By Heather Harrington-Danielson
Originally published in Body Sense magazine, Spring/Summer 2004.
Q: I enjoy my massages so much. Is it possible to get massages for my pets?
A: Of course, says Heather Harrington-Danielson. She teaches animal massage at the Boulder College of Massage Therapy in Colorado. But, she points out, there are some initial considerations: “First of all, does your pet have any illnesses, medications or injuries we need to know about? Has the massage therapy been cleared through your veterinarian?”
Animals welcome massage for the same reasons humans do, she says: pleasure, sore muscles, aging bodies, surgery recovery. “It’s really a matter of the human tuning in to ‘My dog’s got a little limp. What’s going on?’ They’re just like us — going out and being weekend warriors. You can also greatly change an animal’s attitude through touch, so it’s great for behavioral problems.
“Animals are very much like humans. The only difference is they’re much more honest. An animal will respond to you through touch by either saying with a yelp or a quick look that they like or don’t like something. When we’re working on an animal we always start with a lighter touch and progress deeper because, if you start too deep, the trust with that animal has already been broken. We can’t talk to them and say, ‘Does that hurt?’ If they haven’t had a massage before, they don’t understand what’s going on. They just think, ‘What are you doing in my space — poking and prodding me?’”
According to Harrington-Danielson, the length of the massage can range from 10 to 20 minutes on a smaller animal to a maximum of 45 minutes on large dogs. “An animal will let you know when they’re done.” She suggests visiting MassageFinder on Massagetherapy.com and finding a qualified therapist in your area or asking your veterinarian for a reference.