When asked to write about therapeutic massage in pets, I don’t know where to start! Do I start with why it’s one of my favorite parts of my job? How it can help pets? What the process looks like? As my mother would always tell me, “Well, why don’t you start at the beginning?”
How do I get my pet started with massage? I see dogs, and cats (yes! Cats! I’ve even massaged a very co-operative rabbit!) for a variety of reasons. Your pet would start with a visit with the veterinarian: to isolate concerns, develop a treatment plan, and ensure your pet doesn’t have any factors that could guide me to massage differently, or make him/her not a good candidate for massage.
What does the massage itself look like? We have a very cushy gym mat we work on, as tables tend to make pets a little nervous about what procedure will be taking place. I like to massage pets lying flat on their side, it allows the pet to relax, and the muscles are not bearing any weight in this position. Some animals find that a bit intimidating at first, so I do my best to massage them in the most relaxed position they offer, and work on building their trust. I work from head to tail on one side, then have the dog turn and lay down on their other side. I have owners stay for the appointments if at all possible; you can be a reassuring presence for your pet, and we can discuss what I am finding during the session.
How does it help pets? Massage allows the therapist to alleviate muscle tension or spasm, increase circulation and encourage lymphatic drainage. Muscle tension and spasms can be the primary source of discomfort, like a muscle strain from a slip and fall, or it can be secondary to an orthopedic concern, like a cruciate injury or spinal arthritis.
Why is it a favorite part of my job? I love animals, and knew very early on in my education that for me, helping pets live their best quality of life is why I wanted to work with animals. Veterinary medicine as a whole is making huge strides in recognizing and treating pain, and we at Full Circle come at it with full “tool chest” of ways of preventing and alleviating pain and discomfort. We work with the greatest pet-parents who want the same (how great is that?!). Massage is one method we have of helping animals feel their best, without concerns of side effects. Owners often learn how to do massage at home, which allows more frequent massaging and a quicker response to changes in your pet.
Massage can benefit pets from many walks of life, and I love that it is a daily part of my responsibilities here at Full Circle Vet. Interested in massage for your pet or just knowing more? Call us or send us an email, I’d look forward to telling you more!
Melissa Yorke RVT
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