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Why Massage Our Pets??

Friday August 18, 2017

Author: Karen Spinelli

I get it…..  if we had enough time and money for massage, maybe we would consider one for ourselves before our pets get one,  right?   But there are actually a number of reasons why massaging your pet is a fantastic idea for BOTH of you!    I would go so far as to say massaging our pets is the best preventative healthcare we can share with our animals…..

So why do I consider pet massage to be preventative healthcare?

1)  It allows you to find changes as soon as they occur.

Sure, we pet our dogs every day.  But are we petting them with purpose?  We should be!  When your hands touch every spot on your dog, every day, they will recognize when something seems different. 

In pet, just like in human, medical care, the earlier you identify a change, the better your chances at successfully treating it.  On the other hand,  the later we finally recognize that same change,  unfortunately the harder the condition behind it is to treat.

So practice mindfulness with your daily massage of your pet.  Really notice what things look like.  What they feel like.  Even what they smell like.  Go in the same order every day so that it becomes a habit.

Start with the top of their head, down the back and sides of their neck, the front of their face, outside and inside of their ears (how do those smell?).  While you’re there, look at their eyes (any discharge?), nose, and inside their mouth (color of their teeth and smell of their breath).  Move down the front of their chest, down their arms, all the way to their front paws.  (Do their nails need a trim?)  Move down their back line, along their sides, and underneath on their tummy.  Move to their tails, and bum, down their legs all the way to their toes.  (Even extend your mindfulness and notice each day how much they eat and drink, how often and how much they tinkle outside, as well as the form of their poop – each is a clue into the inner workings of their body.)

2)  It gives them a stable “home base” starting position.

Professional athletes get massages all the time.  Why do you think that is?  Part of the reason is to minimize the chance of injury.  A stable, but flexible, body with good circulation is one of the keys to an enduring athlete’s primary tool – their body.  So they need to keep it in good working condition.

Massage helps keep the fascial layer over the muscle loose, enabling full movement of those muscles.  It also helps each joint maintain its ability to fully and comfortably flex (close it’s angle) and extend (open it’s angle).  When both the right and left sides of the body equally enjoy this same level of relaxed muscles and flexible joints, the pet has physiological symmetry which allows for body stability.  On top of that, the better their circulation, the more oxygen and nutrients are brought to areas of need, and the more waste products the body can rid itself of.  The interplay of these qualities minimizes the chance for injury.

Worst case scenario, if an accident happens and there is an injury, when it has happened to a stable body and we intervene right away, we have the best chance for functional recovery (as opposed to a body that gets injured while already at a compromised level.)

3)   It improves small problems before they have a chance to grow.

They can’t tell us when, where, and why they hurt.  It leaves us feeling helpless when it happens.  But what if we had a way to nip mild injuries in the butt, so to speak   J

Usually aches and pains grow over time, stemming from a mild injury that becomes more significant as that part of their body tenses, and as other areas of their body attempt to compensate for it.  Before you know it, there are now multiple areas of discomfort, each escalating the other as the body attempts to protect itself from movements that feel uncomfortable.

But massage can aid in loosening those tensed areas before they turn into more hardened spastic trigger points. Thus enabling them to more easily return to that stable home base level of functional mobility.

4)  It helps you both physiologically relax.

It has been proven though research studies that quietly sitting with and petting an animal benefits the physiology of both the person and animal, as shown through decreased heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate. It also aids in the secretion of oxytocin – a feel-good chemical.  This is what veterinarians and human doctors would refer to as physiological relaxation.

Both you and your pet deal with concrete environmental stressors that increase these markers, leaving you feeling physically and emotionally stressed-out.  In addition to that, both of you also deal with perceived stressors each day – whether that be your mind spinning about “what if’s” or their mind focused on saving your home from the mailman.

Having some time at the end of each day to stop that cycle of physiologic stress on both of your bodies, and then turning it 180 degrees to bring about positive body responses, improves physical and emotional health for both of you.  It is the reason therapy and service animals exist.

5)  It deepens our bond with them.

We already feel exceptionally bonded to our pets.  If we weren’t, I wouldn’t be writing this, and you wouldn’t be spending your valuable time reading it.  So activities we can do with them is like icing on the already yummy cake.

Remember that feel-good chemical secretion we talked about?  It’s called Oxytocin and it’s the hormone secreted between mother and newborn, as well as when we fall in love.  Researchers have found spikes in Oxytocin, in both the human and the animal, when we sit together and pet them.

All of these positive physiologic factors then help you and your animal both live longer….  and who doesn’t want as much time with their pet as they can possibly get?

* For further details on how to safely massage your own pet at home, check out the Hand to Paw Canine Massage book.

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