Benefits of professional animal massage vs. petting your dog or horse

When I tell people that I am a certified animal masseuse, the first question I inevitably get is "So, does that mean you pet animals for a living?"  While petting, patting and scratching your pet has benefits for both people, and pets, animal massage involves so much more than a certified animal masseuse can provide including knowledge of anatomy, kinesiology, massage techniques and benefits, conformation, safety, breed characteristics, basic medical health, and issues, etc.  Just think about the difference you feel when someone gives you a quick squeeze on the shoulder versus the benefits received from a professional massage.

Although human massage has been around for years, most people aren’t aware that animal massage has been around for thousands of years.  For instance, Julius Cesar had a personal masseuse who would accompany him to massage his war dogs.  Massage has also been an inegral part of the health of racehorses, show horses, and competition horses.

Different types of massages

Animal massage is broken up into different categories (Creature Comfort Pet Services focuses mainly on Maintenance Massage, Relaxation Massage, and Stretching).

  •  Maintenance massage is probably the most common type of massage. The intent of this type of massage is to help a healthy pet stay healthy. Its primary goal is to decrease muscular tension. 
  • Relaxation massage concentrates on the nervous system only, using mostly pure nervous reflex massage over the spinal column to elicit the parasympathetic nervous response. Positive results are typically seen over the course of one to several treatments.  A relaxation massage won't put your pet to sleep, but it will induce relaxation and a strong sense of relief.  It will also clear nervous tension and blockages, regenerating the flow of vital energy through the spine to the rest of the body.  The relaxation massage is very effective in inducing deep relaxation in a short time, and is also good to use when massaging for the first time.

  • Stretching improves muscle tone and increases the elasticity of ligaments and joints. It also increases the animal's awareness of his body.  Fascia is the substance that gives us our shape. Fascial connective tissue forms the web from head to tail and surrounds and connects every muscle, bone, nerve, and cell. When an animal is injured, the fascia will tighten and thicken as a protective response.  Myofascial release is a sustained, gentle pressure which will elongate the tissue and free its movement.

  • Performance/Sports massage is ideal to optimize current performance and assist in the animal in reaching their next level. These improvements offer consistent performance, improved muscle memory and correcting poor posture. 

  • Rehabilitation massage is directed to any animal suffering from an illness. The intent is to help with natural healing or complement a treatment program already in place. Benefits from this type include:  Stimulating circulation, decreasing inflammation, helping the release of endorphins, increasing metabolism, assisting in healthy scar tissue formation, and all of the other benefits of maintenance massage. Rehabilitation massage should only be performed by a veterinarian or a specially trained certified animal masseuse working under the direct supervision of a veterinarian.

Benefits of Massage

The benefit of massage to animals is equivalent to the benefit experienced by humans.  There is evidence pet massage affects mood, chronic anxieties, such as dog and food aggression and separation issues.  Animal massage therapy should not be used as a substitute for veterinary medical care. However, when used in combination with medical care, it can help enhance the recovery process in many medical cases. Animal massage used for rehabilitation purposes can include the following benefits:

  • Help to relieve age-related problems

  • Reverse muscle atrophy from inactivity or disuse

  • Provide relief from muscle tensionsorenessspasms, and weaknesses

  • Provide relief from chronic pain and discomfort from arthritiship dysplasia, etc. through the release of endorphins.

  • Promote bonding

  • Provide early detection of potential medical issues.  For example, finding a new lump, sore spot, or a wound that is slow to heal.

  • Faster recovery time.

  • In addition, animal massage can provide emotional well-being for the animal. Massage therapist often works with animals to calm hyperactivityanxiousness, and nervousness.  The benefits of which may include relaxation, increased oxygenation, relief from pain, improved joint flexibility, as well as miscellaneous benefits to the immune system

Prepare yourself and your pet for the massage.

Massaging animals is different from massaging humans. Animals dictate how long they are interested in receiving treatment - especially at the first session.  Massage is generally a new and different sensation for horses.  Plus, a new person touching them may take a while for the horse to adjust.  Animals are also more sensitive to touch than humans are.  For example, moving away, yipping, snapping and biting are natural responses.  Animals also have heightened senses, meaning they can be easily distracted by sounds, movement, and smells.  The ideal situation is to have a quiet area available with as few distractions as possible and to have your pet clean and dry. This doesn't mean you have to give them a bath before a massage, but it would be helpful to reduce dried on mud or any burrs.

What to look for in a professional animal masseuse

  • Certifications - If you’re looking to hire a certified and/or licensed animal masseuse, please check your state laws to determine who may perform animal massage vary. One resource to check the laws in your state as they pertain to animal massage is:  chart of state veterinary scope of practice laws

  • Prices – Prices range based on breed, length of massage, and treatment needed.  Smaller animals like dogs tend to be less expensive than larger breeds of horses.  Sessions tend to last 45-60 minutes, and a treatment plan regarding what was found, done, and what is scheduled next is usually provided.  In general, you can expect to spend anywhere between $45 - $75 per treatment session.

  • Experience – Determine what breeds a masseuse specializes in.  For instance, an animal masseuse could have a certification in small animal massage which includes cats and dogs, but an animal masseuse may choose to only work on dogs.  If an animal masseuse is certified in large animals, ask if they specialize in school horses, race horses, show horses, etc.  Also, ask how long the masseuse has been practicing and if they have references.

  • Location – Ask if the massage will be done in your home or an alternate location.  For example, even if a dog or cat is most comfortable in their own home, if there is a lot of excitement and chaos going on in the home at the time of the massage, it will be difficult for the pet to relax at home.

  • Expectations – One massage most likely won't be a fix all.  A treatment plan will need to be reviewed and agreed upon by the masseuse.


Things to know when going to an off-leash dog park

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Outdoor off-leash dog areas, (often known as dog parks), provide a community setting for humans to hang out and socialize while their canine companions run around sniffing and fetching and engaging in other typical dog behaviors. Usually enclosed by a 4 to 6 foot high fence with double-gated entry and exit points, dog parks provide an ideal environment for exercise, play, and doggy interaction, all of which takes place under the watchful eye of the dogs’ owners. Ideally, such places will be well-maintained and routinely cleaned as well as provide shady areas for escaping the heat, an available water source, adequate drainage to prevent pooling and flooding after heavy rains, tools for picking up and disposing of animal waste in covered trash cans, and benches or other seating for humans.

Visiting a dog park is a privilege, not a right. As such, two-legged visitors should conduct a bit of research before embarking on such an experience with their four-legged companions. Being prepared will help ensure a wonderful experience for everyone. Here are some tips, tricks, and resources to make the most out of your visit.

First, animal caretakers should always pay attention to their dog and be knowledgeable about what constitutes proper behavior or what a dog may be signaling to another dog. Recognizing what good play looks like is a first step; and empowering owners to interrupt unacceptable play behavior is a necessary second step. Often, people don’t want to offend other dog owners, so they allow poor behavior to continue.

Second, it is best to exercise your dog a bit before going to the park so that his entrance won’t be too energetic. Although dog parks are great for socialization, if your dog is too excited when he first enters, he could negatively impact the energy level of dogs who are already there.

Finally, be realistic. Some dogs should not go to dog parks. They may be too shy, too bold or defensive, or overly protective of toys and balls. If you’re not sure, start on a smaller scale by going on walks or runs, either alone or with other people or other leashed dogs. Having one-on-one play dates to strengthen a dog’s socialization skills prior to going to a dog park is also recommended.

Once you’ve determined that visiting a dog park will work for you and your dog, it’s best to do some research on the park you’re interested in visiting. Some things you want to check include:

· Is the size of the park adequate for the size and energy level of your dog? Some dog parks are large enough for dogs to have their own space without feeling threatened or territorial. If the parks are too big, however, dogs may exhibit dominant anti-social behavior – the kind which may lead to a fight erupting before an owner can get there to intervene. On the other hand, if the park is quite small, there may be limits on how many dogs can enter at one time.

  • Check the physical location of the park. Is it near a busy street? Are there poisonous plants or wildlife nearby? Are there steep hills that could cause a physical injury, etc.?
  • Does the park provide adequate lighting and double gates at each entrance/exit?
  • If you’re worried about large dogs playing too rough with your small dog, check to see if there’s a separate enclosure that only allows small dogs.
  • Check what the local park’s rules are. This varies not only by city, but by park. For instance, some parks won’t allow a person inside if they don’t have a dog or aren’t with someone who has a dog. Most - if not all - require that dogs be spayed or neutered prior to entering to reduce incidents of aggression or unwanted pregnancies.
  • Go to Yelp or other review sites to see what others say about the park.
  • Check to see if water, shade, bowls, and poop bags are provided.
  • Are there rules about how many dogs one handler can have inside the park?
  • Are food, treats, or toys allowed in the park? Most, if not all, dog parks place restrictions on food because it can instigate fights and resource guarding.
  • What type of footing is there? (grass, wood chips, concrete, etc.)
  • Make sure that representatives of the off-leash dog parks require dogs who are members have provided proof of vaccinations.
  • Determine who is responsible for enforcing off-leash park rules.
  • Is there staff on site?
  • Is a grooming station or hose down area provided?
  • Is parking provided?
  • Is there seating provided?
  • Is the park free, or is a one-time or subscription payment required prior to entering?
  • Is there a lost and found area? This is key, especially if you have lost your keys while at the park.😉

Potential Advantages:

  • Socialization (for both humans who enjoy dogs, and for the dogs).
  • Dogs that are highly socialized and exercised tend to be healthier, happier, and less aggressive.
  • Doggy play dates can be arranged with other dogs and their humans.
  • Dog parks allow dogs to get adequate physical and mental exercise, thereby lessening the likelihood of destructive and annoying behaviors in general.
  • Opportunity for owners to learn about dogs through observation and from more experienced owners
  • Opportunity for well-mannered-dog advocates to demonstrate how they turned their dog into a well-mannered dog
  • No cars, roller-bladers, skateboarders, or bike riders, etc. likely to be encountered.
  • Could provide location for community dog activities.
  • A happy, tired dog for the rest of the day.
  • A trip to the dog park can be an inexpensive and fun family activity.

Potential Disadvantages:

  • Potential of danger from aggressive dogs or physical injury from dog-related hazards.
  • Potential of lawsuits arising from dog fights.
  • Dog parks might be too loud, too smelly, or too chaotic for some.
  • Not all humans will follow park rules, thus introducing unnecessary risks.
  • Not all humans will pick up after their dog.
  • Some humans will leave their dog unattended or unsupervised.
  • Fights among dog- owners can occur when owners defend their dogs’ poor or inappropriate behavior.
  • Owners who don’t have control over their dogs leave others at risk of a potential attack.
  • Potential for parasites and disease to be shared.
  • Potential for dogs to become overly excited and lose impulse control.
  • Your car may get very dirty on the way home.

For more information, please visit: · 15 things humans do wrong at dog parks -

  • Play It Safe and Be Polite: Dog Park Rules You Should Never Break - · Dog Park Behavior and Etiquette Tips -
  • Review sites like:,, and mobile App Review sites like:

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