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How to Give Your Dog a Massage

By: Marlene Grass, RVT, CMT

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Does your dog seem tense and stiff? Maybe even a little crabby? If so, consider giving him a massage. A properly performed massage can help release pent up stress and negative energy, resulting in a calm and more peaceful pet.

The sensation of simple touch of the fur (skin) to the manipulation of muscles has shown to enhance the human animal bond, and sometimes even establish it. For the inactive and older pet, as well for the young or working pet, the owner can provide a gentle comforting touch. This helps provide security and calmness and will aid in relieving stress. Be aware that at home massage is different than the massage done by a certified massage therapist. These trained people can provide a more thorough massage, incorporating a variety of techniques.
The benefits from massage are many:

  • Increased flexibility
  • A general sense of wellness
  • Reduction of pain
  • Increased circulation
  • Calmness

    Massage should always be a calming and gentle activity. Before you begin, make sure your dog is in a comfortable and quiet place. A table, the floor or even on the couch, are good places. The area should be padded and clean, and have plenty of fresh water available. This will allow the pet to receive the most benefit from the massage. The most important part of a massage is relaxation. Do not force your pet to submit to a massage if he really isn't interested. Never massage a lump and do not use massage in an animal with a fever or an infection. As with anything else, there may be times when massage does not help.

    A couple of basic techniques that you can use at home include effleurage and passive touch. These are applied only three times during each session.

    Effleurage

    Effleurage is a gentle, long stroke, which helps to warm the tissue. The amount of pressure applied to the animal is about 5 grams to a pound. This is a very, very light touch. One hand is on the pet at all time, while the other hand slowly slides down over the face, head, body, tail and outside of the legs. Make sure to go in the direction of the hair growth. Next, gently stroke up the inside of the legs, against the hair growth.

    With hand over hand efflurage, one hand starts a stroke as the other hand ends a stroke. This leaves one hand connected to the animal at all times. Centripetal efflurage is a circle motion toward the heart. Be careful not to pull the hair. Do not touch areas of infection, open wounds or lumps.

    Passive Touch

    When passive touch is applied, it is done with no pressure at all. Your hand is held on a muscle group only. A hand is held on the head, shoulder, along the side or the thigh and hip. This is done for a few moments. It will produce calmness, and help to relieve some pain. Your pet will be comforted by this weightless touch. Passive touch can be done anytime, while watching television or while out on a walk. Again, areas of infection, bony areas, open wounds and lumps are not touched.

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