Pet Health, Senior Dogs

Ultimate Guide to Senior Dog Massage (Advice from Experts)

small dog close up to the camera with long white hair being scratched on the head by his owner

You may have seen the cute skits on @dougthepug on pizza massages and other ways to massage your dog.  I love them!  However, they may not be the most effective way to massage your senior dog for optimum results.   Although any senior dog massage and touch is appreciated by our senior dog friends there are certain techniques that may be more effective to garner the health and wellness benefits we all know that massage can bring.  

 

This is why we reached out to Donna Wills RVN, PgCert A Phys, MIRVAP(VP) Winner of Animal Star of the Year Awards 2021 – Animal therapist Category Member of the British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA) and the International Association of Animal Therapists (IAAT) and International Association for Veterinary Rehabilitation and Physical Therapy (IAVRPT)  and Author of the Puppy Massage DVD and Puppy Massage Online CourseFor some advice on massaging your best friend.  With a little guidance, from experts like Wills, we can all do a basic massage that our senior dogs will appreciate.  

How can massage help our senior dogs?  

“For senior dogs who often suffer from conditions such as arthritis, massage can help to relieve some of the pain, loosen up their tight muscles, increase flexibility, increase blood flow, help lymphatic drainage, and promote endorphin release which is your body’s own natural pain relief and feel good factor” says, Wills.  

Massage can be a powerful tool to help you take charge of your dog’s health and well-being, whether your dog has a specific health condition or you are looking for a way to bond with them and make them more comfortable. 

What is a simple massage technique for our senior dogs?

Willis was able to help us out by describing a simple massage technique that our senior dogs are sure to love.

  1. Start by lightly stroking over the area you are about to massage, with a flat hand. Always try to avoid pressure over any of the boney bits you might feel.
  2. Once the area is warm (this won’t take a long time but we aim for 1 degree warmer) you can continue to gradually add more pressure in the strokes. 

Pro tip: Always read the dog’s body language so they are comfortable with the pressure

  1. There are many techniques for massage and they vary for different areas of the body. You might want to do a kneading action over the muscles on each side of the back, or more simply, some smaller circles that are in a more concentrated area. Remember not to dig the fingertips into the muscle, this must still be done with a flat surface of the thumbs or flat fingers, not the ends. This will stimulate all the benefits of massage and promote circulation and move nutrition into the area, and toxins out. 

person rubbing a black and brown dog that is lying on a carpet.small black and white dog on a table with a white towel with a person massaging the dogperson rubbing a long haired dog that is lying on its side on a carpet

What are some top tips to consider when massaging your elderly senior dog?

Willis has an entire course on puppy massage designed for any dogs of any age. But as she notes it is ideal to start early so you can get used to the process before they are old, but its brilliant to use at any age.  Here are a couple of her quick tips when working with senior dogs:

  • Do not work directly over the joints affected with arthritis, but rather, around them to stimulate circulation.
  • Massage for about 10-15 minutes each session

 

Finding a dog massage therapist

If you would rather have the experience of a professionally trained dog massage therapist to complement your work at home or simply would like your pup to experience the relief of trained hands of a professional you can easily find a animal massage therapist.   Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation. Most states regulate animal massage therapists through licensing, registration or certification requirements.

Don’t be afraid to ask a potential pet massage therapist such questions as:

  • Are you licensed, certified or registered?
  • What is your training and experience?
  • How many massage therapy sessions do you think my dog will need?
  • What’s the cost, and is it covered by pet insurance?  

In Conclusion

Senior dogs need extra support to ensure that they remain happy and comfortable throughout their life and a senior dog massage is the perfect way to give that support.  As we find ways to extend our dog’s life with veterinarian and holistic care we also need to ensure that at the same time our dogs are staying happy and comfortable and senior dog massage is an incredible way to support that endeavor.  

Learn more about Donna Wills at her animal physiotherapy site.  Check out the online courses By Donna: Puppy Massage good for any aged dog and aimed at owners nd Physiotherapy and rehabilitation in the “Not dog or Horse aimed at MSK therapists.