By MARCY WRIGHT
Many people understand the wonderful benefits of holistic care for humans, however, did you know that pets derive the very same benefits from this type of care? We tend to forget that animals are living beings with very similar organ, musculature and skeletal systems to that of humans. Just as animals experience bumps, bruises, injuries, and tight muscles, it naturally follows that if complementary and alternative care benefits us, our pets can benefit as well. And they do!
References to the use of massage and energy balancing in animals appear in the ancient writings of countries such as China, Japan and India. More recently, modern massage techniques have been widely accepted and used in the world of show and race horses. The small animal community has been much slower to realize the importance and benefits of complementary modalities. Recently, there has been an “explosion” of complementary care in performance canines and canine rehabilitation. Alternative care for health maintenance of the general small animal population is becoming much more widely accepted but, as yet, has not reached the same proportion of usage as in equine and canine performance and rehabilitation.
Massage is defined as any systematic form of touch which has been found to give comfort and promote health. Massage is applied to achieve and maintain body health and wellness. The benefits are physical, mental and emotional. Massage increases circulation, reduces heart rate and respiration, calms the nervous system, speeds recovery from injury or illness, increases flexibility, reduces pain, helps older pets maintain posture and balance, and can help shy or abused animals develop a new level of calm and trust.
The different types of animal massage are general relaxation, range of motion, post- surgical or injury massage, massage for geriatrics, and sports massage, which entails the warm-up (pre-event) massage and the cool- down (post-event) massage. As with people, each animal is an individual and, therefore, may have a better response to one technique over another. To elucidate which massage technique is needed, a team approach is best. A brief history from owner observation is discussed, and any veterinary diagnosis is taken into account. Observation of gait and structural analysis helps to determine where discomfort may be occurring due to such things as compensation from injuries, the injury itself or incorrect body structure.
Other modalities complement massage therapy, such as Cranial Sacral, Healing Touch for Animals, Reiki, chiropractic, acupuncture and essential oils. Knowing that animal companions can receive the same level of holistic care as humans brings peace of mind to many pet owners, and amazing comfort to their animals.