There are 2 aspects to massage. The proactive aspect where massage is used when your dog doesn’t have any mobility issues and the reactive aspect where massage is used to address mobility issues resulting from old age, joint problems or accidents.
Massage is used proactively from puppyhood right through a dog’s life. With puppies massage helps the puppy get used to being handled, teaches them to relax and be accepting of touch and acts as a way of assessing what is normal with your puppy so any changes can be picked up and dealt with quickly. With dogs who compete in activities such as agility or fly ball or who work in the field, shepherding or with the flushing and retrieval of game, massage is used to keep the muscles supple and elongated so the range of movement of the joint is maximised allowing the dog to move freely and quickly. Flexibility also helps prevent against damage caused by accidents as the muscles have the elasticity in them to stretch rather than tear when put under strain. If a dog is more comfortable physically they will also be able to work or compete for longer without tiring. This applies to individual events as well as throughout their lives.
Massage is used reactively when lameness is detected. This could be due to an accident or joint conditions such as arthritis. Pain causes the dog to reduce the weight put through the sore joint and to reduce the amount of movement in the joint. Chronic or ongoing pain can result in the muscles around a sore joint becoming shorter through lack of use which further reduces the mobility of the dog and a vicious cycle sets in. This can completely change the way a dog moves which in turn can lead to problems elsewhere in the body. In the same way as people with sore knees often develop sore backs, dogs with sore hips can develop sore shoulders as they transfer the weight to their front legs to reduce their discomfort. Consequently a full body massage is always recommended.
Article first published in The Holistic Directory