Massage is one of the oldest forms of healing known to man and has been used on humans for centuries. It is used for the treatment and prevention of injuries, to improve circulation, for muscle stimulation and to promote well-being and relaxation. With these benefits it is only logical that it is used on performance animals such as horses and greyhounds.
Image from The Book of the Hunt by Gaston Phoebus c. 1500
Racing greyhounds are used to being massaged regularly. It helps them to warm up and warm down before and after races and reduce muscle stiffness. Massage can help identify any injuries and prevent them from escalating as well as promoting muscle tone. As with humans, massage also gives the greyhound the benefit of relaxing the mind as well as the body.
(images sourced www.kevin-lewis.co.uk)
Massage for your greyhound companion
Kristine Edwards has many years experience as a massage therapist for both humans and animals and has a Masters degree in Animal Physiotherapy. Her practice, Sydney Animal Physiotherapy, offers hydrotherapy, physiotherapy and acupuncture services.
Massage in its many different forms has been around for a very long time, with so many benefits, to name a few:
- it relieves muscle spasm and pain
- improves blood circulation and lymph flow, thereby helping to rid the body of waste products
- helps to avoid scar tissue formation after an injury
- has a sedative effect by lowering the heart rate and blood pressure
- allows for early detection of possible problems.
When you give your dog a massage there are the extra benefits of bonding, building trust and enhancing your relationship. There is also the reciprocal effect in that touch relaxes both the giver and receiver, e.g. there are many case studies showing an improvement of elderly people’s health when they have contact/visits/touch from an animal, also many stories of a how an animal has sat by the bedside of his sick human and aided return to health merely by presence and touch.
Massage can be very specific and remedial but here we are looking at the way you can bond with your canine companion through touch. This article will outline some very basic techniques that you can use safely and effectively.
Just a caution:
Some contraindications... infection, illness, fractures, open wounds…common sense really! If you are concerned about your dog’s health or possible injury, please see a vet before applying massage. Also, there are a few physiotherapists who specialise in treating animals. They apply massage very specifically, with other techniques to treat a variety of problems and usually teach owners to do some basic massage at home as part of the treatment.
So, if you have any queries before starting to massage your friend, please talk to your vet or physiotherapist….otherwise, enjoy.
A few basic points:
- Always be safe around your dog. This involves a careful, gentle respectful approach, e.g. never grab your dog around face or neck. A lot of dogs are head shy and it is often a sign of aggression to pat on top of head. Patting on chest is better, letting dog sniff your hand first, etc.
- Don’t tackle him/her to the ground to give a massage. It may take time for your dog to get used to the routine. You may initially only manage a few strokes in standing …it takes as long as it takes. Remember it needs to be enjoyable and nonthreatening
- Have a peaceful quiet environment with minimal distractions.
- Choose your timing, e.g. don’t try to give a massage if it is time for a walk or dinner as your dog will be keyed up with other expectations!
There are many forms of massage but a few basic techniques common to most are:
- Effleurage - Long, light slow strokes with the flat of hand. This is a
good introductory and finishing movement, from neck to tail, then sides, head,
and limbs last of all.
- Petrissage - Gentle but deep massage, like
kneading dough, picking up and gently squeezing flesh (be sure not to
- Circular massage - Two or three fingers for smaller areas, can
use all fingers or whole hand for larger areas
- Acupressure - Firm thumb
pressure over acupuncture points, usually in muscles along side of the spine and
The type and length of your massage session will vary depending on many factors such as, already established trust, your skill and your dog’s prior history. Remember, it needs to be fun and relaxing so do what is comfortable for your friend. Not all dogs are like our subject, Zoomie in the video…apart from being very used to massage, he loves it! My cattle dog Ally will only tolerate 5-10 minutes of lying down and receiving a massage however, her favourite thing is to sit near me in the park watching observers with an occasional stroke from me… why the difference? Different personalities? Breed? Age? Past experience?
This is a very brief introduction to massage, with the emphasis on bonding. There is a lot more specifics to learn if you are interested and of course it is best to learn any in depth massage in person. Enjoy and please contact your vet or an animal physiotherapist if you have any concerns.
SYDNEY ANIMAL PHYSIOTHERAPY
Physiotherapy ~ Hydrotherapy ~ Acupuncture
56a Moore Street, Leichhardt, NSW 2040
Phone: (02) 9560 9262 – Mobile: 0408 229341