Surprising Way to Treat Your Dog’s Pain Without Medication
Interest in holistic health care for pets is on the rise. Now more than ever, people are searching for safe, natural ways to ensure pet wellness in the form of non-traditional therapies and holistic approaches. Pet parents are finding that when paired with proper veterinary care, holistic methods are extremely effective for everything from chronic conditions to injury treatment.
Some of these holistic treatments include acupuncture, natural and/or raw diets, natural supplements, and perhaps most surprising… pet massage!
We spoke with our very own Pet Gal Laura, owner of Heart Hound Massage, to learn about her pet massage business and find out what pet massage is all about.
About Heart Hound Massage
Laura Riley, Ph.D. has always had a passion for helping pets, and while she loves caring for pets as a sitter through The Pet Gal, she knew she wanted to make an even bigger difference in the lives of animals. Her passion for holistic treatment began when she witnessed the benefits it provided for her basset hound, Yeager.
At 8 years of age, Yeager was diagnosed with elbow dysplasia. The vet recommended daily doses of Rimadyl – an anti-inflammatory drug which can potentially cause liver damage if taken long-term. Laura was hesitant to expose Yeager to the risky side effects and decided instead to turn to acupuncture. She says the benefits of the treatment were amazing and Yeager was able to stay off medication for 4 years. Though he passed away last year, Laura has no doubt that holistic treatment increased his quality of life.
Afterward, Laura decided to make it her mission to study various holistic methods and eventually open a business that offered great holistic care to animals.
Laura’s dream came true when she recently launched her pet massage business, Heart Hound Massage. Named after her beloved Yaeger’s heart of gold, the business’ mission is to honor of Yeager’s memory by providing effective, holistic care to pets. Laura says she’d dedicated to using her therapeutic massage abilities to “help other amazing dogs live a longer, quality life to spend with their owners.”
She says the best part of her job is when clients tell her the positive effects her massage treatment has on their pets. She told us, “It’s rewarding when someone goes, ‘Oh my gosh! My dog’s been walking longer than they were before!’ It makes you feel really good.”
What is pet massage?
Laura explained that animal massage is actually very similar to human massage. In the same way humans use massages – for relaxation, as a preparation and recovery step for athletes, or as part of holistic treatment for health conditions – pet parents can utilize massages similarly to benefit their dog.
During a massage, the therapist manipulates the muscles and soft tissues in a specific, intentional way that gets the blood circulating, reduces lactic acid, and stimulates the cells, resulting in a variety of positive health and wellness benefits.
What are the benefits of pet massage?
The National Board of Certification for Animal Acupressure and Massage (NBCAAM) states that animal massage, “promotes various physiological, neurological, and psychological effects in the animal’s body supporting both physical and emotional wellness.”
Laura told us that pet massage offers benefits such as increased circulation, reduced lactic acid, increased lymph node function (which aids the immune system), and decreased muscle soreness, tension, and weakness.
Although massage is never a replacement for veterinary care, it can be used to help treat chronic conditions such as arthritis. Laura says that alongside glucosamine supplements, massage can be an excellent choice for arthritic dogs who cannot take anti-inflammatories due to negative side effects.
Like human massage, different types of massages offer different benefits. Laura is certified to perform three varieties:
This type of massage is good for general holistic care for dogs of all sizes and breeds. It helps the pet’s immune and lymphatic systems and promotes a sense of calm and wellbeing.
In fact, basic massage is a great option for pets who are chronically anxious or tense. The Pet Gal’s owner, Susan Anderson, used Laura’s massage services for her dog, Jake, to help reduce his generalized anxiety prior to flying. Laura said that Jake’s tendency to be jittery and anxious was reduced, and he was better able to handle the stress of the flight.
Puppies can also benefit from basic massage, as it helps their growth, immune system development, and bone development.
Good for dogs who participate in agility or sporting competitions, sporting massage is tailored for the athletic animal. Often used before or after events, this style of massage helps to loosen up the muscles, improve gait, and helps limit injury.
For aging dogs, a senior massage can help increase circulation, reduce muscle tightness and soreness, improve digestion, and help alleviate aches and pains caused by arthritis. Laura explained that massage is an excellent choice for older dogs who cannot handle the harsh effects of medication.
What kind of certification/training do pet massage therapists get?
As with any treatment your pet receives, it is important to research the provider and know that they are properly certified to provide care for your animal. When it comes to pet massage, the International Association of Animal Massage and Bodywork provides information and education to promote, advance, and grow the field. They offer a list of accredited schools at which therapists can earn their certification.
Laura studied at the Rocky Mountain School of Animal Massage in Colorado where she learned physiology, anatomy, ethics, and massage technique. After class work and a written exam, she was required to do various massage case studies before earning her certification.
She is dedicated to continuing her education by taking classes that will enable her to incorporate more holistic techniques into her massage services. For instance, Laura is actively studying Linda Tellington Jones’ TTouch technique, which is a holistic method used similarly to massage to enhance the quality of animals’ lives and to help them recover from injury or chronic conditions.
What does a typical pet massage treatment plan look like?
If you’re interested in getting your dog set up with a massage treatment plan, begin by consulting your vet. While massage can be highly beneficial, it may not be suitable for all pets and each state’s laws differ regarding animal massage.
For those located in Texas, the law requires a vet approval before treatment can begin. Start by visiting the Heart Hound Massage website to download the veterinary release form and submit a contact form to schedule your initial consultation with Laura.
Ideal for all sizes and breeds, Heart Hound Massage treatments are personalized for the specific needs of your pet. During consultations, Laura works one on one with her clients to get to know the dog’s temperament and health history. Then she establishes the pet parent’s goals and creates a unique treatment plan.
Typically, massages are scheduled weekly. Laura suggests scheduling massages during the time of day at which your pet is most relaxed. The massage itself is performed the same way one would expect a human massage to. Soft music is played, gentle touches called Effleurage Strokes are used along the dog’s calming points to get them into a relaxed state, and once the dog feels comfortable, Laura begins the massage.
For most dogs, the Effleurage Strokes get them into a calm enough state to receive massage. For anxious pets or those who are more energetic, Laura explained that she will break the massage into sections, giving the dog time in between to get their energy out. In her experience, she says the dogs often return to her quickly because the massage feels good. After the massage is complete, Laura provides the client with a full report on how the massage went.
For those interested in pursuing holistic pet massage, Laura is offering a special 10% discount for Pet Gal clients! Visit her website www.hearthoundmassage.com to schedule a consultation for your pet.article by Pet Gal Kirstie and infographics by Pet Guy Dan.