Massage has many benefits for dogs, and there are many techniques that may be employed. Massage involves the
use of a series of movements using the hands, which have an effect on the tissues. It is important to comfortably position the dog in lateral recumbency. The person performing the massage should be beside the dog, or place the dog on a raised surface. It is best to start at one end, such as the head, and work along the dog in a sequenced manner (e.g., head, neck, shoulders, forelimbs, back, hindquarters, and tail). The following are techniques that may be used at any stage and over any muscle group.
- Stroking is a good technique to start the treatment. When the dog is positioned, run your hand over the dog from neck to tail and down the limbs with medium pressure. This technique aids relaxation of the dog and gives further opportunity to assess the tissues while the dog is not bearing weight. Note the muscle tone and any swelling, masses, or temperature differences between body
- Effleurage is often performed to begin a massage, and is useful for relaxation, and to decrease swelling.
Beginning at a distal area, such as the paws, the hands move approximately, using medium pressure. This helps to
move any toxins in the body toward the lymph nodes and aids drainage.
- Petrissage is a type of massage with applied pressures which are deep and compress the underlying tissues.
Kneading, wringing, skin rolling and pick-up-and-squeeze are petrissage movements. Compressions when performing effleurage, an increase in muscle tone in certain muscles may be identified. The triceps and deltoideus muscles are commonly affected. Compressions to the affected muscles may be easily administered and are often
very effective. The palm or heel of the hand is placed over the muscle and pressure is applied. This pressure is maintained for 15 seconds before moving on to another area. This maneuver should be repeated several times. By restricting blood flow and then releasing pressure, the circulation increases, and this is thought to help to decrease tone. Holding and Placing an area of increased tone or spasm may be relaxed by placing a hand over the area. This technique traps heat in the area, increasing the local circulation and promoting local relaxation.
- Percussion (Clapping, Hacking, Pounding) - if there is a general area of increased tone, such as in the caudal thigh or gluteal muscles, clapping or hacking techniques may be employed. This technique may also be used in areas of muscle weakness.
Clapping is performed by using a cupped hand. Gently but firmly, a clap is applied to the area. As the hands fall onto the muscle mass, a hollow sound should be heard. Hacking is performed by alternately using open hands, with the ulnar border of the hands falling vertically on the muscle mass. In both cases the techniques are performed with light pressure initially, progressing
to medium pressure. Both clapping and hacking improve general circulation in the areas treated, promoting relaxation.
- Trigger Point Therapy - often small areas of spasm may be felt within a muscle belly. Such nodules may be treated using trigger point therapy. The nodules are located and ischemic compression is applied using one or two fingers. The compression is
held for approximately 20 seconds and released for 10seconds before compression is reapplied. Generally three or four repetitions may be required.
- Deep Transverse Friction- scar tissue forms within muscles as a result of injury. Deep transverse frictions may be applied to help reduce the scarring. These techniques were developed by Cyriax. Using the index and middle fingers at a 90-degree
angle to the muscle fibers, pressure is applied perpendicular to the direction of the fibers. This is repeated 10 times and performed. Complete this technique with some gentle massage and stretching to relax the dog, as deep transverse friction may be uncomfortable.
- Passive Movements - To conclude the treatment session, when all the muscles are warm and relaxed, passive movements similar to those done in the weight - bearing position to evaluate the patient as from forelimbs to hind limbs.
- Forelimb and Scapular Mobilizations - Place one hand over the scapula and support the forelimb with the other. The scapula is mobilized from elevation to protraction, depression, and retraction. The limb is fully protracted and retracted.
- Hind limb - with one hand supporting the hind limb and the other resting over the hip, the leg is elevated and depressed before it is protracted and retracted. In some cases when passive movements are performed, areas of spasm may remain within the muscles, restricting full available range of movement. In these situations it is often useful to combine passive movements with trigger
point therapy. The isolated muscle spasm is held by the therapist’s finger and thumb while the other hand guides the limb through a ROM. If restriction occurs again, the position should be held for a minimum of 15 seconds, then released before repeating. Following treatment, the dog should be very relaxed. The dog should be turned over and the massage should be repeated on the