Just like humans, it has been proven that animals can benefit from massage therapy. Not only can it effectively be used for animals like dogs and horses who partake in sporting events, both before and after the events, it can help animals throughout all stages of their lives.
However, it is imperative that animals are massaged by professionals. Working knowledge of the digestive, cardiovascular, muscular and nervous systems are vital and as animals are more sensitive to humans, all massage therapy courses need to be carried out by a trained specialist who is able to create a bespoke treatment for that individual animal. In this article, we discuss further what the benefits of animal massage are and why it is important it is carried out by a professional.
Introduction to Animal massageThere has been evidence of human massage since 200BC in places such as China and Ancient Egypt. Different massage techniques for soft tissue became more mainstream in the early 19th century in Sweden. Over time, it is proven that massage could help people relax, reduce stress, heal injuries, and relieve pain. Once these benefits in humans were established, massage was explored as a treatment option for animals as well - realising that it could be a valuable form of rehabilitation.
A combination of massage and stretching techniques can be used to help animals to perform to their full potential if they race or perform, as well as make the animal more comfortable and improve their overall mobility.
What are the benefits of animal massage?The benefits of animal massage are similar to those for humans and include the following:
Equine Massage Another animal group that can benefit from animal therapy are horses. Manipulating soft body tissues, muscles and ligaments in horses is a great way to enhance well being. Horses are competitive and hard working animals and therefore are susceptible to a range of painful conditions which can benefit from massage. For many horses, massage is used regularly alongside prescribed exercises and stretches in order to achieve the best long term results.
Why it is important for animal massage to be carried out by a professional As we mentioned before, a thorough knowledge of the different systems (muscular, nervous, respiratory etc.) is vital to provide animal massages that are suitable for that particular animal. Each animal is different and some may not have a tolerance for strong scents, extreme hear or particular ointments used in the treatment, especially compared to the tolerance of humans. It is also important to note that as the animal patients are not able to speak in response of whether the pressure is ok and what the specific issues are, the professional will need to be able use extensive gait analysis, analyse how the animals are standing and observing their movements.
Each species of animal will have their own correct movements and it can even vary from breed to breed. For example dogs have a fast, short stride when walking and then extend their entire body when they run in order to cover more ground at a quicker rate. However horses act differently. For example, horses tend to get up using their front legs first and understanding the typical behaviour of different species means the professional can quickly spot the issue areas that massage will need to concentrate on.
Whilst there are a myriad of benefits of animal massage, there are some risks that can occur and is a major reason why a veterinary professional specialising in animal massage should undertake the treatment. For example, some animals may be experiencing low blood pressure and massages can lower this further to be point that the animal could be at risk. Animals who are suffering from certain infections or conditions such as ringworm, open wounds or cancer should also avoid massages.
Combining massage with other treatmentsAnother reason why it is important that animal massage is carried out by a professional is because massage therapy can work well when used alongside other forms of treatment, such as pain relief and medication. Having a professional administering both forms of treatment can be beneficial and ensures they understand the needs of the patient and are with them throughout the treatment journey. The massage therapist is responsible for locating the pain but also referring to previous treatments and any surgery that has been undertaken in order to measure the success of the treatment. Having someone who is professionally trained, makes this task easier.
Getting started with animal massage Whilst massage is now an established and popular form of treatment for animals, it is still important that owners consult their veterinary professional before starting the treatment. Not only will they be able to ensure the animal does not have an underlying condition that could be aggravated by massage. They will also be in the best position to recommend someone who specialises in that field and have the correct accreditations, qualifications and insurance - providing owners peace of mind that their animal is being treated by the best.