Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Benefits of Massage Therapy for Pets

By Langley Cornwell

Holistic health care for our canine and feline friends is gaining traction. There are all types of herbs and remedies being touted to keep dogs and cats healthy. You may or may not embrace this mindset, but whatever you think of the trend, there is a hands-on therapy that has captured my attention. The benefits make sense to me, it’s free and it’s something I can do at home for my pets. I’m talking about pet massage.    

I’ll admit to indulging in a massage once in a while. I’m convinced of the benefits of massage for me, so it stands to reason that the same would benefit my dog and my cat. Additionally, I’m a huge advocate of creating and maintaining a strong bond with your pets. Any activity you participate in together furthers that bond – so that’s another plus for giving your dog or cat a massage.

An article in Your Holistic Dog convinced me to start massaging our four-legged family members because it explained the benefits in layman’s terms. Some of the benefits are easy to quantify but other benefits of massage therapy are hard to measure. Sure, obvious mobility improvement can be measured but there are other reasons to consider pet massage. One big reason is that massage and other hands-on therapies increase the movement of your animal’s body fluids, thereby washing their internal systems. This increased fluid circulation flushes toxins and strengthens their immune system. In addition, massage is believed to provide your pet with relief from pain and from stress. As in humans, stress manifests itself in a variety of physical ways and contributes to an assortment of illnesses. Here are some of the measurable and immeasurable benefits of pet massage.

Stimulate bodily fluids and expedite recovery from surgery or sickness

As already touched on, dog and cat massage stimulates all the fluids in the body including water, lymphatic fluids and even blood. If your pet has recently undergone surgery, you can give him a massage to speed up the recovery time. Massage circulates the sedation or anesthesia through the body quicker. Moreover, the stimulation of bodily fluids helps release stored toxins and flush them from the body, thereby enabling your pet to recover more quickly from sickness. Another benefit is that the movement of lymphatic fluids can strengthen your pet’s immune system.

Some high-energy pets are more prone to need surgery than others. Working dogs or dogs that are active in agility sports are subject to joint injuries and repetitive stress problems. Dogs of any type can suffer from cruciate ligament ruptures in the knee joint (also known as CCL or ACL injuries) or patellar luxation at some point in their life, both of which can require major surgery with extensive recovery times. Massage can help the dog overcome the stress of the surgery as well as hurry the healing process.

When an animal has major surgery, they must remain immobile during the first few weeks of recovery. It’s during this time that their body fluids can stagnate. Massage experts recommend using long strokes to keep the dog’s bodily fluids moving during this time, which speeds up the healing process and alleviates possible constipation and digestive problems that can occur.

But don’t worry about the massage technique, just the act of touching your pet in a loving and therapeutic way helps relieve their stress as well as your own.

Reduce stress and ease muscle restrictions

Dogs and people get the same types of muscle knots and stiffness. And just like people, dog massage helps alleviate this. Specifically, dog massage can relax and detach sticky connective muscle tissues, which allows bodily fluids to easily pump through the area.  When fluids can move freely, it decreases pain and stiffness.

My next-door neighbor used to massage her arthritic cat’s shoulders. She was a retired nurse and swore it helped her cat’s mobility. Now I’ve learned she was onto something. Pet massage can balance an animal’s muscle tone, which aids the flexibility around body joints. I read a testimonial of a person whose dog was experiencing signs of a luxating patella. Through massage, the gal was able to strengthen the muscles around her dog’s knee. She believes that massage, supplements, and excellent nutrition improved her dog’s condition by providing increased stability around the joints.

If you’ve ever enjoyed a massage, you know how good they make you feel. What happens is this: the action stimulates endorphins, the feel-good hormone. Through massage, these endorphins swirl around your body doing what they do – make you feel good. The same happens for your pet. Additionally, massage has a calming influence, which is important for sustaining good health. Massage brings our pets to a state of relaxation, and calms them to the point where their body can heal or recover from excessive exercise or early stages of illness and disease.

Help senior dogs and cats in a variety of ways

As dogs and cats grow older, they develop a variety of health related problems associated with the aging process. Arthritis and joint problems including hip dysplasia can contribute to a loss of flexibility and mobility. As my nurse-neighbor figured out, pet massage can create a better quality of life for our animals by increasing movement and flexibility as well as just making them feel better in general.

For our pets, we’ll stick with a nutritious diet of CANIDAE and FELIDAE, see that they get plenty of exercise, and, now that I’m completely convinced of the benefits, I’ll give them a massage now and then. If I can help my pets feel better while furthering our bond, then I’m all over it.  

Photo by Susie Katz

Read more articles by Langley Cornwell


  1. We agree. Pet massage definitely has great benefits! Our cat Sammy has arthritis, and gentle massages seem to help his mobility (and we can tell he loves it by the way he purrs and stretches). :)

  2. Good post! The only thing I would say is that in our house it is the pet who gives me the massage in the form of cat shiatsu. :)

  3. I love massages too. I give my animals some massages but not as many as they would like!! life gets in the way at times!!!

  4. Massage can really help improve the blood circulation. When Mika was injured a year ago, massages and hydrotherapy helped him to use his injured leg back.

  5. I like this post.. I love pets and I really appreciate to those who take time to serve in massage especially with your pets.

  6. I often massage my little dog just before bed. She loves it & its very relaxing for me too. Beautiful way to bond with your little pet. They are so worth the love & attention.


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