We all like a nice shoulder and back massage. Why does it feel so great to be massaged?

Its probably the endorphin release; endorphins are the bodys natural pain relievers, the so-called “feel good” hormones that flow through our body when we engage in a variety of pleasurable activities.

But massage does far more than make us or our pets feel good. The majority of pets with a muscle or joint condition are in some degree of pain. This pain often results in their using their bodies incorrectly during movement, resulting in muscle tension in the affected area. It also results in secondary, compensatory muscle tension in other areas.

Muscle tension leads to muscle spasm, causing the muscles to work much harder than they should; this means increased muscle usage and longer periods of muscle contraction. When a normal muscle relaxes after contracting, new blood flows into the area, oxygenating the muscle tissue and removing metabolic waste.  With muscles in spasm, muscles are in a constant state of contraction, and blood cannot flow freely; this results in a decrease in oxygenation, and the build-up of metabolic waste and toxins. This, in turn, leads to a vicious cycle of pain, muscle spasm and more pain.

Muscles cannot continue contracting and still work properly. They eventually fatigue and stop functioning optimally, and the result is weakness, often evident as shaking or tremors. When you observe this symptom, your pet is well overdue for a massage.

Massage improves blood flow, bringing oxygen to oxygen-starved muscle tissue and carrying away those metabolic wastes and toxins. With the new oxygen, the muscle is able to function optimally, and you will see marked reductions in pain and improvements in mobility. Depending on your pets condition, certain areas may need more massage than others.

All pet owners can do basic massage on their pets. I see a big improvement in comfort and mobility when clients massage their pets on a daily basis. And of course, in addition to easing your pets discomfort, massage is also great for the human-animal bond.

Massage is not only indicated for those with joint and muscle conditions it can be used to benefit performance dogs, for maintenance and improved function, and relieve stress in anxious pets.

Learn the basic massage techniques when to massage and when not to massage, basic anatomy, four different routines that you can use on your pet, cold therapy, heat therapy and how to stretch your dog. All are important for preventing secondary pain in the muscles.

Do you massage your pet? Please leave a comment or a question. I would so love to hear from you.

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The Pet Owner Blog by Dr Megan Kelly