PetMassage for Active and Athletic Dogs
Optimizing function is the name of the game. That’s what canine massage does. The dogs appreciate what we do. Their owners, handlers, trainers, and vets do, too.
PetMassage is an appropriate and beneficial therapeutic practice for Active and sport dogs. These athletes have had tremendous success when they the get dry massage and canine aquatic massage, a non-weight bearing experience. Massage is an exquisite complement to veterinary, chiropractic, and orthopedic care.
The first people to recognize value of canine massage were the trainers and handlers of agility dogs. Their dogs were getting injured, going lame, missing jumps, missing times. Someone, who got massage themselves intuited that their dogs would get similar benefits. Soon, word spread. Trainers throughout the agility world saw how valuable massage is for their dogs and sought out people who could help their dogs both on site at events and between training sessions.
Sport dogs, by definition, include dogs performing in timed and judged events, like agility, fly ball, hunting, and racing. These athletes get sore, bruised, fatigued, tight, tied up, lame, overstimulated, and sometimes, like human athletes, soured, bored, apathetic, and not trying their hardest.
In my practice I see a lot of pet dogs that play too hard at doggie day cares who get injured racing about at dog parks. These are the sport dogs with whom I have the most experience.
These canine athletes are prone to injury. They trip. They step in holes. They get blindsided and T-boned by other dogs. When they play out of their league with the big kids, or beyond their conditioning, muscles get strained; ligaments get sprained. Often, injuries do not show up right away. They may take awhile to be symptomatic. Like realizing a neck injury the day after an accident.
By the time their owners bring them in for massage, they are limping or bobbing their heads. Top lines may be rounded. Hips or shoulders may be misaligned. Paws, not pointing straight forward. Eyes sad, ears flattened, coat dull, tail tucked under. They look broken.
In their massage I identify areas that have meaningful variations in temperature, texture, shapes, and reactivity. And then I work them so they are more flexible and comfortable. Muscle groups and movement are revitalized and restored.
The goal with canine sports massage is to reestablish flexibility, comfort, strength, and confident movement.
Ilaria is our dog. She’s a young, social, healthy boxer. A couple of weeks ago, at the dog park, she was dashing about, racing and hurdling over the other dogs. She was in her glory having the best time ever! At the far end of the field she paused for a moment and looked down. When she moved off, her stride was uneven. I called to her, and she was ready to leave. It was her left forepaw. She held it aloft. She winced when I poked around with my fingers to check it and pulled it away. A thin smear of blood coated my thumbnail. The inner border of one of her toe pads had a tiny laceration. Fortunately it was caked in mud. Clean mud. Mud has antiseptic qualities. That’s what my mom used to tell me, so it must be true!
I cleansed it thoroughly when we got home. Then I watched as, for the rest of the evening, she self-medicated her paw with dog lick.
The next day I massaged Ilaria. Included in her full body massage was work to her injured foreleg. I wanted to increase circulation to the injury. Fresh cleansing blood flow assists healing from the inside. It brought new blood in and flushed the old blood out. My effleurage directed blood flow away from the paw toward the heart and then, toward the area. I did not massage directly on the wound itself because that would have interrupted the healing process.
Her wellness restoration regimen included massage, icing, restricted activity, and rest. This is how she progressed: Ilaria limped for a couple of days, walked gingerly for a couple more, and within 10 days, was back to running full out.
Even without injuries, sport dog Ilaria still benefits with massage. For her, the goal is to maintain flexibility, strength, and support her effervescent joie de vivre. We retain her muscle tone with kneading, scratching, positional release, and stretches. That’s what works for her.
At events, athletic dogs often get massages before their runs, after their runs, when their times are slower than expected, and if something shows up in their gait. It’s the same as humans at their competitions. Massage helps them perform at their optimum capacity.
Each dog is different. The canine massage practitioner observes their gait and any extraordinary movement. Our training in dog anatomy and physiology helps us visualize what is happening beneath the coat between our hands, how it ought to feel, move, and be positioned. The focus is on enhancing flexibility, joint mobility and ease of movement.
We have had tremendous success helping active and athletic dogs with dry massage and canine aquatic massage, a non-weight bearing experience in a heated swimming pool. Massage, as you can see, is an exquisite complement to veterinary, chiropractic, and orthopedic care.
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