Benefits of Dog Massage for Dogs with Arthritis & Other Health Problems


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Our doggos love belly rubs, ear scratches and petting on the noggin’. But why? It’s because these physical stimulations serve as massage to them. Like humans, dogs find massages relaxing. You can always pay a dog massage therapist or give a home session.

Dog massage doesn’t have to be fancy. There’s no need for a spa setting or any aromatic oils (actually, you can as long as your vet approves!). A simple massage drill can go a long way in reducing muscle pains and aiding your senior pooch’s arthritis.

It may sound silly, but massaging your dog actually has tons of benefits. It forms your bond, helps your dog’s health, and keeps injuries at bay – at least if done right.

Here, I’ve discussed a comprehensive guide of what you need to know about dog massage. Read on before practicing your master masseur’s prowess.

What is dog massage?

In the simplest terms, dog massage is the simple act of rubbing or kneading the muscles and joints using the hands to relieve pain and tension. Although this isn’t a popular thing, dog massage will benefit dogs, especially large breeds that are more prone to muscle pain.

Dog owners can massage their dog anytime given that they know proper techniques. Meanwhile, veterinarians will recommend massage for dogs recovering from injuries and surgeries. If the condition is sensitive, a dog massage therapist will conduct the session to ensure proper treatment.

Take note that dog massage isn’t just about applying pressure and twisting your dog’s limbs. Unless you know proper techniques, the massage may do more harm than help.

If we are to trace the history of dog massage, you’ll be surprised to know that it actually dates back to ancient times. For example, dog massage has been in practice in India for more than a thousand years now.

In some countries, dog massage is only gaining traction in the past ten years. After knowing the benefits, you might be more than enthusiastic to give your dog that relaxing massage.

dog massage therapist

Why you should massage your dog?

There are so many reasons why you should incorporate dog massage to your dog’s health plan. First, it promotes relaxation which is great for doggos that seem to be on the edge. Aside from that, massage manages the pain your pet is feeling. It can be due to arthritis, hip dysplasia, and other related conditions.

Another reason is that your dog is aging. Senior dogs are prone to different aches. With regular massage sessions, you can ease your pooch’s suffering.

For dogs who love to zoom in, you can increase their range of motion by massaging their limbs. This will save them from injuries and subluxations.

Dog massage is also beneficial after your dog underwent surgery. Still, make sure that the vet recommends such a practice.

Lastly, it will keep your pooch in a good mood. Belly rubs are a constant need, much so the relaxing massage you can give.

Benefits of dog massage

Not convinced about giving your dog a massage? You will be mind-blown of the benefits that it can bring. If massage can do wonders on humans, it will also bring amazing benefits to your dog’s body.

Here are some of the benefits your doggo will reap from regular massages:

Healing aid

Dog massage can be a rehabilitative therapy for dogs that had just sustained an injury, underwent an operation or recuperating from a disease. It will help reduce pain and keep scar tissue to a minimum. But before you massage your recovering doggo, always ask the vet first. Some dog massage techniques arthritis will help pooches sleep better.

Better bodily functions

The best thing about massage is it improves circulation and lymphatic fluid flow. Both of these are excellent in keeping cramps and sprains away while ensuring that the immune system is in check. Massage also encourages deep breathing which will be helpful for your dog’s lungs, kidneys, and liver.

Reduced anxiety

If your doggo hates thunders, fireworks or the presence of a cat, you can give the pooch a massage to reduce his stress. Massage is a good way to relax your dog’s tensed mind and body. If your pooch is prone to separation anxiety, a massage will likely help.

Strengthens hooman-doggo bond

For newbie dog owners, giving their pets a massage will help in establishing a positive bond. When your dog knows that you can make him feel great and secure, he will shower you with all the love they have. Aside from regular walks, massage is also a great tool to foster a good relationship with your dog.

Overall wellness

From improving circulation, boosting the immune system, and establishing your bond with your dog, massage has a myriad of benefits. If done right and in regular sessions, your dog will become happier and healthier.

How to massage your dog

Now that you know that massage can bring great benefits to your doggo, it’s important to know how to do massage right. You’re not supposed to massage a dog the way you massage a human. When it comes to canines, you have to be as gentle as possible:

Here’s a quick step-by-step process that you can follow

Step 1: Start when your dog is relaxed

Never force a massage session if your dog is anxious and doesn’t want to be fondled. If you do so, the pooch will only perceive massage as a stressful experience.

Let your dog settle. You can take the pooch to a short walk to drain the extra energy.

Step 2: Start soft

As a start, you can rub your dog in the belly, ears, and head. This way, you can get him hooked to the massage. Talk softly to your pooch to reassure him that everything’s alright. Continue petting until the dog relaxes.

Step 3: Neck to shoulders

Start massaging your dog’s neck in circular motions and with gentle pressure. Slowly go down your doggo’s shoulder. Take more time at this part since dogs can’t reach this area with their paws.

Step 4: Chest and front legs

Once you’re done with the shoulders, proceed to the chest. All dogs love belly and chest rubs. However, when it comes to legs, you’d have to check. If your dog doesn’t want a leg massage, move on to another body area. Be careful too when doing dog massage techniques arthritis.

In case the pooch loves the leg massage, take your time and proceed to the paws. Always be watchful when handling the pads as dogs have a natural kicking instinct when something touches their paws.

Step 5: Back and back legs

After you massaged the front legs, move on to the back of your pet. Always be gentle and move your hand in a circular motion. Move and up and down on both ends of the spine. After that, proceed to the back legs with the same routine as what you did with the front legs. You should also give the tail area a quick massage.

Step 6: Check if your dog has weird reactions to your massage.

Does he whimper when you touched its legs? It can be a sign that the dog has an underlying injury.

This is just a simple guide in massaging healthy dogs. If your pooch has special needs, always ask for the advice of a veterinarian.

3 dog massage techniques to master

If you’re keen to be a master dog masseur, I suggest that you master these three techniques. These are simple yet very effective in calming your doggo. Just remember that before you start, you should practice to ensure that you won’t be harming your dog.


In this massage method, you’re going to knead your dog’s body gently. By twisting the skin, you can remove adhesions on the muscles and sin. This technique is also great for relaxing underlying tissues in the body.

Can’t imagine how to do the petrissage technique? Here’s a quick video reference:


Effleurage came from a French word that means to ‘touch lightly’ or ‘skim’. With this massage method, you’re going to perform flowy motions using your palms. Remember, it should be as gentle as possible. Effleurage is one of the best dog massage techniques arthritis.

It’s very easy to do: you just glide your hands along your doggo’s body. For a demonstration, here’s another video:


The last of the three massage methods is compression. Using this, you’ll apply a pumping yet gentle pressure to your dog’s body. It aims to help the fibrous tissues located deeper in your pet’s body. This technique is also great in reducing cramps and spasms while promoting better circulation.

Do it as gently as possible to avoid hurting your dog. To help you out, here’s a video from Chicago School of Canine Massage:

Areas you should massage

Now, the question is this: what areas should I massage? You can definitely give your dog a whole body massage but there are some body parts you should focus on. Be as gentle as you can with these priority spots:

1. Ears

Your dog’s ears say a lot about its feelings. If it’s pointed, the pooch might be stressed or alert and when it’s relaxed, the doggo is at a laidback disposition. According to experts, a great ear massage will help invigorate your dog’s energy. This is also the reason why doggos love ear scratches!

I suggest that you use effleurage and a little bit of petrissage here.

2. Back

A pat on the back is more than what your doggo deserves. Massage your pooch’s back using the petrissage technique. This will help reduce stress and arrest hyperactivity. While you’re massaging your doggo’s back, keep an eye on its skin. Check for possible coat problems that your dog may have.

3. Head

Give that noggin’ a great massage! Do a mild scratching and effleurage to help your doggo calm down. Be as gentle as you can and make sure you don’t poke the canine’s eyes.

4. Belly

I haven’t seen a dog who hates belly rubs. A belly massage will help your dog if he has digestive issues and it will also keep abdominal muscles relaxed. Use the palm of your hands and gently glide it to your doggos’ belly. Doing this regularly will also help reduce gas and bloating.

5. Chest

Your dog’s chest is where the main circulatory system is located. Gently rub this part to promote better blood circulation and to relax the tense muscles. Be as gentle as possible to avoid hurting your doggo.

6. Legs

Our dogs love running, digging, and pawing. This means their legs go through a lot of muscle stress. Massage this using the compression method to reduce cramps and increase circulation. Watch out for any painful reaction as this will indicate injuries. Massaging the legs will help as of the dog massage techniques arthritis.

7. Paws

Like the legs, your dog’s paws take the beating of daily walks and adventures. But since this is more sensitive than other parts of the body, you have to be careful and gentle.

Cost of dog massage therapy

If you’re thinking of splurging a bit, dog massage therapy will cost around $35 to $50 per session. Although healthy dogs can also undergo the treatment, this is more ideal for canines recovering from an injury.

When choosing a dog massage therapist, always ask about the person’s experience and certifications. The therapist should have handled your dog’s breed at least once.

Take note, too, that some states don’t require dog massage therapists to get certified. But for peace of mind, ask for a certification from the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork.

Overall massage therapy can become a preventive or a rehabilitative treatment for your pooch. Regardless if you’re doing at home or hiring a dog massage therapist, make sure that it’s done right. If not, there would be more disadvantages than benefits.

Not sure how your doggo will react to massage for the first time? Here’s Pam Holt giving these lovely canines their first massage session. Look how relaxed these pooches are!