warm up massage

In performing a warm-up massage, start with petting strokes all over your dog’s body. Then, rub the large muscle groups, particularly those in the neck, legs, shoulders, thighs, and buttocks, as these muscle groups are the most involved at any exercise level. The muscles should be lifted and squeezed gently. The kneading technique is very effective for warm-up massages. Each lower leg should be gently squeezed to allow better circulation. The massage can be completed by the petting strokes similar to what have been done at the beginning.

Calming dog massage

This massage technique helps agitated dogs to calm down. It is believed that this method is more inclined toward dogs that have experienced trauma and are very sensitive to sudden movements or actions in their surroundings. These traumatic experiences can range from physical abuse or a sudden rumble of thunder before the rain. The dog pants and whines because it feels scared and unsafe.

Calming dog massages are those that are frequently provided by licensed canine massage therapists, especially for cases in which the trauma is quite severe and requires a more systemic massage method. Such technique can also be done at home, especially for the milder cases that will only require the intervention of the pet parent. In providing a calming dog massage, you should place your palm over your dog’s head.

Then, sweeping and gentle passes should be performed along the spinal column to the end of the tailbone. This should be down at a slow pace, because rushing it can create further agitation.

Stress points of dog

Remember: It is very important not to apply too much pressure when performing a calming dog massage. Increased pressure can often lead to injury. The pressure tolerance of a dog is at a lower level than ours.

Ways to enhance the massage experience

There are numerous ways to enhance the massage experience at home. For the pet parents, massages can be done while watching your favorite TV series. This extends the time that you spend with your dog by just caressing its hair or gently massaging its paws. It might fall asleep in relaxation, but your dog will thank you for that. There are also some resorts that are pet friendly, and you can even rent your own private small pool where you and your dog can frolic and play in the water together. This can promote bonding like no other.

Conclusion

Massages in dogs can be a truly rewarding experience between the fur baby and its pet parent. Through the simple application of pressure and movement, you establish comfort in so many levels that your dog can actually benefit from.

About the author
Wyatt Robinson
Wyatt Robinson

Wyatt Robinson had a great 25-years career as a veterinarian in United Kingdom. He used to be a member of British Veterinary Association and worked in 3 pet hospitals in London and Manchester. He is shining when he sees his pets healthy and full of energy and it is his duty to help other dog owners to keep their best friends full of life.

  • Jane Lewis

    I’ve heard about cat massages, and while it makes sense that dogs are massaged as well, this is the first time that I’ve stumbled upon a guide to give it. This is very informative and I’ll definitely suggest massaging our dogs when the free time comes up. Recommended professional dog masseuse would be appreciated, though.

    • Professional dog masseuse is still not a very common service, even in established pet salons and veterinary clinics. We encourage the pet parents to slowly learn the process first, because it promotes a closer bond between the pet and the owner. It is also relaxing for both.

  • Alice Moore

    Massages are really helpful in that they automatically have a bunch of benefits. Aside from the ones mentioned above, canine massages also release toxins kept too long in the body and keeps the canines in good shape overall. A massage could serve well as a bonding experience and a good way to unwind after a long walk or a strenuous run, over all it’s a pretty beneficial activity. Does anyone have ideas to make a massage more soothing for the pooch?

    • I recommend to start with brief and gentle massages. Some dogs are not comfortable during the first few sessions, but they’ll get used to it eventually.

  • Emily B.

    My dog adores a head massage! She closes her eyes and even tries to smile. After these procedures, she is always pulling me to walk where jumps and runs a lot.

  • That’s some great results you got there, Emily! Keep up the good work!

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