Benefits of Massages and Physical Therapy for Pets

Benefits of massages and physical therapy for pets

There is nothing more relaxing than a nice massage after a long and stressful day. All the tension and sore muscles are relieved through a nice back massage leaving you feeling revitalised and relaxed. Just like us, our pets have a long day of playing, swimming or exertion and are susceptible to muscular tension. They go through so much naked to the visible eye. Though they are expressive, certain emotions such as stress and tension are not depicted or understood by us as fur parents. They also get their muscles tied up in knots and love massages, bellyrubs and backrubs.  In the recent past, massages and physical therapy have become a popular form of relaxation, medical and spa treatment for pets. 


The different physical therapy and massage techniques 

There are different physical therapy techniques which your masseuse or masseur may provide if you go for a professional service such as –

  1. Passive Range of Motion (PROM) – A therapist may help physically move your pet’s limbs to and fro to improve flexibility.

  2. Hot or cold therapy – These can be used in supplement to PROM. Hot treatment can condition the muscles for therapy while cold treatments such as ice packs can help reduce inflammation and pain. 

  3. Underwater treadmill – It is a small oceanic underwater treadmill system which comprises a watertight container where the level of water can be changed depending on the size and weight of the pet. A rehab veterinarian will help with the process. The initial therapy sessions will usually start with slow speed for a short duration and the level of difficulty is then increased with the sessions to come by decreasing water level , increasing duration and speed as well. 

  4. Obstacle course – Hills, steps, bars ramps etc. can help to teach your pet balance, agility and paw placement.

  5. Therapeutic ultrasound – Ultrasonic waves can stimulate muscle movement and activity. The waves can generate heat which relaxes and heals muscles, tendons and ligaments. 

  6. Cold laser therapy – This works at the level of the basic and functional unit of the body which is the cell. It decreases inflammation and improves circulation in the body.


Give your pet a nice and relaxing massage 

Here are some tips to give a massage for your pet –

  • Ensure you choose a quiet and serene environment to massage your pet.

  • You can turn on some relaxing music. 

  • Have a calm mindset and do not perform the massage if you are having a bad day.

  • Our pets are very perceptive of our moods and reflect our emotions.

  • Give your pet some time to relax, lie down and get comfortable.

  • Be calm and you can start the massage by beginning with the head with gentle strokes.

  • Use circular motion near the ears and gently go down the neck exactly in the direction of their hair growth.

  • Gently slide one hand till the end of the pet’s body alternating with the other hand at the same speed.

  • Ensure one hand is always in contact with your pet’s body.

  • Be gentle when stretching out your pet’s front and hind limbs.

  • Take extra caution when working with pets with hip dysplasia, arthritis and inflammation.

  • You can also use some pet safe oils like coconut oil or castor oil to act as a source of lubrication.

  • Some basic massages can be performed by you at home but taking the help of a professional pet massage therapist is also a possibility.


There are popular techniques for massages for pets –

  • Effleurage  strokes – Light short or long strokes given over the body area using the hand and fingers and going over the direction of fur growth.  

  • Petrissage strokes – Kneading movement over shoulders and hips of your pet.

  • Tapotement stroke – Tapping motions using only fingertips over the paws and legs.

  • Circles – Circular motion over the abdomen, chest and joints.

  • Head massage – Gentle circular and calming motion exclusively over the head (forehead, cheeks, neck) of the pet. 

However, there may be different techniques used for different species of animals. 

Benefits of massages and physical therapy techniques 

The benefits your pet can reap are multifold especially in terms of physical, anatomical and psychological advantages as listed below. 

Physical and anatomical advantages of massages and physical therapy for pets

  • Relieves muscle tension and stiff joints – Massages can help in release of endorphins which acts as the body’s natural analgesic to reduce pain.  An itchy skin and coat can result in muscle tension and strain. This could for instance happen due to continuous scratching of the right shoulder, where your pet may put his/her body weight completely to one side leading to strain. 

  • Improves coat and skin conditions – Massages and physical therapy can enhance secretion of oils from skin glands which lubricates and nourishes skin. It also invigorates your pet’s coat by removing dead cells and hair. 

  • Improves flexibility – A massage or physical therapy works on the pet’s muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints improving the presence of the synovial fluid in the joints and flexibility. It also prevents any injuries from daily activities.

  • Boosts immunity – Massages help in increasing the number of circulating lymphocytes (white blood cells)  which improves the antibody production for fighting any infections. 
     
  • Increased blood circulation – Improved blood flow can help supply the body with nutrients, water and oxygen more efficiently for healthy body functioning and sluggish circulation is improved.  

  • Enhances lymphatic drainage – Higher arterial circulation can enhance the lymphatic system to excrete waste products through the skin.

  • Helps identify potential health issues – Since a massage involves physical massages and checks of the pet’s body, any lumps or bruises can be easily identified. 

  • Improves digestive health – Gentle strokes on the underside of the pet improves blood circulation which promotes improved digestive health of the gut. It can improve symptoms of bad gut health such as bloating, diarrheas’, constipation etc.

  • Helps in recovery – Massages and physical therapy can improve acute pain due to after effects of surgery or physical conditions due to inflammation such as arthritis which could possibly be owed to the breakdown of scar tissue and circulation during the process of massage. 


Psychological advantages of massages and physical therapy for pets

  • Improves overall wellbeing – The release of endorphins which is a brain’s chemical creates a sense of general well being in your pet making them feel calm and relaxed. 

  • Strengthens emotional bond – The simple act of touch helps in the release of oxytocin. This improves emotional intimacy between you and your pet and strengthens the bond.

  • Promotes better sleep patterns – If your pet is overly tired and has not been sleeping well, a massage can help reduce anxiety and may cancel the inability to relax. They can therefore have a nice sound sleep with sweet dreams.

  • Reduced depression, fear and anxiety – The brain chemicals – serotonin and dopamine are released reduces stress, anxiety as well as depression.

  • Helps your pet get comfortable with touch – Just like us humans, a simple act of touch like a hug from your mother makes you feel better, pets love our gentle pats and touches. They feel nurtured and this can also be a good way of getting your puppy used to touches and pats from a young age. 


Precautions and Contraindications

It is important to remember certain pointers when considering massages and physical therapy for pets. Such as –

  • Though physical therapy is safe, there may be possible complications.

  • Choose the right therapist – Incorrect method of therapy may be fatal since it may lead to worsening of condition.

  • Do not force an uncomfortable pet.

  • Be gentle and start slow when introducing massages and therapy.

  • Certain conditions such as inflammation, skin infarction, deep vein thrombosis etc. may not allow for the possibility of physical therapy and massages.

  •  Avoid therapy for a sick pet.

  • Choose the right mode of treatment for your pet’s requirements.

  • Always speak to a veterinarian before practicing any of the treatment methods.


There are other ways to help an ailing pet or give your pet some relaxation. Do not pursue methods which you think will keep your pet uncomfortable. They just need basic belly rubs and back rubs which they love for sure. Spend some quality time with them and have fun with your pet. 

Mayuri,
Clinical Dietitian, Simplyweight

The London Obesity & Endocrine Clinic specialises in Weight Loss and Endocrine disorders at the Specialist Weight Loss Centre in Chennai, India. We offer face to face and virtual consultations with our specialist clinical lead, Dr Rajeswaran, who has 25+ years experience in this field. We support people with Obesity related medical conditions including Type 2 Diabetes, Fatty Liver, Infertility, Erectile Dysfunction, and Endocrine disorders like Hypothyroidism, Hyperthyroidism, PCOS, Hirsutism, Adrenal Dysfunction, Menopause, Pituitary problems and Sexual Dysfunction. Our services predominantly cover major cities in India including New Delhi, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Chennai, Mumbai and PuneWe also offer aesthetic treatments, metabolic master health checkups, bespoke weight management plans and an unique online weight loss plan for wellness and weight management. Get in touch to transform your life!

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