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The Benefits of Massage Therapy for Pets
By Kim Shotola

Massage therapy can be an important part of your pet's life. While many people enjoy the benefits of massage, your pet is no different.

Massage is a touch technique used to maintain and improve physical and mental health. While petting is a form of touch, it is not the same as massage. Massage uses specific strokes that have been developed by massage professionals over thousands of years. Each stroke is designed to elicit a specific response, while pressure and speed play a factor in the application. The ultimate goal is to help the body achieve natural balance. When the body is out of balance, injury and illness can occur. Proper massage helps to support this balance.

Throughout history, massage has played a significant role in North American, European, and Asian cultures. Animals that participated in hunting and war were known to receive massage. When a warrior or hunter received a massage before or after a battle or hunt, it was routine for their equine and canine partners to receive the same treatment. The physical condition of their animals was just as important to them as their own.

It is no surprise that animal massage first became popular with racehorses and racing greyhounds, often giving the owners an edge on the track. In more recent years, pet owners have realized how beneficial massage can be for their animals. Massage can help prevent injuries and aid the body with healing. It can cause your pet's body to release endorphins, which are the natural chemical that relieves pain and makes your pet feel good.

Massage therapy can help your pet's physical and mental health by increasing their circulation and helping eliminate toxins and wastes from their bodies. It can improve their joint flexibility and muscle tone, which can be very beneficial to older animals and those with active lives such as performance animals. Massage is very popular with show dogs and horses. It can improve your pet's attitude and ability to focus, which can affect behavior, training, and performance. Improving the condition of your pet's skin, coat, gums, and teeth is another benefit.

If you have a behavior or temperament problem with your pet, massage can help gain their trust through the act of being touched. If you have a nervous or hyper pet, massage can help calm them. A shy or submissive pet can feel more secure. An aggressive or dominant pet can become relaxed.

Many pet owners have animals that are recovering from injuries or have chronic conditions. Massage can enable atrophying muscles to work the way they are supposed to. It can reduce the recovery time from soft tissue injuries. Relief can be provided from muscle soreness and spasms. Massage can help relieve pain and discomfort associated with conditions such as arthritis and hip dysplasia.

More veterinarians are becoming aware of the benefits of massage therapy and are offering this service to their clients. Massage is meant to complement and support traditional veterinary care, not replace it. Should you have any health concerns with your pet, please check with your vet prior to offering massage. Massage may be something that you would be interested in learning so that you can offer this therapy to your pet. There are books, videos, and classes available. And lastly, massage can strengthen the relationship between you and your pet, and who does not want that.

To learn how massage can help you check your pet's well-being and some basic massage techniques, see

Kim Shotola has worked with animals at the Houston Zoo for the past 15 years. She has been a supervisor for over 12 years, helping manage the care of over 1,000 domestic, livestock, and native Texas animals in the Children's Zoo. She is an equine and canine massage practitioner and animal communicator. Kim works part-time with Dr. Marcia DuBois and also sees clients at her farm and makes house/barn calls. Kim can be contacted at 713-822-4382

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