Animal massage is an alternative treatment option for pets and other types of animals.
Benefits and Purposes of Animal Massage
Human massage has been around for centuries as an alternative therapeutic offering. In the 1980’s, alternative therapies began to be used “on both companion animals and horses in racing and show events”. The massage benefits for animals, such as dogs, cats, and horses, are similar to those for humans. Massage can help with range of motion and muscle tone. It can alleviate joint swelling and inflammation to reduce pain. Nutrient and blood flow is improved by massage, allowing the body to remove toxins and heal. Of course, massage is also beneficial for relaxation and releasing endorphins.1 Equissage was founded in 1989 by Mary A. Schreiber. She began working with racetrack horses and found that their injuries were healing at a faster rate, and the horses were “performing better than they had in years”.2 Some people choose to receive massage training so that they can perform therapy on their own pets. It is hoped that regular pet massage will improve the pet’s immune system and joint functioning. Massage may also detect strains and stresses early, thus reducing the risk of future injuries. This therapy is also useful in reducing knots, adhesions, and scar tissue restrictions. Posture and alignment may also benefit. Massage could also lower the pet’s blood pressure and aid in digestion.3
Animal Massage Schools and Careers
There is an International Association of Animal Massage & Bodywork (IAAMB) that serves the animal massage therapist community. Its goals are to make a national job description, create a scope of practice that has uniformity, support competency through accreditation and testing, publish research, and provide a voice to the therapist community. Membership is available to animal massage and bodywork practitioners “who have 100 hours of animal massage and bodywork training”.4 Equissage offers an Equissage Certificate Program in Equine Sports Therapy, the first in the world. There is now a “home study certificate program in canine massage therapy” as well, also offered by Equissage.5 One school that provides training is the Northwest School of Animal Massage. Some enrichment courses available are Animal Massage, Aromatherapy, Reiki, Shiatsu, and Acupressure. They also offer training in hip and back pain, anatomy, ligament therapy, small and large animal massage, and more.6 While some people may practice animal massage without formal training or a degree, certification is required for professionals in many states. Equine massage therapists can work with show jumpers and race horses, while canine massage therapists may work with show dogs or family pets. Many animal massage therapists partner with veterinarians, kennels, pet store chains, zoos, or grooming salons. Some work independently and perform massages in the clients’ homes.7
Find out about animal chiropractic.