By Rachel Ray, CMT
Just as it is for people, getting a massage holds many benefits for our canine friends. This includes maintaining wellness, reducing pain and soreness, promoting recovery after surgery, boosting the immune system, assisting in the elimination of wastes and toxins, improving muscle tone, increasing blood supply and nutrition to tissues, and bringing about a sense of calm and relaxation. Massaging your dog can be a time of bonding, and you might actually become as relaxed as she will be.
Before you begin the massage, take a moment to run your hands over your dog’s entire body from head to tail; make note of anything you find that you don’t remember feeling before. You may want to have your veterinarian check out anything unusual that you find. Doing this on a regular basis will help in the early detection of any changes in your dog’s body.
There are a few contraindications to be aware of with regards to massage: open wounds, bruising, burns, swellings such as lumps or bumps that have not been diagnosed, elevated breathing or heart rate, fever, shock, or cancer. It is recommended that you consult your veterinarian before beginning a massage routine with your dog.
A quiet atmosphere is best. You can massage on a couch or bed, although the floor can allow you to move around your dog more easily.
Sit to the side of your dog or have her in front of you with her back to you. Using both hands, start with a nice long stroke from the top of her head to the lower back, hips and off the tail (if she has one!). Do this three times. I call it the “I love you” stroke.
Now use one hand as the “worker” and the other as the “nurturer.” (It rests on the body unless needed.) By using the finger pads of your index and middle fingers, make clockwise circles about the size of a quarter at the top of your dog’s head. Make three circles, lift up and go to another spot. Your pressure is light with the first circle then medium for the other two.
Work all around the head, under the eyes, along the muzzle, under the chin, and down either side of the neck, remembering not to work directly on the throat.
Now connect all those circles with nice slow strokes.
Go to the ears, and with the index finger on the inside flap and thumb on the outside, start at the base of the ear and gently stroke out to the tip. Do this three times.
If your dog is comfortable being on her side, help her to lie down if she isn’t already. She should be pretty relaxed by now.
Starting at the back of her neck do your circles from the neck to the shoulder to the front leg and paw. When you reach her leg, use your nurturing hand as a support underneath. You will want to connect this whole area with a nice long stroke.
Now continue your circles along the back, side, and abdomen. The spine is your boundary line. You can now incorporate the lower back, hips, and rear leg and paw. Remember the connecting stroke!
Help your dog up, giving positive comments as you do and help her to her other side. A treat would be nice too. Repeat the sequence.
Once this side is complete, you will use a long connecting stroke from the top of the head to the tip of the tail. Now go back to the tail and do three strokes from the base to the tip. Repeat two more connecting strokes from the head to the tip of the tail.
Help your dog up and finish with a completion stroke. With your hands on top of her head move down to her neck, then with one hand on either side of her spine, stroke towards the tail. Now go back to the shoulders and go down her front legs. Come back up and go down the sides to the hips and down the back legs. Finish with a final stroke from the head to the tip of tail.
Congratulations! You now have some basic skills to use to help deepen your special relationship with your beloved friend and to increase her well-being.
Rachel Ray, C.M.T., began her massage training for animals with Optissage Canine Therapy in the 1990s. She is also trained in acupressure for canines, Reiki, gem and flower essences, and tuning fork therapy for animals. Rachel has worked with dogs, cats, horses, and wolves. She offers canine massage at Natural Veterinary Therapy in Pacific Grove. Rachel can be reached at email@example.com.
Natural Veterinary Therapy is located at 510 Lighthouse Avenue in downtown Pacific Grove and can be reached at 831-655-0501 or www.naturalveterinarytherapy.com.