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2013-09-20 / Massage for Your Health

Massage for your beloved pet

By Susan Santi
HTF Columnist

Yes, massage is becoming quite the thing to do for your pet, whether your pet is a dog, cat or even a horse. While some owners massage their pets themselves, others take them to someone or even have the massage therapist come to them.

Some naysayers scoff at the whole idea of pet massage. “Really…pet massage? What’s wrong with just petting?” While the dictionary talks about petting as simply stroking an animal; massaging takes it beyond that to kneading and rubbing for therapeutic purposes. And I do believe that petting your furry friend can be therapeutic too, because it does lower their blood pressure as well as yours at the same time. Massaging gets into the muscle tissue at a deeper level, which can create a more relaxing and sometimes healing experience for them.

I have only worked on a couple of animals, both dogs. One was a roommate’s dog and the other is my sister-in-law’s dog. The first one had been through two knee surgeries. We would take her with us on hikes and almost always, once home, she would need an aspirin and some massaging on her hips as she was usually sore and somewhat arthritic. I could tell she really enjoyed it and it did seem to help with her mobility and being able to get up off the floor.

The other dog is a poodle that is getting up there in years and the massaging simply happened because she was sitting on my lap and I do massage and it just seemed natural to massage her. I never gave it a second thought and she never objected as she sat there with her eyes half closed.

For animal lovers who are interested in learning techniques for massaging their pets there are lots of courses out there from which to learn. I am not sure we have any taught here on the Iron Range. According to Google there are many courses to choose from should you decide to do a home study course or you can travel to the cities and be face to face with an instructor. And if you want someone to take your animals to, the good news is there is a LOCAL business here in Aurora that does pet massage! Now that is exciting!

Also, I came across an article that listed some pointers for those of you who are interested in working on your pets yourselves. These come from Jean- Pierre Hourdebaight, who is a teacher and practitioner of canine massage and also has written a book on that very subject. The tips are: 1) Start with light pressure. “Most people have so much power in their hands; they don’t realize it can be too much for some animals…only if the dog seems comfortable should the pressure be increased.” 2) Maintain an even speed. “If you’re erratic-starting fast, slowing down, getting fast again - the animal worries too much,” he said. “If you maintain one stroke per second, whether you’re doing gentle kneading or friction the animal can relax in the flow of the rhythm.” 3) Place the pet on a table to keep your own posture comfortable. 4) Avoid massaging the animal with other animals near by. “If you have several dogs in the house and you take one particular dog aside and isolate him on a table while the others are having fun, he’ll feel like he is missing out on something and won’t be able to relax.” 5) Learn palpation, a technique of touching aimed at discovering abnormalities. “Any time you feel unusual heat, puffiness or swelling on the animal, back off, and before doing any massage on the suspect spot, ask a veterinarian.”*

The scoffers can say what they will; I believe massage can be as beneficial for our pets as it is for us. After all, if massage increases their circulation, strengthens their immune system, increases joint flexibility and helps with relaxation for them, why wouldn’t massage be good for them?

* www.nytimes.com (Dog Massage? Isn’t Petting Enough?)

Susan Santi is a certified massage therapist and owner of Ahhh Massage in Virginia, MN. Feel free to contact her with questions at 218-410-2144.

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