By now you’ve learned the benefits of dog massage in part one of this two-part Tripawd News series. Now, here’s a great dog massage video, followed by how-to tips to get started! Many thanks to animal massage therapist, Pam Kuhn, CAMT from Chicago, Illinois for showing us how.
Isabelle loves her dog massage sessions!
Effleurage is the first thing you will do when beginning a massage. This is a hand-over-hand technique where you are running your hands over your pet’s body, from head to tail.
There are many reasons why effleurage is important. It will cue your pet’s body that they are going to receive a massage. It will give your pet a chance to tell you what’s going on with their body.
This is when they might push a certain area of their body into your hands or the opposite and pull away from you. Animals communicate through body language, so this is how your pet will tell you if they are having discomfort, or, if it feels really great when you rub them in a certain spot!
Massage will help detect anything unusual because you become so “in touch” with their body.
- As you run your hands over your pet’s body, close your eyes.
- Feel your pet. Feel the fur, where is their coat coarse and where is the fur softer?
- Feel any lumps or bumps.
Effleurage will alter the heart rate, matching the speed at which you run your hands over their body. Slower helps relax your pet, faster is more stimulating.
When you run your hands over the body, always extend them down along the “phantom limb”. There is still energy in that area, so continue the massage as if the limb was still there.
Rocking is my favorite massage technique because it is so beneficial to animals of any size and age.
You do the same movements on your pet’s hips as well as their shoulders. The gentle rocking motion is comforting, and warms up the body, keeping the muscles loose and less prone to injury. This technique will also help strengthen the muscles.
- With your hands lightly cupped, press the palms gently over your pet’s shoulders or hips.
- Now, keeping your hands in place, begin to move the muscle and tissue in a circular motion.
- Think of making small, gentle circles, rocking your pet’s body from side to side.
A good example of the difference between petting and massage is:
- Petting is just running your hands over the fur.
- Massage is moving the tissue and muscle underneath.
Dogs and Stress
Our pets have areas on their bodies that get tense, just like us. Dogs that pull on their leash carry stress in the neck/shoulder area. Some pets who feel it’s their duty to guard and protect, will have tension below the ears & sometimes the rear quarters.
The pet missing a limb will usually carry stress in the area opposite of the loss, as they are compensating by carrying extra weight in other parts of their body.
What does stress feel like? A fist. An area that is tight and immovable.
“Knead” to Alleviate Stress
- If your pet is comfortable with you handling the area of tension, lift the fur between your fingers,
- Make sure not to pinch, and fold the tissue gently away from you.
- This technique is called petrissage, or “kneading”. When you lift the tissue, you are allowing fresh oxygen to flow through the pockets between the tissue and muscle.
Dog Massage: Things to Remember
If your pet ever shows any signs that they are uncomfortable with what you are doing, STOP. Never force your pet to get a massage.
If you find something unfamiliar on your pet’s body, go immediately to your vet and have it checked out. Always let your veterinarian know that you are giving your pet a massage.
Massage should be an enjoyable, relaxing experience for you and your pet. So, try it tonight!
Before starting, read “Relax, and Learn How to Massage Your Tripawd, Part 1“
Pam Kuhn, CAMT (Certified Animal Massage Therapist) was certified as an animal massage therapist through Pet-ri-ssage LTD in 1999 and is currently a massage therapist at an integrative veterinary/rehabilitation practice and makes home visits.
She is the primary instructor for Animal Career Academy’s Pet Massage School and has experience as a veterinary technician and trainer. She aids many rescue organizations and animal shelters by donating her time (and hands) to help animals in need. Pam lives in Chicago with her husband, Ed, and sweet, black Pug, Rugby.