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Massage for Dogs with Chronic Pain

For dogs suffering from hip dysplasia, degenerative joint disease, nerve damage and other debilitating conditions, there can be some relief from the chronic pain. Therapeutic massage therapy in addition to good veterinary care can ease chronic pain and improve quality of life. Our pets are unable to communicate directly to us, so we must look for signs of our dogs discomfort. Dogs can exhibit pain in a number of ways including; panting, restlessness, aggression, snapping at people or other animals, or self mutilation by excessively licking or chewing on the affected area. Many people appreciate and benefit from massage, so why shouldn’t dogs? There are many general benefits of massage including relaxation, increased blood circulation, improved immune system, reduced tension, increased range of motion, and pain management just to name a few. How can massage therapy help a dog? Believe it or not, many physiological effects happen during and continue after a massage session.

RELAXATION
A number of owners complain that their dog has been restless all night long and can’t seem to get comfortable. Massage can help to ease aches and other discomforts enabling the dog to relax by releasing endorphines which are natural pain killers. Massage produces a calming effect and can soothe away fears and anxiety. Most dogs respond very well to massage and start to relax, almost immediately.

INCREASED CIRCULATION
When a dog is either convalescing due to illness or surgery or is less active as in the case of chronic pain or disease, the circulatory systems can slow down and metabolic waste products can build up in the tissues. This can cause swelling and increase the recuperation time. Massage stimulates both the circulatory and lymphatic systems. The increase of blood circulation delivers more oxygen and nutrients to the affected area and the stimulated lymph system flushes out the toxic metabolic wastes thereby reducing swelling. As a result, the immune system gets a boost and the dog experiences faster healing time from injury or surgery.

MYOFASCIAL EFFECTS
For post-orthopedic surgical patients who are on a restricted exercise regime, therapeutic massage can minimize muscle atrophy and can help speed the animal’s return to normal function. After receiving clearance from your veterinarian, a massage therapy program may include deep tissue massage and passive range of motion (ROM). Deep tissue massage works directly with the muscles (myo) and the connective tissues (fascia), to break down adhesions (scars), caused by disease, as in the case of hip dysplasia, injury or surgery. ROM imitates normal joint movement helping to strengthen weak muscles and keeping the joint lubricated.

Therapeutic massage therapy should be a part of an animal’s rehabilitation period after injury, surgery or as part of a pain management program. Not only does massage feel good but it has healing qualities for the dog’s body and mind.

While massage is not a cure or substitute for veterinary care it remains a valuable complementary therapy that enhances wellness in animals.

Presented by Debbie Roik, CVT, LMT lic#MA32801. She is available for consultation at 727-251-2747.


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