A Dog’s Nerve

Full Title: A Dog's Nerve

Author: Lisa Castaneda

Date of Publication: November 20, 2014

PDF: http://petmassage.com/wp-content/uploads/A-Dog’s-Nerve-by-Lisa-Castaneda-2014-11-20.pdf

Research Paper Text:

What is a nerve? According to Dictionary.com a nerve is “one or more bundles of fibers forming part of a system that conveys impulses of sensation, motion, etc., between the brain or spinal cord and other parts of the body”. Nerve impulses enable us to walk, chew, think, sit, stand, breath, digest food, feel, makes our heart beat, blink, sneeze, run…..you get the picture, nerves allow us to function. Nerves are part of the Central Nervous System and are found thru out the body. Nerves are a

Nerves are a cord like structure consisting of many axons which are bundled together into fascicles and each fascicle is wrapped in perineurium. The entire nerve is wrapped in the epineurium.

There are two types of nerve connections, Spinal Nerves and Cranial Nerves. Spinal nerves connect thru the spinal cord aid in movement. Cranial nerves connect to the brain, especially the brainstem, and aid in non-purposeful movement such as breathing, heart beating, digestion. There are three groups of nerves whose basis is the direction of

There are three groups of nerves whose basis is the direction of direction the signals are conducted. Afferent nerves are sensory nerves. They carry nerve impulses from sense organs towards the spinal cord (example of skin sensation to spinal cord). Efferent nerves are motor nerves. They carry impulses from the spinal cord to the muscle (example of bending of fingers). Finally there are mixed nerves which can send and receive impulses.

Below is an excellent representation of a nerve cell or a neuron. Typically a nerve is composed of many, many neurons. For example, the human body has 7 trillion nerves!


The cell body contains the nucleus of the cell. The dendrites are receptors of stimuli from other nerve or receptor organs such as the skin. The axon carries impulses away from the cell body to another neuron. Nerve terminal are the tips of the axon that join with other cells.

So, after a brief lesson on what a nerve is and how they play an important part in our lives and our pets lives we ask “How can massage help or even hinder a pet with nerve issues?”. Most of the time nerve conduction goes on without a second thought. However, when there is an interruption of flow the result can be pain, numbness, tingling, and even paralysis of the dog’s muscles. A dog cannot verbally tell us they are in pain, experience numbness or tingling. Paralysis is the only visible thing we can confirm. But they can exhibit visual clues. Panting, limping, licking, whimpering can all be signs of a dog in discomfort.

Some of the most common nerve issues in dogs include

  • Muscle Spasms – an involuntary contraction of a muscle. Typically does not cause pain, but can cause a dog to collapse. The spasms can be caused by neurological or physical disorders, resulting from injury, seizures, loss of nerve function, canine stress syndrome, dehydration, muscle weakness. Best remedy is prevention; however, if a spasm is intense then gentle stretching and specialized massage can help.
  • Pinched Nerve is a nerve that has been damaged due to some sort of compression injury. It can cause a dog to experience serious pain, walk awkwardly, whimper or lick/chew the site of pain. A pinched nerve gives the sensation of pins and needles or sharp/stabbing pain. Gentle self-guided manipulation will help ease a dog’s pain along with gentle stretching and massaging the point of impingement.
  • Knotted Muscle is a constricted muscle that remains in action and does not return to a relaxed state. This may happen after Muscle Spasms. A knotted muscle is very painful to dogs causing them to not walk well and limits a dogs range of motion. Gentle massage can greatly help relax the dog and facilitate healing the injured muscle.

Can you hurt your dog in a massage? Yes you can! Dogs do not need deep pressure or intense rubbing to achieve a beneficial massage. By doing deep pressure you may actually cause more harm than good. Look for signs from your dog if he/she is relaxed or at least not fighting you in the massage process. [a dog new to massage they may not be completely relaxed till the 3rd or 4th massage]. Some dogs may have a long standing issue, such as a hind leg, that they do not want touched. It is best for everyone involved to respect the dog’s wishes not to be touched in that area. It is best to keep the finger or hand pressure on a dog to firm but not heavy.

After a series of massages you should see improvement in how any dog walks, run, plays or even rests.


Lewis, Sharon Manuk, and Collier, Idolia Cox. Medical Surgical Nursing Assessment and Management of Clinical Problems. 3rd ed. St Louis, MO 63146

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