The Effects of Canine Massage and Phantom Limbs

Full Title: The Effects of Canine Massage and Phantom Limbs

Author: Hailey Fullerton

Date of Publication: April 13, 2021


Research Paper Text:

There are several reasons that dogs end up needing and undergoing a limb amputation.  Cancer and trauma tend to be the most common.  The majority of dogs get along well on three legs, otherwise known as tripods.

In most cases the entire limb will be amputated since the remaining bone will no longer serve a purpose.

The candidate for this research paper is a 6-year-old Yellow Labrador Retriever named Ole.  Ole was hit by a car around one year of age resulting in a full amputation of his front left leg and shoulder.  Dogs carry 60% of their weight in the front-end making recovery slightly more challenging than a rear end amputation.

Initial visit with Ole I was able to see the direct affects the amputation had on him.  Ole’s posture was dropped in the rear, never fully extending his rear limbs when standing.  Ole was very excited about his massage and I was excited to see how all his muscles felt.  We started on his left side, same side as his amputation. When I started to massage his phantom limb he nudged me to move on so I did.  Everything felt pretty good on this side.  He was a huge fan of the skin rolling.  Moving over to the right side, most of Ole’s muscles were very tight in his shoulder and neck.  I started by feeling my way around his shoulder, followed that with some gentle stretching and then focused on gentle compression down the leg and back up with frictioning around the joints.  I then used the same technique used on the ribs on the neck starting at the spine and applying gentle pressure with my fingers and moving towards the chest.  Ole was showing signs of being very relaxed with eyes closed and hardly any other movement.  We finished the session and Ole happily went about his day exploring his yard outside.  When I visited again a few weeks later his muscles were much more relaxed in his right shoulder.  Ole nudged me away from his phantom limb during the second session as well.  The beautiful thing about animals is they tend to not dwell on what they have lost.  They are amazing creatures.

Even though massage can help amputee patients greatly, it was my experience in Ole’s case that massaging, or trying to massage his phantom limb didn’t seem to be of interest to the pet.  Or was it.  Did the attempt at massaging his phantom limb help with the healing process of his pulled muscles in the alternate shoulder?  I truly believe assessing the whole animal is important, whether they nudge you to move on or not you have accepted the pet in their entirety.


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IVAMP. (2021). Pets and Amputation. Retrieved from





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