Massage Therapy for Dogs

By ChristineL

Massage is the manipulation of muscles for pain relief, stress relief, flexibility and detoxification. Dogs benefit from massage as much as humans do. Performed by trained massage therapists, massage is especially helpful for pets that have recently been injured. While it does not take the place of medical care, dog massage can prevent illness or severe injury.


Dog massage has endless benefits. Among these are flexibility and injury prevention. As dogs age, their muscles stiffen and their mobility decreases. Massage reduces the stiffness in the muscles, allowing the dog to move more freely. Elderly dogs regain lost energy. They are more apt to play again and renew their relationship with their owners. Stiff muscles also lead to injury. The tighter the muscle becomes, the easier it strains or tears. As all muscles are attached, when one muscle tightens, other muscles are affected and can be injured as a result. Massage therapists work the muscles in the legs, back and abdomen.


Dog massage techniques vary depending on the affected system. According to Pet Place, a pet site dedicated to the well-being of dogs, the massage therapists decide which technique is appropriate for each dog. Efflurage improves circulation. The massage therapist moves one hand over another from the head of the dog to the tail and along the legs. Passive touch, a technique used for sore muscles, simply involves holding a hand over the sore area for 60 to 90 seconds. Passive touch is used frequently throughout the massage sessions. For soft or deep tissue massage, therapists knead the muscles, improving blood flow to the center of the muscle. Finally, to end the session, massage therapists stroke the animal gently, calming them. The chosen massage is repeated three times during the session.


The massage therapist examines the dog throughout the sessions, noting overall well-being, demeanor and gait. As the massage sessions progress, the therapist records changes in the animal. Techniques may need to be changed or tweaked depending on the dog's progress. Mood changes are also noted.

Massage vs. Petting

Massaging is muscle manipulation. It is done by certified, educated professionals. The therapist understands the muscle structure of the animal and how the muscles, ligaments and tendons work together, allowing the animal to move. Petting occurs at home; it strengthens the dog/owner bond. The purpose of petting is to soothe the animal and show affection.


Dog massage should only be performed by certified massage therapists. Severe injury can result from muscle manipulation if the therapist is not properly trained. A veterinarian should be consulted before the dog massage occurs to ensure the dog is healthy enough for muscle manipulation. Massage is not beneficial for all situations. Dogs suffering from shock or open wounds, for example, will not find relief with massage.