Thursday, January 28, 2016
It doesn’t matter who you are, chances are you love a good massage about as much as the next person. Massage offers a variety of benefits, both emotional and physical, from relaxing your mind to relaxing your muscles, but what about the benefits a massage could have on your dog?
Whether this is the first time you’ve considered massaging your dog or you’re already a seasoned pro, we’ve compiled a list of dog massage benefits we think you’ll appreciate.
1. Encourage Bonding
Regardless of whether your dog is old or young, a new friend or a long-standing member of the family, reinforcing an existing or establishing a new bond carries benefits for you both. Through touch, you are able to create and reaffirm a sense of safety while providing a nurturing environment. During massage, your dog will become calm, perhaps even to the point of falling asleep, allowing you to stay in close contact for prolonged periods of time in complete relaxation.
But this positive experience doesn’t just benefit one party. According to an older-but-undisputed study, petting a dog results in physical benefits, such as lowered blood pressure, for you as well. So the next time you and your canine are looking for a mutually beneficial activity, simply take a seat, relax and massage.
2. Reduce Pain
If you’ve ever experienced the relief a massage can provide from physical pain, you’ll be quick to tout the benefits of massage for pain relief, and you’re not alone. According to a study conducted by the Mayo Clinic of Rochester, Minnesota, in which hospital patients were studied to gather information on the effects of massage on pain, the integration of massage therapy with traditional medicine created a significant reduction in pain, improved relaxation, sleep and aided the overall healing process. While no such studies have been performed on dogs, we can assume that at least some of these benefits will be carried over because we share many physiological similarities with our canine companions. So if your dog is experiencing pain from surgery or old age, you might want to consider a massage as part of his or her traditional treatment.
3. Improve Recovery
While it’s unclear exactly how massage improves recovery, scientists have in recent years been able to shed at least some light on the issue. In a study conducted in 2012, a group of athletes received a massage immediately after engaging in an intense physical activity while another group that engaged in the same activity did not. Both groups were then subjected to a biopsy of their muscle tissues, and the findings were quite astonishing. Massage appeared not only to mitigate the rise of nuclear factor κB, a protein associated with muscle inflammation, it also turned up production of mitochondria in the muscles. Mitochondria, you may remember, is known as the “powerhouse” of the cell and creates vital energy on a cellular level. This combination of effects resulted in less pain and a quicker recovery time for the massaged athletes.
And while this study has not yet been recreated in dogs, we know that canines possess both NF kB as well as mitochondria, which gives us good reason to believe that massage is just as beneficial to a dog’s muscle recovery as it is to an athlete’s.
4. Regain Motion
For dogs recovering from surgery or for those suffering from the stiffness of old age, massage can be a vital component of everyday living. If your dog’s range of motion has been compromised by surgery, old age or disease, a knowledgeable veterinarian should recommend massage as part of post-operative treatment for , not only in order to regain flexibility and motion, but also to reduce stress, anxiety and pain. While this type of massage is oftentimes not appreciated by everyone because it can be painful, we recommend sticking to your vet’s recommendations for flexibility training. Use massage to warm up the muscle and joint, then gently perform the assigned movements. You won’t see immediate improvements, which is why it’s so important to keep at it. Recovery will happen gradually over time and should never be rushed.
5. Improve Circulation
While massage will leave you feeling relaxed, it actually gets your blood flowing. According to the University of Minnesota, massage improves blood and lymph circulation, enhancing oxygen and nutrient delivery while aiding in the removal of waste products. Additionally, if your canine is suffering from edema (swelling) due to injury, obesity or old age, massage helps to increase the absorption of excess fluids to reduce swelling. Because lymph collects in soft tissue, it’s important to note that it’s not necessary or beneficial to massage deeply in order to reduce swelling or to improve circulation. A lymph drainage massage is performed by gently stroking the limbs in an upward motion away from the extremity and does not require any deep digging.
The benefits of pet massage are seemingly endless, and more scientific discoveries to back up ancient theories are being made more and more often. If you or someone you know have experienced the benefits of massaging your dog first hand, we’d love to hear from you. Simply leave a comment below!
This information is not intended to diagnose your pet. If you believe that your dog is suffering from an illness or injury, consult a veterinarian first before beginning any at-home regimen.