Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Message Therapy for Dogs

From day spas to night clubs, dogs have every service they could ever need and more.  While massage therapy may sound like one of the services a dog doesn’t need, the opposite is actually true.  While a dog won’t benefit from a night at the doggy club or a day at the movies, they can and do actually benefit from therapeutic massage.   
10 Benefits to therapeutic massage for dogs

Calms the dog and relieves stress
Have you ever walked your dog by a neighbor dog that didn’t make a sound but watched you pass by?  Don’t be mistaken that a quiet dog doesn’t make a good guard dog when in fact the dog is probably very disciplined and well-balanced.  Dogs tend to bark and make more noise when they are restless, tense, hyperactive, or aggressive.  A regular massage helps relieve stress in anxious dogs and it calms hyperactive and aggressive dogs so they don’t overreact to noises, animals, or people (especially playing children). 
Eases aching muscles and diffuses pain
Athletic dogs and dogs with arthritis are no strangers to massage therapy.  Just like humans get relief for their aching muscles from massage, so do animals.  Massaging stimulates cells to release cytokines and then triggers the brain to release pain-killing endorphins.
Strengthens the immune system and improves circulation
A dog (or human for that matter) cannot properly fight any illness or maintain a strong immune system with high levels of stress.  As mentioned previously, massaging stimulates cells to release cytokines.  Cytokines are chemicals that affect a dog’s hormones, in this case, by bringing down the level of stress hormones.  Furthermore, massages stimulate blood circulation which increases the amount of fresh blood and oxygen to cells and tissue while flushing out toxins and waste, further strengthening the immune system. 
Aids in the healing of injuries and encourages longevity
The increased circulation a dog receives from a massage is equivalent to a relaxing half hour walk.   This means dogs that are injured or never taken for walks have the chance to receive the same benefits they would get from much needed exercise.  This increased circulation not only reduces the recovery time for soft tissue injuries, it also allows the muscles to return to their original working state, often showing no signs of a previous injury.  Massages also improve joint flexibility, muscle tone, and skin elasticity which all support longevity, especially in older dogs.  
Builds trust and a heighten awareness
A dog’s demeanor as an adult is strongly related to the quality and quantity of touch he received as a puppy.  Through regular positive touch you are giving your dog the confidence and security he may have been lacking and that helps build the bonds of trust between you.  Additionally, massages relax the dog in a way that allows him to be more focused and aware of his surroundings, helping him be more obedient and successful in training.  A regular massage also gives you a heightened state of awareness of your dog’s body and health.  You become aware of how your dog moves, feels, and reacts to your touch so if anything should be unusual (a lump or hot spot) you will notice it much sooner and may be able to prevent a bigger problem.
While it is recommended that you only use a certified pet massage therapist to aid in the healing of a wound or illness, there is no reason why you can’t give your dog a relaxing massage yourself.  It should not be a vigorous Swedish massage, but rather a gentle rub over your dog’s entire body for about 10 minutes. He may be reluctant to enjoy it at first but make it a regular routine and see what results you get.

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