Does Your Dog Need a Massage? Try These Top Techniques That You Can Do at Home

Canine physical therapy
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When humans decide to pamper themselves, one of the top items on their wishlist is often a good massage. There's nothing that quite says luxury like indulging in a little spa time. When we go to pamper our pups, should we be considering a massage then too? Here's what you need to know about dog and massages.

Is it good to give your dog a massage?

Here's the short answer: Yes. It's very good to give your dog a massage.

Now for the longer answer, the one that explains why massage is so beneficial for dogs. First of all, a good massage can help your dog relax. It can relieve stress and anxiety; so it's emotionally beneficial. Massages can also promote healing and help increase your dog's circulation, which has a range of potential benefits from lowering blood pressure and helping digestion to strengthening your pup's immune system and stimulating the kidneys and liver. This means massages are also physically beneficial for your dog.

Finally, massaging your dog has another huge, positive impact: It strengthens your bond. This makes sense, since it's basically a focused, sustained petting session.

How to massage a dog

Now that we've established that dog massages are a great idea, here's how to go about playing masseuse to your pooch.

Start your massage session when your dog is already calm: It won't do much good to try to start a massage when your dog is in full-on zoomie mode. Make sure you're working somewhere that's comfortable for your dog ,and that he's in a position he's comfortable in, be that sitting or laying down or whatever.

Spend 10 minutes rubbing your dog all over with the palm of your hand: Start at the top of his head and work your way down, slowly, paying attention to how his muscles feel. If you do this every day, you'll have an idea for what's normal for your dog, which will help you know when to see the vet because something is up.

As you and your dog get more comfortable, you can move on to more direct massage: Use your fingers to gently massage your dog's neck, back, chest, and legs. Spend extra time on the back, between the shoulder blades because this is a place your furry friend definitely can't reach on his own.

Remember that pets prefer gentle massages: Think of this as targeted petting, not a deep tissue kind of thing, and don't try things like acupressure or range of motion exercises unless you're trained specifically to do so, and your vet has recommended it.

Canine physical therapy
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How to massage a dog with weak rear legs

Sometimes, your pet might need specific kinds of massage. If your dog has weak rear legs, for example, there are some special techniques you can try.

  1. To start, you'll want to have your dog lay down on his side. You'll sit behind him, and hold the top portion of his rear leg in one hand while you place the other below his paw.
  2. From here, slowly stretch out the leg straight and hold it in this position for five second before going back to the original position.
  3. Repeat this stretch three times on each leg and try to stretch the leg a little further each time (but only if you can do so without causing your dog discomfort).

Other techniques to try include the technique, in which you

  1. Hold your dog's rear leg in one hand.
  2. Use the flat of the palm of your other hand to gently press against the bone, pushing the muscle away from it.
  3. Slowly slide your hand down your dog's leg, pressing against the bone as you do.

You can also try the pinch and release technique, in which you gently pull the skin slightly away from its leg with your fingers and release.

How to massage your dogs paws

You know how relaxing a good foot massage can be after a long day on your feet? Well, the doggo equivalent of a foot massage is, you guessed it, a paw massage.

  1. Start by laying your dog on the floor and then massage the dog's first fore paw gently.
  2. Rub between the pads on the bottom of the paw, checking for signs of injury as you go.
  3. Next, massage the back of your dog's paws, rubbing in a circular motion for 30 seconds per paw.
  4. Squeeze the dog's paw (gently!) for three to five seconds after you finish the massage.

Using massage to treat back problems in dogs

Another great use of massage in dogs is as a treatment for back problems. To use massage in this way, focus on the trigger points. Feel along the side of your dog's spine, using little circular motions to search for small knots. Once you've found the knots, press on each spot with your finger or knuckle (depending upon the size of the dog) for anywhere from 10 seconds to two minutes, until the muscle relaxes.

Finding a dog's pressure points

If you're going to give your dog a massage, you should have a general understanding of where her pressure points are. Here's a quick rundown:

  • Gallbladder 20, or GB 20, is located on the back of a dog's head at the base skull. A proper massage in this spot can decrease a dog's nervousness and irritability and can even improve sinus infections and reduce seizures.
  • Bladder 21 and 22, known as BL 21 and 22, which are both located on the lower back along the spine, can be used to reduce vomiting, improve stomach problems and promote kidney health.
  • Between your dog's shoulder blades, rests BL 13—bladder 13. Massaging this point could help a dog suffering from pneumonia and bronchitis.
  • Behind the knee on the hind legs, sits BL 40, also called bladder 40. Pressure here can reduce overall pain and stiffness and alleviate constipation.
  • LI 11, large intestine 11, located on the outside your dog's front legs at the elbow where the leg meets in the body, can help relieve allergy symptoms.
  • Your dog's paws contain points, known as master pressure points, thought to restore the balance of energy to your dog's face, mouth and legs.
happy little dog smiling in the street
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Benefits of massage therapy for dogs

Dog massage has so many benefits. When it's used therapeutically, in particular, it can aid flexibility and help prevent injury, which is especially important as dogs age and their muscles stiffen, decreasing their mobility. It can even help elderly dogs regain lost energy.

Tight muscles are more likely to strain or tear. Since all muscles are attached, when one muscle tightens, other muscles are affected and can be injured as a result. Professional dog massage therapists work the muscles in the legs, back and abdomen.