From easing joint discomfort to alleviating anxiety, massage therapy offers both physical and psychological benefits to senior dogs and cats.
Almost all dogs and cats can benefit from massage therapy. However, I have found that elderly animals make up the bulk of my canine and feline massage clients. Senior animals tend to require pain management and medications more than their younger counterparts, and massage therapy is something that can contribute significantly to their health and well-being.
How does massage therapy help older animals?
Let’s consider all the ways massage therapy supports overall health in dogs and cats, because they usually help two-fold when it comes to senior animals!
- Massage strokes help prevent lesions and loosen and stretch muscles, tendons, and ligaments. It also helps increase range of motion by nourishing and lubricating joints, which in turn improves movement and strength. Increased strength equals improved muscle tone and elasticity. As an animal ages, the probability of joint issues, including arthritis, increases. Massage becomes not only a preventive measure, but a way of relieving pain caused by muscle spasm, as well as tightness in tendons and ligaments.
- Massage also relieves pain in muscles that are compensating for limbs with arthritis or other joint issues.
- Circulation is improved overall, encouraging veins to carry away waste products, and arteries to carry a steady flow of oxygen and nutrients to keep cells healthy. Lymphatic circulation is also increased by massage, as lymph fluid drains more readily into glands where it can be cleansed of toxins. The boost that massage gives to the circulatory system can be extra helpful for seniors, but contraindications must also be considered as aged animals are more likely to suffer heart-related conditions or cancer. In these animals, a short, light massage can be performed, providing relief to superficial muscles without affecting circulation.
- Older dogs and cats are a little more likely to be overweight or even obese. The heat created by massage will soften fat tissue, breaking down solid fat deposits. Coupling massage treatments with a scheme of weight reduction and exercise can help slim down your animal.
- Massage therapy can also improve the senior animal’s coat and skin, increase body temperature, and warm the muscles.
Massage therapy is an excellent choice for your senior dog or cat, whether you’re complementing traditional medication and/or other alternative treatments, or you wish to stave off the use of medication if possible. Always check with your vet to discuss if massage therapy is right for your animal, and to check out any possible contraindications.