Step by Step Daily Massage
The daily massage has a number of purposes. First, it gives you private and special time with your pet that is mutually relaxing. Second, it stimulates your pet's circulation and enlivens the muscles which helps keep them toned, fit and flexible. During massage time you might notice a change in the texture of the skin or fur or an area of discomfort. As you become more familiar and comfortable with this type of work with your pet you will become more sensitive to subtle changes in behavior, mood, and general condition. Keep a record of lumps found or areas where your pet seems uncomfortable and discuss these with your veterinarian. Such close observation can alert you to small problems before they become serious.
Make sure your pet is in a comfortable position. Your pet may want to lay on his/her side or may want to sit up.
1. Begin the massage on the neck or head area. Use long petting strokes along the top of the head and down the spine. Find the pressure your pet likes with the long strokes. If your pressure is too hard your pet will move away from you. If it is not hard enough your pet will move closer toward your touch.
2. Using your thumb and fingers stroke from the center of the chin upward in both directions along the jaws to the base of the ears. Try to make your pet grim. Use either straight strokes or small circular motions.
3. Rub the ears from the base to the tip of the flap. This is very relaxing to most pets
4. Next, work down the sides of the neck in a circular fashion working from the spine outward. If the skin is excessively moveable you may need to stabilize the area with one hand and massage with the other. Rub back and forth between the shoulder blades and continue to massage along the spine using the same circular motions. When you come to the rump area use the flat of your hand with larger motions and rub first in one direction to make a circular sweep and then the other.
5. Now place your pet on his/her side. At this point your pet should be relaxed and compliant. Lay the hand you are not using lightly on your pet's neck to stabilize the tissue. Begin at the top of the shoulder using downward strokes along the outside of the front leg. After stroking the outside of the leg down to the paws move toward the front of your pet and gently lift the arm forward and, using both hands, gently encircle the limb and run your hands in a downward direction toward the paws. If your pet will allow it, massage the pads of the feet and very gently pinch between the pads in the webs of the feet.
6. To massage the belly you may use the palm of your hand or your fingertips in a gentle, circular motion starting under the chest then moving below the rib cage and then down to the groin area. An alternative is to use straight strokes with the palm of your hand.
7. Finally, work on the hind legs beginning on the outside of each thigh. Because the muscles are usually thicker here more pressure may be needed to affect a response. If necessary, stabilize the hind leg with your free hand just in front of the rump area. Either long strokes or large circles can be used on both the outer and inner thigh areas.
8. Cup your hand over the knee and hold the area. Gently massage behind the knee with your thumb and fingers. Continue down the leg encircling the lower limb with your palm. Find the spot in front of the Achilles tendon, just above the ankle, and use your thumb and forefinger to massage this space - it will feel like two pieces of skin rubbing together.
9. As you continue down the foot the foot bones will seem longer than you think they should be. Gently take each paw and push upward from the bottom of the pads to flex the limb. Finish with some pressure between the toes and a final pad massage.
The entire session should take ten to twenty minutes. Hopefully this has been a very enjoyable and relaxing time for both you and your pet.
Adapted from Four Paws Five Directions. A Guide to Chinese Medicine for Cats and Dogs by Cheryl Schwartz, DVM.