Massaging your senior canine

Originally published in the Rolesville Buzz
September 2012

In simple terms, massage is the rubbing and kneading of muscles and soft tissues to relieve tension and pain. It is a well-known treatment for people and it’s no surprise to learn that your dog benefits from it too.

There are two main techniques you can use to massage your dog, both of which have French names.

  • The first technique is known as “effleurage.” This is a long, light gliding stroke along the length of a muscle. It encourages blood flow, and helps your dog relax. It also gives you the opportunity to feel for any areas of muscle tightness that will need more attention.
  • The second technique is called “petrissage.” This is the firm kneading and rolling that is more typical of a relaxing massage. It has the same effect on your dog’s muscles as it does on yours – improved blood flow and reduced muscle stiffness.
  • Another method of massage that is less commonly used in dogs is tapotement, in which you use the sides of your hands or even your cupped hands to tap lightly on his body. This technique is also known as “percussion.”

What Does Massage Do?

Research has shown that, like us, dogs respond to touch in a positive way. Stroking and massaging your dog will reduce its stress, decrease pain and increase flexibility. It increases dopamine and serotonin levels in its brain, which makes it feel relaxed and sleep better. Massage benefits all dogs, but it is particularly good for elderly animals with arthritis.

When NOT to Massage

There are some circumstances in which you should definitely not massage your dog. If there is an area of active swelling or a fractured bone, massage will be painful and make the dog’s condition worse. Dogs with bleeding problems should not be massaged because the firm pressure can cause further hemorrhage.

Caring for Elderly Dogs

Massage is a useful way of improving your canine senior citizen’s well being. It will make it physically more comfortable and mentally more relaxed. However it’s not the only thing you can do to care for your dog.

Other ways you can improve your dog’s quality of life are:

  • Provide a soft warm bed that keeps him off the hard floor. Make sure it is low enough for him to easily get in and out.
  • Keep his weight in check. His joints are more likely to be sore if they have to carry around a few extra pounds.
  • Give him medication that contains collagen, hyaluronic acid and chondroitin to improve joint health and mobility. A carefully selected blend of herbs reduces pain and inflammation, so he’ll feel better very quickly.

Apart from the obvious physical and emotional benefits of massage, don’t discount the positive effects on your relationship. What dog wouldn’t love some quality time with his much-loved owner, while he is stroked firmly and his tired body rejuvenated with a massage? That is the absolute best part about spending an hour or so giving your dog a loving massage.