Massage Therapy

Massage Therapy (referred to as Therapeutic Massage) is a general term for a range of therapeutic approaches with roots in both Eastern and Western cultures. It involves the practice of kneading or otherwise manipulating a person’s muscles and other soft tissue with the intent of improving a person’s health and well-being. Stroking and kneading of the body parts is used to relieve pain. Designing an appropriate massage routine requires the therapist to combine a knowledge of anatomy, observation of the animal’s movement and demeanor, the history provided, and experience gained through working with other animals. As the massage progresses, the therapist will note both positive and negative reactions by the animal as well as any physical changes produced, and vary the routine if necessary in order to obtain the most favorable result possible.

Benefits/Contraindications

Increased circulation of blood and lymph, pain reduction, endorphin release, increased flexibility, reduced recovery time from illness and injury, emotional recovery, stress relief, improved body awareness, overall wellbeing.

Training/Licensing

Massage therapists are licensed (LMT) or registered (RMT) in several states. Many massage therapists have also been “certified” (CMT) by specific school, bodywork organization, or national regulating body (such as the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork). Certification is available for animal massage. See State Certification for more information. See IAATH website.

More on Animal Massage Therapy
Information provided courtesy of Lola Michelin LMP, LAMP

Animal massage is the use of pressure in various forms administered by hand to the musculoskeletal system with the intention of facilitating good health. Interest in this field has been on the rise over the past few years. Many countries and some states in the U.S. recognize massage as a health care service for animals, and each has its own guidelines regarding training and recognition of practitioners. Although massage is an old tradition, it is still considered a fairly new “science”. Consequently, many states are still defining its use and standards of practice.

Massage therapists are only one group of people who provide massage for animals. Veterinary technicians, horse guardians, grooms and trainers, physical therapists and others offer massage for relaxation, well being and rehabilitation when appropriate.

Massage is believed to facilitate health and balance in many ways. Massage eases tension in the soft tissues, promotes good circulation, provides relaxation and stimulates the function of the immune system. Massage may be used for competition horses and dogs in the same way it is used by professional athletes. Due to advances in veterinary care, many companion animals live longer lives and massage can be a helpful tool in maintaining an animal’s youthful exuberance.

A professional massage therapist ensures that the animal is under the care of a veterinarian and may ask for a referral. He or she will usually begin by taking a brief history and evaluating the animal’s overall soft tissue and postural condition, before beginning application of the appropriate massage technique, or the technique in which he or she specializes. Most massage therapists are happy to answer questions but may ask the animal’s guardian to hold them until the end of the session, in order to allow the therapeutic focus to remain on the animal’s needs. The therapist may offer instruction in follow-up techniques for the guardian to use at home.

Many excellent books are available on the subject and information is abundant on the World Wide Web. Anyone interested in a career in animal massage should begin by spending time with animals. It is important to understand anatomy, physiology, biomechanics and massage techniques relevant to the type of animal you wish to work with. Most animal massage training programs offer these topics as well as animal behavior, first aid and handling, proper stretching techniques and related subjects. For information on animal massage in your area consult the Department of Health or your local veterinarian, or contact an Animal Massage Therapist through IAATH’s membership directory.