How do you massage a dog or cat? Funnily enough, according to our vet nurse, it’s a little different from just your usual pats and rubs. Especially if they need actual canine or feline physiotherapy. Dog and cat owners can massage too and this is great when your dog has been playing with dog pals flat-out or has enjoyed a big hike. Oh, those aching muscles.
The basic idea of dog or cat massage, just the same as people massage, is to increase the blood and lymph flow through the tissues. Massage hastens the removal of waste products and maximises the amount of nutrients in the area you are working on.
It’s great for relaxing spasming muscles and preventing or breaking down any adhesions which sometimes happen after a surgical procedure.
Let’s begin with dogs
+ Start your dog’s massage with a movement known as “effleurage”. This involves stroking the palms of your hands over your dog’s skin in a rhythmic motion in an upward direction, towards the heart. Begin at the lower part of the limb to get your dog used to your touch. It also has a mild sedative effect.
+ If your dog doesn’t like you moving against the direction their fur grows in, try friction massage instead. This involves repeating a series of small circular movements gradually working towards the heart. Use your thumbs, one or more fingers or the heel of your hand depending on the size of the muscle.
You can do friction or effleurage for about 5-10 minutes using light pressure.
+ Switch to kneading. Pick up the skin and muscle and gently roll and compress. You can do it firmly but make sure you are gentle enough not to cause discomfort.
+ Do a few more minutes of friction and finish off with effleurage.
Move along now
Passive range of movement exercises (PROM) are used by physiotherapists for animals recovering after injury. The aim is to restore normal range of movement in the affected limb and prevent muscle wasting. It’s best performed with the dog lying on their side after a massage.
Gently move each joint, not forgetting the toes, through the full range of movement. You can do this five to ten times for two or three times a day.
Ah, that feels so much better! Prepare for a bit of nose nudging your hand after this…
Dogs usually really like this therapy – cats not so much but may become amenable.