Canine Massage Therapy- Yes or No?
Who doesn’t love a good massage? I certainly do and so does Kilo the Pug. I believe it has a range of emotional and physical benefits. I suffer from arthritis and other aches and pains, and I find massage can really help with relaxation, pain relief, healing, circulation and inflammation. I assume it is the same for animals. Plus it just feels good.
Do Dogs Like Belly Rubs and Massages? Why?
Most dogs tend to love belly rubs and massages. Kilo the Pug will paw me and nuzzle me to pet him. He does not like the roll over trick as he does not like feeling submissive or vulnerable, but he will roll on his back for a good belly rub or tickle. He rubs his head on me for a head and neck massage. There is some research that indicates that petting and stimulating hair folicles causes a reaction in the brain and stroking hair is possibly positively associated with social grooming. It probably also stimulates blood flow and can be relaxing like with humans.
Stress Reduction and Relaxation
Kilo clearly enjoys it immensely as he stretches out and pushes towards my hand slightly and often yawns. His eyes close, and he has a look of absolute bliss. It seems to really relax him and increase our bond, and it is also very relaxing for me.
Research has shown that looking at the happy little faces and patting the soft hair of a dog and feeling their warmth can help lower blood pressure, reduce stress and release hormones that increase a feeling of well-being like anti-depressants in humans (Dr Stanley Coren explains in our “Dogs Make a Difference” TV episode and see our post on this here).
Canine Massage Through History
According to Wikipedia, There are ancient records of Canine massage in China, Rome (Julius Caesar’s war dogs), Greece, Egypt, Japan and India. Although people have been performing some form of massage on animals throughout history, modern animal massage was primarily for race horses and show horses until the late 20th century (rub downs and pre-race warm ups). Canine massage has recently grown in popularity.
Canine massage can be for relaxation, rehabilitation or competition/sports. Techniques can be similar to human massage. Canine massage therapy has many physiological effects reportedly documented in experiments on animals as early as the 19th century. As with human massage, canine massage can help provide emotional well-being in addition to physical.
Benefits of massage may include:
- stimulates muscles, enhancing flexibility, tone and range of motion,
- reduces muscle spasms
- reduces inflammations and swelling
- relieves pain
- promotes healing
- increases circulation, oxygen and blood flow
- increases toxin excretion
- relieves tension
- releases endorphins and provides a feeling of well being
- reduces stress, calm hyperactivity and anxiety
- improves tone and elasticity of skin and distributes natural oils
- maintains shiny coat which is great for Kilo the pug as he sheds so much (it works like brushing to slough off lots of hair)
How I Massage Kilo the Pug
I give Kilo 5 minute mini massages a couple of times a day – first thing in the morning, then at times when he gets a little hyper or stressed. I am not a professional but I did study a bit about massage and anatomy years ago and I am extremely careful never to push on bones or pull things or use pressure that might cause an injury.
Kilo is very healthy. I stroke from head to tail in the direction of the hair with a flat hand, then occasionally back the other way. I massage his head, neck, and up and down on either side of his spine firmly but gently in mainly round movements. I then gently rub his shoulders and muscles. I also rub his chest and belly.
However if your dog does not seem to enjoy it, don’t push it.
If you don’t feel confident giving your dog a massage, consult with your vet. There are now associations and specialists. Massage is not a substitute for medical or veterinary care. Certain conditions require diagnosis and treatment by your veterinarian.