Last week, I received in the mail my certification for senior canine massage therapy! Then, last night, I gave a webinar for RMSAAM on senior dog massage for canine massage practitioners and those interested in canine massage (if you missed it, keep an eye out for it on the RMSAAM webinar calendar!). So, while I was thinking about what to write my blog on today, I bet you can guess what came to mind!
As our animal companions age, they begin to require more to maintain optimal quality of life. This can include more frequent visits to the veterinarian, nutritional support, supplements, and utilizing complementary modalities such as acupuncture, chiropractic, craniosacral and, of course, massage and Reiki!
When massaging any dog, I always start with effleurage, a very light stroking, to acclimate the dog to massage and begin to gain the dog’s trust. For senior dogs with health concerns, this light touch may be best for them without aggravating any internal conditions. While this touch is very light and superficial, it is still capable of affecting the tissues beneath the surface. Even the lightest strokes increase circulation of blood and lymphatic fluids as well as encouraging the flushing of toxins and the releasing of endorphins.
Depending on the individual dog, I may adjust my intensity. Massage can decrease discomfort and increase mobility associated with common senior dog conditions like arthritis. In addition to joint and muscle health, massage also promotes healthy skin and coat!
Regardless of the physical benefits, massage for older dogs can simply be relaxing or even invigorating, depending on the strokes, pressure and intention. Dogs who may be experiencing depression or anxiety due to their decrease in physical activity and increase in bodily discomfort can absolutely benefit from the emotional ease that comes from massage. With all of this being said, we still strongly encourage owners to check with their pet’s veterinarian prior to making their first massage appointment and when any changes occur in the pet’s health.
With massage and most other alternative therapies, there is a list of contraindications ("a specific situation in which a drug, procedure, or surgery should not be used because it may be harmful to the patient"). This is not the case with Reiki!
Reiki is the spiritual energy that travels through all beings and all things. When a practitioner performs Reiki, they are not the one healing the animal but rather offering support and encouragement to the body’s own natural healing process. Reiki provides noninvasive, gentle support and can be done without physical contact. Reiki can be used to encourage the healing of emotional and behavioral issues as well as physical illness or injury. Reiki does not interfere with veterinary treatment, although speaking with your veterinarian about any complementary therapy is always highly recommended.
End of Life
Massage and Reiki can not only be beneficial throughout the lives of our animals but also as they near the end. I was taught the importance of intention while utilizing massage and Reiki, and while working with animals who are approaching the end of their life, I set my intention to reflect emotional and physical support for the animal as it crosses over. Canine massage and Reiki practitioners are not only there to offer support to the animal but also the animal's guardians, helping to ensure a peaceful transition.
In addition to massage and Reiki, I love using (diluted) oil blends with senior dogs (please do your research before using essential oils on cats!). Frogworks' Path to Comfort is a beautiful oil that helps with physical discomfort as well as emotional discomfort, and Frogworks' Peace Blend is "designed to give peace, love, and comfort in any transitioning process."
Caring for a senior animal companion can be difficult in a number of different ways. I know that they appreciate the extra attention we give them. I often feel a sense of wisdom, love and gratitude when interacting with senior animals; they are truly so very special!
Love & Light,
Owner of Heal to Howl.