Massage Therapy for Pets: Holistic Healing and Relaxation for Animals

Just as people are turning to massage in record numbers to treat their own ailments and maintain health, many are seeking massage therapy for their dogs, cats, and horses. Like humans, animals have thoughts, feelings, aches, and pains. In the same way that massage can provide comfort and improve well being for humans, massage therapy also has benefits for our animal friends.

Benefits of Animal Massage

Those with animals in their lives can attest to how well their pets respond to stroking or petting. This positive reaction to touch is the basis for animal massage.

There are some animals that can benefit from the healing touch of professional massage therapy. While animal massage is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care, it can serve as a complement to traditional medicine. Massage can provide pain relief and healing for ailing or elderly pets, help high-strung animals relax, and introduce loving touch to animals that have been abused or are slow to bond with caretakers.

“In addition to promoting overall health, animal massage improves circulation, reduces anxiety, tension, and stress, enhances range of motion, and supports post-surgical recovery,” says Kerran Ascoli, a Certified Equine and Small Animal Massage Therapist and Reiki Practitioner, and owner of Spirit Animal Massage in Rhode Island. “Massage may even help pets overcome behavioral issues.”

Types of Animal Massage Therapy

Massage therapy is available for small animals, including show animals, and horses. There are several types to choose from, depending on an animal’s specific needs. Three of the most popular types of animal massage are:

  1. Traditional animal massage, which uses conventional massage techniques and strokes to increase circulation, improve trust, and help train and tone animals. Animal massage can be used on pets with behavior or bonding problems, those with chronic pain or illness, or any animal that can benefit from relaxation.
  2. Acupressure, which uses pressure along specific areas of the body to help energy flow to fight illness and restore balance. Acupressure is effective on ill or elderly pets.
  3. Reiki, a Japanese practice that uses gentle hands-on touch to channel life force energy, or Chi, by aligning energy centers known as chakras. Reiki is often used on animals that are healing from injury or surgery, and is a wonderful hospice therapy for pets with terminal illness. Reiki is also effective in maintaining wellbeing in healthy animals.

Finding an Animal Massage Therapist

Animal massage therapy is a growing field. The International Association of Animal Massage & Bodywork provides a free, online directory of animal massage practitioners throughout the U.S.

“Animal massage, in addition to traditional veterinary medicine, is a wonderful holistic therapy for your pet,” says Ascoli. “Not only will massage help relieve pain and stress, but, most important, it will help maintain the overall well being and health of your pet.”