By Elizabeth Jobe, DVM, CCRP, cVMA

Massage is an important key in physical rehabilitation for animals. Often when animals have an injury, the body compensates and uses the soft tissues and muscles differently than how they normally function. This creates compensatory muscle soreness and trigger points (knots) that need attention. Our certified rehabilitation practitioner at PAWS has undergone additional training specifically in massage for animals to help localize problem areas and best serve our pets that need manual therapy.

Massage is the systematic, therapeutic, and functional stroking and kneading of the soft tissues of the body. There are numerous techniques ranging from lighter, softer strokes to deeper tissue massage. The technique chosen depends on the size of the area, the desired pressure, the rate and rhythm, and the duration of the massage. This tool is utilized at various times during rehabilitation, and we often perform massage prior to a session to loosen trigger points as well as during physical therapy sessions when the tissues are warm.

There are numerous benefits of massage for animals, which are very similar to the reasons that we as people seek manual therapy for ourselves. Massage is most popular for relieving muscle spasm and tension while encouraging physical and mental relaxation. It also reduces pain by stimulating lots of free sensory nerve endings and enhances blood flow to tissues to deliver oxygen and nutrients. This is important for reducing inflammation and promoting cell metabolism in muscles for healing, decreasing swelling and edema, and decreasing delayed-onset muscle soreness after exercise. Particularly important for our furry friends, massage is utilized by the rehabilitation practitioner to allow for examination of deeper tissues when superficial tissues relax and to minimizes scar and tissue adhesions after tissue trauma or surgery. One of the greatest advantages of massage for pets is that it improves the human-animal bond.

At PAWS, massage is an integrated part of the full rehabilitation program that is formulated for each individual pet. We often teach owners how to perform massage themselves on their pets so it can be performed regularly at home. Many of our patients look forward to their spa experience with heating pads and relaxation using massage prior to rehab or acupuncture!