Us crazy animal lovers always have to take things to the next level, don't we? Isn't good old fashioned petting enough for my furry friend? Petting your animal is wonderful for both you and your pet, but massage offers a set of health benefits that can't be achieved with a pat on the head.
1. Increased Circulation. Increased circulation can help your pet heal and can boost immunity.
2. Relief From Arthritis Pain. The pain older pets experience from arthritis can be reduced with regular massage.
3. Relief For Sore Muscles. After a hard day of play or a long run or hike, your pet's muscles may be tired just like yours. Massage can help relieve sore muscles.
4. Increased Range of Motion. Especially as our pets age, their range of motion can decrease, resulting in decreased activity. Massage can help maintain and increase a pet's range of motion so that he can stay active.
5. Recovery From an Injury. Massage can help a variety of injuries heal faster. When dealing with an injury, it is best to consult a trained pet massage therapist.
6. Relaxation. You know how you feel after a day at the spa? Massage helps pets feel a similar sense of relaxation.
7. Bonding. The time you spend massaging your pet brings the two of you closer together. Massage can also help you bond with a newly adopted friend.
8. Stress Relief. Animals can be stressed for a variety of reasons. Massage can help calm your pet and relieve that anxiety.
9. Comfort. After your pet understands what you are doing, massage can provide a sense of comfort and security throughout your pet's life and can be a help during end-of-life care.
10. Wellness check. When you touch your pet on a regular basis, you come to know her "nooks and crannies." If an unusual lump or other abnormality arises, it can be caught much more quickly with the regular, thorough touching that massage requires.
Are there any risks to massaging my pet? If your pet has an injury and you massage too deeply or in the wrong way, you risk aggravating the injury or making it worse. Only if you are trained to massage areas of injury should you do so. Also, realize that human hands are powerful. Start by massaging your pet lightly–especially if your pet is small–to reduce the risk of injury. Otherwise, there is little risk to pet massage.
That being said, pet owners should not substitute pet massage for proper veterinary care.
What types of pets can I massage? Massage is most commonly used on dogs and horses, but cats can benefit, too, if they'll tolerate it. Sometimes they're just too cool to settle in to the spa-like atmosphere.
Do I have to be trained in pet massage in order to implement it into my pet's routine? The more you know, the better. There are pet massage courses offered almost everywhere, so if you want to maximize the benefits for your pet, training is a great option. You can also hire a trained pet masseur, if that service is within your budget. But even if you are untrained, a gentle muscle massage can benefit your pet.
In many cases, what works for humans works for pets, too. Massage is one of those cases. When taking a holistic approach to health, massage can play a big role, offering benefits for both you and your pet. To quote Pamela Webster, author of the blog Something Wagging This Way Comes, "good for the dog; good for you."
Resources for more information and techniques: