What is massage? The technical definition can be put in these terms: “The manipulation of soft tissues of the body. It brings about positive changes in muscles, tendons (attach muscle to bone) and ligaments (attach bone to bone).” That’s the technical, science based definition. Now as a practitioner in dog massage, I’d prefer to put it this way: “Massage is intentional touch, not just heavy petting!”
Dog Massage Therapy – Not Just Heavy Petting!
No seriously, let me elucidate: Massage is “intentional touch, given with an attitude of respect and love.” Veterinarians work with the motto ‘Do no harm.’ My own motto is ‘Helping pets feel good! While doing the least possible harm.’ To me, that means getting back to the basics of touch. It means using the ancient healing properties that are found in nature.** I believe massage can be therapeutic on a cellular level AND on an energetic level. Intentional touch unblocks systems which allows an animal to heal him or herself.
One of the first questions I get asked is: Why do dog massage? There are lots of logical reasons:
- For relaxation
- Pain management (as an alternative to pharmaceuticals)
- Accelerates the healing process (after injury, after surgery)
- Increases range of motion in the joints
- Increases muscle tone
- Eases the affects of aging
- Reduce emotional problems due to trauma, anxiety, fear
What are the benefits of massage?
First, the Physical benefits: I believe that massage increases the flow of 5 different systems in mammals:
- blood (circulatory system, bringing oxygen to the area)
- lymphatic (cleansing system, so toxins can be expelled through lymph glands)
- cerebral spinal fluid (moves up and down spine and bathes skull, vertebrae, sacrum)
- Synovial Fluid – bathes the joints to increase range of motion.
- Chi – according to Traditional Chinese Medicine this is the life force that flows through meridians in the body. If something is blocked, it leads to imbalance/ illness.
Second, the Emotional benefits: Your dog learns to feel safe. He or she feel understood, valued and accepted. Touch works on a whole other level of bonding. A silent communication happens, soul to soul if you’ll let it.
Third, the Communication benefits: Dog massage can actually help in training. It aids enormously with your interactions in terms that your dog can understand.
Fourth, the Bonding benefits: Dog massage gives your dog your love! It increases the bond you already have with your dog. Those regular dog massage sessions are also a great way to do a weekly wellness check to assess any changes in your dog’s health. Is there a new lump or bump? Is there a sore that won’t heal? Does your dog flinch when you touch a particular spot? By detecting problems earlier, you can alert your veterinarian and thus nip a more serious problem in the bud.
You are giving your dog a gift of something that they cannot do for themselves, like treat their paws, or rub their neck. They can’t tell you “it itches here, it hurts here.” But through dog massage, you can learn to read signals and notice changes with an educated eye. Watch and listen and feel.
Learn Dog Massage with Four Paws Wellness
To learn how to give a basic, feel good dog massage, Four Paws Wellness is offering workshops in several locations across Ontario. The workshops are called Dog Massage 101. You will learn how to read stress signals that indicate pain. Learn dog anatomy, body mechanics, the kind of strokes and assessment tools to soothe typical areas of tension. Note that this is not a course to treat a lameness issue or injury. But you’ll know when you do need to see a specialist.
For an upcoming dog massage workshop in your area of the Golden Horseshoe of Southern Ontario, read our article here on Furever , and visit our Four Paws Wellnss Partner Showcase where you can send us an email with any questions you may have.
**My other modality, Bach Flower Remedies, is also part of using nature to assist in healing, we will cover it in an upcoming article.
About Laura Arsenseau, Four Paws Wellness
The holistic way is to rebalance mind, body and spirit. Four Paws Wellness is a unique, holistic pet service that operates mobile in Niagara region and at clinics in Fort Erie, Burlington and Toronto, Ontario. We are certified and insured in two effective modalities including Canine and Feline Massage and Bach Flower Remedies. Many veterinarians recognize alternative therapy in animal care, so we work in partnership with, not in place of, your veterinarian in a model of integrated medicine.