Canine Massage: Is it right for your dog?

Kristina Dodge, NCCMT

Canine massage is a helpful and simple way to make your dog feel and move better.  Massage is a calming and very effective treatment modality that brings each pet into better range of motion and facilitates healing.  Properly functioning muscles can lead to a whole new level of mobility and health.

A Nationally Certified Canine Massage Therapist is a person that has fulfilled a required number of hours being educated in anatomy, physiology, behavior, gait assessment, palpation, massage techniques, body systems, passive range of motion and injury and tissue repair. The National Board of Certification for Animal Acupressure and Massage has a standardized exam, not required to practice, but ideal to obtain to set yourself apart as a practitioner.

In addition to regular veterinary care, canine massage can help out so many of our pets. Let’s review some reasons why massage is right for your pooch.

Muscle imbalance or overuse from too much or not enough exercise

Anxiety from storms, holidays, or other transitions (moving, new baby, etc.)

Pre- and post-surgery (pain relief before and after surgical intervention)

Edema relief (decrease swollen area after injury or surgical intervention)

Hip dysplasia or Arthritis and other debilitating diseases

Amputee (scar therapy at amputation site, remove fascial adhesions)

Recent adoptee (self-confidence issues)

Lymphatic drainage (removes toxins and improves immune system)

Pain reduction in general (the brain releases feel good hormones during massage)

Stress reliever (massage decreases stress hormones)

Restores energy and vitality

Puppies (tumbles and falls, handling awareness)

Basic stretching (create elasticity throughout tight, shortened muscles)

Pairs well with homeopathy, acupuncture, reiki, and chiropractic care

Palliative or hospice care (brings peace and comfort during this time)

What to look for…

Here are some things to check for at home, to see if your dog would benefit from a massage:

1.   Do a light, open hand scan over the dog’s entire body. Here you are searching for   areas of tight muscle, heat, lack of heat and swelling.  Gently apply pressure to these areas to check for discomfort.  Pulling away or turning to look at you are indications they may have an area of concern.  Over time, your pet will allow you to check them, and you will become more sensitized to the slightest change.

2. Observe your pet as they go through specific movements. Observe your dog while he walks. Is he dragging his nails on the back feet? Does he have a head bob when moving one of the front legs forward? Does he hop up the stairs or make contact with all feet? Does he have difficulty going into a sit or stand? Can your dog squat or lift his leg to potty comfortably or is he weak? These can all be indications there is muscular or joint pain occurring. 

Massage is a medication free option that can be right for your pet.  A directory of skilled Nationally Certified Canine Massage Therapists is available at

For further information on canine massage visit or email Kristina Dodge at