by Marsha Converse
To many of us, there is no animal in our culture that lends itself to so much love as our faithful dogs, they are an extension of ourselves. Just like their human companions, dogs experience stress, muscle tension, and behavior issues. The side-effects can be exhibited physically or emotionally.
Everyday touch can bring our dogs comfort, but massaging is done with intent and purpose and can provide more than comfort. The touch from an experienced canine massage therapist can provide a deep comfort in times of stress. As with humans, massage has been shown to trigger a para-sympathetic response from the subject’s nervous system. Massage increases blood flow and flexibility while focusing on the soft tissue. Dog massage can play an important role in post-surgery rehabilitation and geriatric care. Massage has been shown to be a successful treatment for chronic conditions like arthritis, allergies, swollen joints, and even with many skin conditions. Circular massage of the gums, can increase circulation to problem areas of the mouth.
The emotional benefits are no less important. We expect dogs to be happy and good natured at all times but many dogs suffer from fears of abandonment, kennel stress, previous abuse, cultural stereotyping and socialization issues. Many a dog will respond to a massage relaxation and engaging in needed release in the first session but most dogs will require more than one session to release and relax.
While dog massage is not a replacement for veterinary care, it can provide an important adjunct to traditional care.
My role at GoodK9Karma in Oakland CA is that of a facilitator, assisting each dog to attain and maintain a naturally healthy state. Canine massage is deliberate and focused. The specific results of the bodywork sessions vary for each animal. Some dogs benefit the first session, but most dogs do not release until additional sessions are performed and after developing a level of comfort with practitioner. Beneficial effects of massage include circulation of blood and lymph, pain relief through endorphin release, increase in trust and mood, improved flexibility, increased performance, shortened recovery from illness or surgery, emotional calming and injury prevention. Canine massage is a complementary practice gaining in popularity as a part of overall health maintenance and wellbeing for our best friend.
Massage should never be forced on a dog. Every effort should be made to connect with dog to ensure he gets the most from a session. Essential Oils, music and energy work are often incorporated to enhance the experience.
PERFORMANCE MASSAGE-ATHLETIC & WORKING DOGS
The sports massage is designed to heal and prevent further injuries by warming up the dog’s muscles with acupressure which increases blood flow. It helps to prevent stiffness and soreness in the dog. Sports massage can enhance performance and prevent injuries in weekend warrior canine athletes, show and service dogs.
Therapeutic massage is relaxing, promotes general wellbeing, boosts the immune system and increases circulation and muscle tone. Therapeutic massage involves long strokes and kneading techniques used on the muscle layers, which causes toxins to be released from the tissues and supplies nutrients to the muscles. This is a good first visit massage and help dogs in general become trusting and sociable and can create a better overall quality of life for them.
OLDER DOGS / PALLIATIVE CARE
Dogs are living much longer today due to advances in veterinary technology, better nutrition and medical care. Therefore, it is increasingly important to find ways to help older dogs maintain their health and vitality. When working with a senior dog an even longer assessment is done on first visit and on subsequent visits. Gentle pressure to release the muscles and alleviate pain and can be used in conjunction with therapeutic massage which relaxes and promotes general well-being and boosts the immune system. For a healthier, active, older dog, once muscles are warmed up, gentle acupressure (sports massage) can loosen the muscles and increase circulation to prevent stiffness and soreness.
Helping your dog realize it’s ‘Fur Potential’
Marsha Converse – Good K9Karma, Oakland CA