Animal massage can benefit all animals, from companion animals such as cats and dogs to horses and livestock and even zoo animals. The benefits of massage for animals mirror those for people, including reduced stress and improved circulation.

For many, pet massage seems like a luxury only for pampered pets. However, many dogs are given a massage to help recover from surgery or injury, and athletes such as racehorses or agility dogs are given a performance-enhancing sports massage. Guide dogs and dogs used in police or military service have high-stress jobs where massage can make the difference between early retirement and more time on the job.

Many studies have been conducted to verify the benefits of massage. For example, massage has been shown to lower blood pressure, increase appetite, and reduce perceived pain and discomfort from arthritis.

For those with aging dogs and cats, pet massage therapy provides an extra tool in managing age-related conditions and helps improve their pet’s quality of life. Pet health care has gone beyond the age of dog food in grocery stores and vaccinations once a year. Today, pet health supplies include vitamins, special food and treats, hydrotherapy, acupuncture and chiropractic, and yes, pet massage therapy.

The focus of animal massage for many years has been horses, especially race and show horses. The benefit of horse massage is well recognized among horse owners. Massage certification has been offered for years in equine massage therapy, but has only recently focused on pet massage certification. With literally billions of dollars flowing into the pet care industry and living longer and more active lives, pet massage therapy is now being offered in veterinary clinics, grooming salons and dog daycare centers in all over the country

One of the benefits of pet massage mentioned was the improvement in circulation. Better circulation can contribute to better digestion and better metabolism, a huge benefit for the large number of animals suffering from obesity and gastrointestinal disorders. Additionally, improved circulation can slow down the degenerative process of arthritis and improve energy levels in geriatric pets. Better circulation means better immune function, helping to reduce the risk of infection or disease and assisting in quick recovery from injury or disease. Better blood flow also contributes to improved post-surgical healing.

Two of the most common conditions affecting our dog population today are hip dysplasia and soft tissue injuries to the knee such as ACL tears (tears or strains of the anterior cruciate ligament in the knee joint). Both are generally corrected surgically and, particularly in the case of ACL tears, have a high rate of arthritis recurrence and post-surgical development. Pet massage therapy can play a crucial role in optimal and quick recovery from such surgeries and can play a role in reducing the risk of new injuries. Post-surgical confinement also causes boredom and restlessness for many animals and diminishes the health of the immune system which is dependent on activity for optimal health. Animal massage can be used to reduce boredom, decrease stress and increase the relaxation of cats and dogs during calving periods.

Equine massage therapy has a long history in the United States and abroad. For racehorses, massage can mean shorter recovery times between races and a reduced incidence of injury due to increased soft tissue flexibility. For investors, free time for recovery or lay-up due to injury is expensive and can dramatically reduce a horse’s career. In this case, the benefits of massage for animals are not only physical and psychological, but also economic.