Massage therapy has been around for thousands of years and is practiced in many cultures. References to massage appear in writings from ancient China, Japan, India, Egypt, Greece and Rome.  People have been performing some form of massage on their animals throughout history.  Modern massage techniques were used primarily for racing horses starting in the late 20th century. Canine massage grew in popularity as people noted the benefits of equine massage. Massage therapy can be used for a variety of health-related purposes, including to relieve pain, rehabilitate sports injuries, reduce stress, increase relaxation, address anxiety and depression, and aid general wellness.  Massage therapy is often considered part of integrative medicine or complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).  Massage therapy appears to have few serious risks if it is used appropriately and provided by a trained massage professional.

What to Expect from Massage Therapy for Your Pet

Our animal massage team works closely with the Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner to learn your pet’s medical history and the desired results. They may also perform an evaluation through touch, to locate painful or tense areas and determine how much pressure to apply. During animal massage, we try to provide a quiet, calm, soothing environment for your pet.  Typically, your pet will lie on a soft mat on the floor. A massage session may last 30 minutes to an hour depending on the amount of muscle tension and the patient’s response. The number of sessions will be determined by the chronicity of the condition and your pet’s response to treatment.

If you are Thinking About Massage Therapy for your Pet

Do not use massage therapy to replace your pet’s regular medical care or as a reason to postpone seeing a veterinarian about a medical problem. If your pet has a medical condition and you are unsure whether massage therapy would be appropriate, have a discussion with your veterinarian or speak to one of our rehabilitation staff members. Before deciding to begin massage therapy, ask about the training and years of experience. MedVet’s animal massage team has special interests in relaxation, sports medicine, and athlete rehabilitation.

Please be sure to tell your pet’s veterinarians about all complementary or integrative practices you are using for your pet, including supplements and vitamins. It is important for your veterinarian to consider all aspects of your pet’s health regimen when making recommendations.

Benefits of Massage

  • Relieve muscle tension, soreness, spasm
  • Provide relief from chronic pain and discomfort from arthritis, hip dysplasia, intervertebral disc disease
  • Emotional well-being (calm hyperactivity or anxiousness)


When is Massage Not Recommended for Pets?

Vigorous massage should be avoided in pets with bleeding disorders or low blood platelet counts, and any pets taking blood-thinning medications. Massage should not be done in any area of the body with blood clots, fractures, open or healing wounds, skin infections, or weakened bones (such as from cancer), or where there has been a recent surgery. Although massage therapy can be safe for cancer patients, your pet’s oncologist should be consulted before initiating.  Any direct pressure over a tumor usually is discouraged.