Massage in Canine Rehabilitation 

Massage in Canine Rehabilitation 

The goals for massage in canine rehabilitation are to maintain, restore, and enhance the recovering dog after injury. It includes restoring function to the injured point plus relaxing those areas that have been compensating while the injury heals.

Simply put, the goal is to enhance the dog’s quality of life. Massage helps the dog move better, feel better, think more clearly, and be happier.

Canine rehabilitation increases:

  • Toe touching and weight bearing
  • Balance
  • Confidence

Techniques in human and animal massage that we’ve been using for thousands of years are:

  • Touching
  • Holding
  • Stretching
  • Squeezing
  • Applying and releasing pressure
  • Moving joints
  • Facilitating movement in water

These first and ancient techniques are still relevant in modern veterinary medicine, especially with rehabilitation.

Working with the body’s own resources, the intended effects of massage techniques are:

  • Relaxation
  • Increased blood/lymph circulation
  • Increased flexibility
  • Increased muscle tone
  • Increased strength
  • Increased stamina
  • Reduced spasming/cramping
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Reduced soreness/discomfort

When we think of rehabilitation, our minds automatically go to physical therapy. Fix the mechanics. That’s the appropriate focus in veterinary education.

Rehabilitation, now a significant part of the practice of modern veterinary medicine, combines the most advanced techniques in PT and vet med. It is important to note that both of these are based on – and enhanced with – the ancient, tried and true, hands-on practice of massage.

The focus of massage is the soft tissue: the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia. Hands-on massage identifies and resolves areas that have meaningful variations in temperature, texture, shape, and reactivity. By gently easing them back into balance, massage restores movement.

Massage enhances:

  • Movement
  • Gait
  • Postural alignment
  • Healing effects of hydration, sleep, play, digestion & elimination

Massage is difficult to quantify since in addition to addressing the physical body, it also speaks to the thought/emotional processes that the injury incapacitated. Comprehensive rehabilitation is always more complicated than simply treating the specific injury. There are often deeper reasons for why the injury happened or why it is not healing on schedule.

Rehabilitation often needs repetition and consistency. That said, there is no set number of treatments for specific injuries. Protocols must be tailored to the needs of the dog. And, the convenience of their owners.

Dogs respond well to massage. Just like people though, every dog is different. And, every dog has its day. Some will be complete with one session; some are good with two, and some may require a series of treatments. They are re-evaluated by the canine massage practitioner at the end of each session and by their caregivers everyday at home. Together they develop the perfect plan that will best fit the dog.

We cannot overdose on love, caring and support. Massage, by definition, is nurturing touch.  It is always in our dogs best interest to provide more massage rather than less.

I invite you to watch the YouTube video in which I describe and demonstrate a rehabilitation massage.

Would you like to learn the PetMassage form to massage dogs? Would you like to train to practice canine massage professionally? Training courses for certification are available as hands-on workshops and home study courses. You can also learn the basics of canine massage with PetMassage books and videos.


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