You might be surprised to know that Canine Massage is not a pampering session for your dog. The best person in the world to give your dog fuss and strokes is you! Canine Massage is a drug-free, natural and results driven therapy that can significantly improve a dog’s quality of life when performed by a skilled practitioner. This blog post aims to give you the low-down on Canine Massage and how you can spot muscular issues in your dog and seek help if you need it.
So what is massage exactly? Massage helps the body to perform at its best, by influencing every single system from nervous to digestive, as well as aiding healing and encouraging relaxation. In Greek the word ‘massō’ means ‘to handle, touch, work with the hands, to knead dough.’ With the same care and skill that a baker kneads dough to create bread, a masseuse will use their hands, fingers, elbows and forearms to work on a body, using varying amounts of pressure to feel for temperature, tension, tenderness and texture in the soft tissues. When you bash your elbow, what’s the first thing you do? Rub it hard to make you feel better of course. It is a natural instinct to rub or touch an area of pain.
The dog has around 320 bones and approximately 700 muscles which account for 45% to 50% of their bodyweight. It makes sense then that many mobility problems relate directly back to the muscles, however muscular issues and injures are often overlooked. Think about how much your dog does in a day – running, jumping, playing, sleeping, eating, perhaps some obedience, agility or canicross – everything your dog does is made possible by the muscles pulling on the bones to move and so it’s inevitable that injury or two will happen occasionally. Muscles work together with the skeleton and the joints, so muscular issues are often closely related to orthopaedic conditions like Hip Dysplasia and Arthritis, but in many circumstances medication will be suggested rather than muscular therapy. Granted, muscular issues such as strains and trigger points are mysterious little things as they can’t be found on MRI scans or X-Rays, but this makes it all the more important to seek out a professional who can not only find these issues but treat them too.
So what can you do as a responsible and loving dog owner? First and foremost you can easily become familiar with the warning signs to look out for. Your dog could be tying to tell you there is a problem without you realising it! Why not spend 5 minutes this evening with your dog to run through the following and see how many you get;
- Gait: is your dog often lame or moving differently to usual?
- Stiffness: struggling to get up and down or to move around easily? Visibly in pain?
- Posture: standing differently, perhaps the tail carriage is different or you’re noticing an arched or dipped back?
- Coat flicks: is your dog’s coat flicking up in a place it doesn’t usually?
- Twitching: when you stroke, groom or touch your dog, does their skin appear to twitch, particularly down their back? You might have always thought they have a tickly spot?
- Change in Activities of Daily Living: maybe your dog used to be able to go up and down stairs, jump on/off the sofa or in/out of the car and they can’t anymore. It may be that they have really slowed down on walks or seem old before their time?
- Reluctant to be stroked or groomed: is your dog running away from you or whipping their head round when you touch them in a certain place?
- Grumpy with other dogs: snapping or general irritability can result in a dog ‘guarding themselves’ from further muscular injury and pain but it is good to speak to a behaviorist first to rule out other issues.
- Performance change: agility/obedience/working dogs who are not performing as they once did, for example knocking poles?
If you recognise some of the signs in your dog, then visit the Canine Massage Guild website to find out more and visit the therapist register to find your local practitioner. All Guild members have completed two years of training as well as taking part in continuous development every year so your dog will be in the very best hands.
I see dogs of all different shapes and sizes every week and can honestly say that Canine Massage has transformed lives – not only for dogs but for their owners too! My passion in life is dogs and their wellbeing and it’s so rewarding to see happy owners who know their dogs don’t have to live in pain.
Carly Vincent is a Canine Massage Therapist and owner of Wholesome Hound Canine Massage Therapy, covering London, Surrey and Berkshire. Carly credits her much loved career to Sue and Barbara, as she discovered canine massage whilst volunteering for them many moons ago. For more information see www.wholesome-hound.com or to contact Carly call 07919 387319 or email firstname.lastname@example.org