The importance of massage when you have an older dog
The longer we are on the planet the more we use and overuse our muscles. As we mature, repetition of certain movements such as walking, moving from sit to stand and bending can affect our muscles and joints and cause a reduction in mobility. The same can be said for our dogs. Massage therapy can be a useful and effective treatment choice for your dog throughout its life and especially during the more senior years.
Massage therapy can be used to treat acute and chronic conditions as well as being a wonderful modality to assist with prevention of injury. For older dogs, it can be an important part of health maintenance for the following reasons:
Increasing Muscle Flexibility
Massage helps increase flexibility by increasing tissue elasticity. Massage applies pressure to muscle fibers, stretching and elongating them. Stretching muscle fibers is important to maintain and to increase flexibility. Increased flexibility of muscles means dogs can move with ease and perform all their necessary activities.
Improving circulation to muscles
Massage improves blood and lymph circulation. This is due to the physical manipulation of soft tissues and the blood vessels, and the warmth that is then created in the muscles, causes the blood vessels to vasodilate or open up more. As muscles become more flexible and knotted regions of muscle are released through massage, blood vessels running through these areas of muscle can circulate their blood more freely. Improved circulation can enhance the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to muscle cells and remove waste and toxins from the tissues.
Relaxation effect for your dog
One of the immediate benefits of massage is a feeling of deep relaxation and calm. This occurs because massage prompts the release of endorphins – the brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) that produce feelings of well-being. Levels of stress hormones, such as adrenalin, cortisol, and norepinephrine, are also reduced. So not only do we get relaxation of the muscles and their tension locally, but our dogs can feel happy and relaxed also. It’s great for us too! We can feel more happy and relaxed when we see this in our dog.
Massage therapy relaxes muscle tissue, which reduces painful contractions and spasms. Areas of taut bands or ‘knots’ in the muscles can develop from protective postures, such as holding a stiff joint in a restricted position or over-using the front limbs to help stand up when your dog has a sore back. These knots can cause local tenderness, restrict motion and overall make your dog sore and unhappy, with difficulty performing normal activities of daily life. Massage can relieve these taut areas in muscles and help your dog feel better and move better.
Massage can also reduce nerve compression. To understand this, consider that when muscles are contracted, they sometimes compress the nerves around them. When these muscles are relaxed, the nerves are no longer compressed and can get proper nutrients and operate more efficiently. The nerves can assume their normal work of transmitting messages to and from the brain, which improves the functioning of the muscles and organs.
Addressing pre-existing injuries and preventing further injury
If your dog has experienced previous injuries or surgery, these may lead to arthritis and/or reduction of muscle strength or shortening and soreness. Massage is extremely beneficial for assisting in the management of these issues for all the reasons we have mentioned above.
If you keep your dog supple, flexible and as free from muscle soreness as possible, you can assist them to stay active, more comfortable, and even make them stronger with specifically targeted exercises. This can also contribute to the prevention of further injury and soreness. You can start out by performing an extension of a pat or a cuddle! Just make it a bit deeper and see where your dog likes to be massaged. Or we have a short massage course that you can complete to help you massage your dog at home that you can find here.
But if you would like your dog to have a body assessment and treatment, you can book to see one of our physiotherapists to ensure we determine which areas need targeting and work to ease your dog’s tight or sore muscles. See our offers here.
Don’t think that just because your dog is older, they have to put up with being stiff, sore, and slow! You can help them feel and move better!