How To Give Your Dog or Cat A Pet Massage

Do you want to make your pet bark or purr with pleasure? Then consider giving her a daily 10-minute pet massage all over her body. By using your hands to gently stroke and manipulate her skin, tendons, muscles, and bones, and flex her joints, you’ll improve her health and well-being. Also, you may find medical issues that you otherwise wouldn’t have known about, such as areas of pain, or lumps and bumps. And getting a massage will give your precious pet so much bliss that she’ll love you even more – if that’s possible! Here we explain how to give your pet a simple, at-home pet massage:

 Labrador receiving pet massage

Find a peaceful spot

Find a quiet place in your home that has a soft but firm surface for your pet to lie on.  Wait until he settles down and seems relaxed.  You won’t need any special tools – only your hands!  Talk to him softly so he knows something good is about to happen.  If it helps, you can play some relaxing music in the background.

Warm up your pet’s muscles

Start by practicing what’s called “effleurage” to warm up your pet’s muscles, increase circulation and remove toxins from his system.  Here’s how to do it: stroke your pet from head to tail, following his body’s contours, and down each of his limbs.  Use the palms of your hands in a smooth, rhythmical manner.  After a few times, you can go faster and vary the pressure – from light to firm to deep stroking – if your pet can handle it.  Our vet Dr. Sasha Naugler says to always watch your pet to see what he responds to. This will help guide you to the things your pet likes.

Begin to massage your pet’s muscles to release any tension.  Use circular motions with your fingertips and apply gentle pressure with your thumbs.  Start at the face (include the ears and ear flaps) and continue down to the neck, chest, tummy, legs, back (the muscles on both sides of the spine), and tail. When you come to your pet’s paws, gently squeeze the muscles between his toes and move the toes up and down in a twisting motion.  Dr. Naugler says that many pets don’t like their feet touched, so start with sparse touching and work up to a full massage.

Knead their muscles

Next up is “petrissage,” which is a deep-tissue kneading technique.  It can help stretch and loosen knots in your pet’s muscles and increase their mobility.  The basic movement involves picking up, squeezing and then releasing soft tissue against the underlying bone or bones.  Lift sections of your pet’s skin and muscle using your fingers and thumb, and knead, pull and roll it.  You can use one hand or two.  If you find a knot, gently squeeze it for about 20 seconds using your thumb to help release it.  

Finish with….

End your massage session with another round of effleurage.  By now your cat or dog will be completely relaxed.  You may be too, as touching a pet has been proven to reduce stress in humans!

You can reward your pet with a tasty treat such as one from the Buffalo Range line of All Natural Buffalo Rawhide Treats for dogs.  Or make your own.  Here’s a recipe from Modern Cat for a delicious organic cat.  

When not to give your dog or cat a pet massage

If your pet has a serious health problem or injury, consult your veterinarian first to see if it’s okay to give her a massage.  If your pet appears to be in pain when you touch certain parts of her body, have your vet check her out.  And finally, if your pet doesn’t like you giving her a pet massage, well, stick with giving her lots of gentle, full-body stroking!

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