Canine Stretching and Massage Therapy for the Professional

By Renee Mills, CCRP

“The normal definition of massage and Rehabilitation Therapy is as follows: the use of fingers, hands, and machines to manipulate the soft tissues, or stimulate at the cellular or neurological level of the body to improve healing and recovery.” As we all know, the “most important tool of all is the trained hands of a therapist.” Keeping up with the latest massage techniques and figuring out our own manual therapy style can take some time. So, let’s break down some of the basics and talk about programs to further our education.

The list of benefits massage brings our patients is extensive. It’s relaxing, effective and something pet owners can complete at home with proper guidance. The positive effects of massage on the body may be used as part of rehab treatment plans for a wide array of conditions.

Benefits of Massage Therapy:

  • Boosts and Supports Immune System
  • Increases Circulation
  • Reduces Anxiety and Stress
  • Eases Joint and Muscle/Fascia Tightness or Pain
  • Improves Range of Motion
  • Aides in Post Exercise Recovery
  • Aides in Pre and Post Surgery Recovery
  • Reduces Scar Tissue Build up
  • Provides Calming Affect and Comfort during Hospice
  • Pain Relief
  • Reduction of Swelling and Edema

Contraindications of Using Massage:

  • Infectious Disease (Bacterial or Fungal)
  • Fractures (Non-Surgically Repaired Yet)
  • Cancer
  • On any patient on medications that would cause major side effects if their absorption rate was increased.
  • Fever
  • Areas of Uncontrolled Pain

There are several different types of massage and stretching techniques to utilize on pets. Sometimes using multiple methods is the most beneficial option. Stretching can be a pet actively stretching themselves verses a therapist or pet owner passively moving muscles, joints and limbs through a range of motion with no effort from the patient. The goals of using Passive Range of Motion (PROM) are to increase movement and flexibility within a joint by stretching the tendons and muscles in a careful, controlled manner. Active Range of Motion exercises (AROM) are used by having the patient perform tasks that cause the joint to go through a desired range of motion. A combination of PROM and AROM exercises are common in most rehab treatment plans.

Types of Massage:

  • Compression: Spreads the muscle fibers and increases circulation
  • Direct Pressure: Helps relieve hypertonia and increase circulation to a specific area; it is a form of compression.
  • Effleurage: A gliding stroke, is used to relieve fatigue or soothe the patient
  • Friction: Works in deeper layers of the tissue by compressing them against bone and/or creating heat; it helps remove waste deposits and stimulates tendons and ligaments
  • Petrissage: Sometimes called Kneading or Rolling, stimulates nerve endings and helps remove fluids and waste
  • Percussion: Relieves muscle atrophy
  • Vibration: Loosens tissue and joints

Pursuing further education in the area of massage is quite common these days. Quite a few certification programs have been established across the country to expand the professional’s knowledge in this field. Before deciding on a program that’s right for you, make sure to do your homework on the State Bylaws that may affect you.

AVMA State Bylaws Link:
Massage Certification Programs for Professionals: