Smorgasbord Pet Health – Massage for your pet that benefits you too.

I first posted a version of this early last year and as part of an ongoing process of resharing those that might now find a new audience, here it is………

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I first discovered that Sam our rough collie enjoyed a massage when he was still only a few weeks old. I would lie on the floor on my side and he would come and lie down in my arms resting his head on my shoulder while I gently massaged his shoulders, back and down his legs. He would fall asleep and be totally calm and relaxed when he woke up.

Even when he was ten years older and weighed 40 kilos he still loved his daily massage. Whilst out on our daily walks he would run in front of me and almost somersault into a prone position.   A rolling eye was the clear invitation for me to begin a laying on of hands and he would be more than content to lie there for 20 minutes receiving this lavish attention.

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His favourite spot for his spa treatment, was down on the beach front, under the trees in the late afternoon with a lovely sea breeze cooling him down. Now tell me it’s a dog’s life.

In fact his massages benefited me too. Apart from laughing at his antics as he threw himself to the ground in his attempts to get his massage, after only a few minutes of working to relax his muscles a number of physical changes would be occurring in my own body. Heart rate would decrease, as well as blood pressure levels. Muscles would relax and after about 20 minutes I would be as relaxed as Sam was. Apart from the carpal tunnel syndrome that is.

As an added benefit, if you begin this massage routine when your dog or cat is young, you will find that it strengthens the bonds between you as well as offers another way to communicate.  If your pet is not well you will be able to spot this much quicker if you have built up trust in your touch..

As dogs and cats get older they don’t move around as much and a daily massage can be very effective in preventing stiffening joints and muscle strains. You need to be aware of a few social dos and don’ts when massaging a pet, particularly if your dog or cat rules the roost and thinks you are taking liberties. A mother animal uses the skin of the back of the neck, not only to carry her young but also to chastise. Gently massaging this spot releases endorphins in the same way as they would have been released during their very early weeks but they can also see this as an effort to dominate them. If you watch dogs meeting on a walk, one will always try to put his neck over the other animal’s to tell him who is the boss.

Massage techniques are very similar to acupuncture in as much as they stimulate certain energy points and channels in the animal and release pain relieving endorphins into its system. There are some very simple ways to ensure that both you and your pet get the most out of what can be a very relaxing and rewarding experience.

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First choose a place that you are both going to be comfortable. Don’t lie on the floor if getting up is going to cause more damage to you than you need. Perhaps if you normally share some quality time on the sofa in the evening, or perhaps when you are out in the garden or on a walk where you can let you dog off the lead safely away from distractions or traffic.

You can sit down and have them sit between your legs with their back to you. Start gently moving your hands down from their neck along their spine to the tail. Apply gentle pressure and you will soon know if your pet is enjoying the sensation as they will usually push back into your hands.

You know your pet well, some do not like their heads being touched, but most love to have a gentle movement from above the eyes, over the head and down to the neck. The velvet edges just on the inside of the ears are also a favourite spot and will also reflect different areas of the body that are being affected. Also as in humans the area each side of the neck gets tense and a gentle massage either side is bliss for them.

If they are lying on their side you can gently take their leg in one hand and with the other gently run your hand down the front side and backside of their leg. When you are moving your hands across your pet’s body learn to feel areas that are either hotter than anywhere else or produce a reaction in your pet. This could be an indication, particularly around the joint areas that there is some arthritis or inflammation that you need to take care of.

If you pet begins to hiss or snarl then leave your hand gently in place and let them settle. Avoid that particular spot and begin to massage another area that is less sensitive such as the length of the spine. This may be an indication that there is a problem in that area and a visit to the vet might be in order.

Regulate your breathing so that it is deep and slow and make your movements slow and deliberate. You can use your fingers gently to relax any particular knots that you find but do make sure you are very gentle. If you are feeling stressed and irritated do not think about massaging your pet. They pick up on it and will be stressed to. Sam was very partial to music at any time including on long car journeys when he slept soundly all the time it was playing and often waking up and complaining if it stopped! Soothing music and low lights are not only for romantic evenings with your partner they also encourage your other pets to relax too.

My advice is to start slowly. Each day spend a little longer rubbing and massaging your pet.

Do not massage an animal straight after it has eaten it needs to digest its food and needs a couple of hours of quiet time. Do not massage the back and stomach of a pregnant dog or cat because you might induce premature labour. You might find like mums in labour that they enjoy having their feet rubbed gently.

You may find that you simply have to ask other members of the family to take on the therapy if you are too busy and as you can see they too will have just the right touch.

Hope that you found this useful and thanks for stopping by.