Guest Blog Post by Kate Titus of A Loyal Companion
If you haven’t considered massage as an alternative and cooperative therapy for your aging dog, it’s time to take a closer look. Canine massage offers physical and mental benefits. Like you, your dog’s behavior and emotional state are directly influenced by how s/he feels physically. Massage programs help maintain muscle tone, range of motion and flexibility while decreasing the atrophy of muscle tissue and relieving the pain and discomfort of aching muscles. Massage can also address a dog’s emotional adjustment to declining ability to perform normal dog activities.
Structurally, a dog’s muscles are 95%+ similar to that of humans and the literature on human massage shows a clear connection between touch and healing. So what are the benefits?
1. Increasing blood circulation: Cells and fibers in the body rely on fresh, oxygenated blood for hormones, nutrients and proteins to support cell growth. Blood flows around inactive muscles and through active muscles. Massage activates muscles, opening blood vessels and improving circulation. This increases metabolism and the removal of waste products from the muscle fibers. That waste can cause inflammation, which results in pain.
2. Increasing lymph movement: Lymph is the clear fluid that carries white blood cells, the immune system’s ground forces. Although similar to the cardio-vascular system, the lymphatic system doesn’t have a pump (like the heart) and relies on a dog’s movement to keep the lymph flowing. Older dogs tend to be less active and lymph is more apt to become stagnant. Massage helps release lymph log jams and get the white blood cells moving again. Once the lymph is moving, it can deliver fresh white blood cells to fight toxins that eventually cause pain.
3. Muscle health: This is a no-brainer and what most folks think of when they think of massage. What some don’t consider though is the impact tight muscles have on joints and how limited range of motion can cause referred pain. Massage helps identify those areas of tight muscles and associated restrictions and helps lower levels of muscle soreness by stimulating white blood cells that fight inflammation.
4. Emotional health: While science is still unraveling how and why, dog owners know their dogs experience human-like emotions such as depression, grief, anxiety, trauma, shyness and aggression. Massage performed with love and a healing intention promotes comfort, love, self-worth, bonding and emotional well-being.
There are numerous other physical benefits of massage, but don’t underestimate the power of the emotional bond-building that happens during massage. Whether you learn to do it yourself (yes, there is a technique and it is important), being present for a canine massage can be a magical experience for you and your loyal companion. Knowing that you’re easing pain and creating a comforting experience is nearly indescribable.
What do you think? Is massage just a luxury reserved for celebrity pooches? Is it worth it? What’s been your experience?
About A Loyal Companion:
Kate Titus believes that one of life’s greatest pleasures is living with a dog. It can be one of the longest relationships we’ll experience and one with many challenges, including the language barrier. She reminds us that our responsibilities to our dogs include love, structure, and the highest quality of life we’re able to provide.
Harley is the inspiration for A Loyal Companion. A handsome and stubborn hound mix, he has a mind of his own and isn’t afraid to use it. His loyalty, trust, respect and never-ending supply of silly grins adds an element to Kate’s life that nothing else could. It’s a feeling everyone should experience and the reason she launched A Loyal Companion; to help others to build deep and meaningful relationships with their dogs.
Although Harley provided years of unofficial training, Kate’s formal training was completed at the Rocky Mountain School of Animal Acupressure and Massage (www.rmsaam.com) in Littleton, Colorado. This nationally-recognized program is fully accredited and regulated by the Colorado Department of Higher Education, Division of Private Occupational Schools. Because education is a life-long process, she dedicates at least 5 hours per week to learning more about massage techniques, canine learning, canine communication and other dog-related subjects.
Harley and Kate visit the Pima County Juvenile Detention Center on behalf of Gabriel’s Angels (www.gabrielsangels.org, twitter: @GabrielsAngels or @TherapyDogGabe). Their work with this great non-profit provides healing pet therapy to abused, neglected and at-risk kids with a goal to break the cycle of violence by helping kids experience trust, feel empathy and show compassion.