As many people know, if they have to limit the use of an arm or a leg for some reason, it impacts the rest of the body. And so it goes for dogs and cats that are experiencing pain or paralysis (such as with Degenerative Myelopathy) in some or all of their limbs. Massage is beneficial for the 4-leggeds in the same way that it benefits humans! A few of those ways are:
Benefits You Can Expect for Your Animal (a partial list)
Improved cardiovascular circulation:
The body responds to massage by reflexively dilating the blood vessels. This in turn aids in the improving of blood circulation and lowering of blood pressure. Nutrients and oxygen are transported to the cells and tissues more effectively.
Improved lymphatic circulation:
This helps to remove waste from the system more effectively. Also able to boost immune functions and may help individuals with immune disorders.
Increased flexibility and range of motion:
Massage relieves muscular restrictions, tightness, stiffness, and spasms. This occurs when muscle fibers are separated, which releases spasms and tension. Stretching of the fibers aids in muscle relaxation.
Due to the increased oxygen and nutrients, there is a reduction of muscle fatigue and post-exercise soreness. Fatigue and soreness is further reduced, as it promotes rapid disposal of waste products.
Enhanced overall well being:
The increase of some hormones in the system will decrease stress levels and reduce depression. The relaxation response is activated.
Enhanced function of all body systems:
As a result, there is an increase: of energy; improvement in posture; motor skills; balance; improvement to skin and coat; digestion; etc.
Possible early detection of abnormalities:
Because you are touching areas of your pet’s body, not usually felt when petting, you become attuned to changes that are happening. Early detection of new lumps or other changes to the skin or fur will alert you that further investigation may be necessary.
Very often, when a dog comes here to be measured, I end up massaging the dog, as well. One of the other things I specifically target is changing negative muscle memory. This manifests when a part of the body, due to pain or disability, learns how to move in a different, yet undesirable way. For example, a dog that has had a rear limb amputated will begin to walk with the remaining leg angled toward the center, in order to provide optimum balance. While the dog is in the cart, the leg may be gently moved into the proper position and then massaged. That in addition to the cart will assist in the dog resuming a more normal gait.
When a dog comes for the cart fitting, a massage beforehand will enable the dog to relax and recover, often from a long car ride, before trying out the cart for the first time. A dog that has a roached back, from pain and/or overcompensating for mobility issues will often relax the muscles that have contracted. This also assists us in being able to adjust the yoke to its proper position.
Because most of the people who come here are from out of town, I recently started offering teaching sessions, as I think almost anyone is able to learn how to massage their own pet. A half hour massage once or twice a week is also a delightful way to deepen the already special bond the owner has with their dog or cat. I even recommend lowering the lights and playing relaxing music! If the humans involved are feeling relaxed, that will be conveyed during the massage.
(This blog was written by Carole Groman, MST, CSAMT, RP. She is the Director of Sales for Eddie’s Wheels and a certified small animal massage therapist and Reiki Practitioner. To visit her website, go to www.handpawanimalmassage.com )