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Massage for the Canine Athlete

Dog sports in the UK are increasing in popularity, more and more dog owners are engaging in activities to keep themselves and their dog fit. The demands on the dogs’ body that some of these activities require; the repetitive and intense training and competition puts a strain even on the fittest of dogs and increases their risk to injury.

Canine Massage has so many physical and psychological benefits it should be an essential therapy to be incorporated in your canine athletes regime. 

Have you noticed any change in your dogs’ performance?

Changes in any of these can be indicative of muscular injury or soft tissue issue:

  • Lameness

  • Lacking focus and drive

  • Generally slowing down

  • Lack of enthusiasm for the sport

  • Agility: knocking poles, change in jumping technique, "measuring" at jumps, missing contacts, reluctance to weave

  • Canicross, bikejor, mushing: reluctance to wear harness, not pulling, early on-set fatigue

  • Flyball: turning wide on the box, dropping the ball, missing/avoiding the jumps

  • Gun dog: retrieving issues

  • Conformation, obedience, rally: reluctance to go in the ring, nervousness/anxious when performing, reluctance to allow the judge to go over them, unwilling & unable to stand square, gait issues in the ring

Please also see the 5 principles of pain.


Canine Massage: The Most Effective Therapy to Recondition your Dogs Muscles

Developing fitness, stability and strength in your canine athlete shouldn’t just rely on exercise and training. Canine massage should play an integral role in developing and supporting the canine athlete and is an effective compliment to your dog’s fitness regime.

By addressing your dogs muscular system through canine massage, you will see:

  • An improved performance in your dog

  • Shorter time recovery in between training and competitions

  • Improve their technique and mobility

  • Reduce the chances of injury

Regular Clinical Canine Massage can not only enhance the performance of your dog but acts as a vital tool for detecting early muscle dysfunction before it becomes an issue.

A maintenance massage session is recommended as part of your dogs’ pre and post season routine to ensure that your canine athlete is in peak health to continue to perform at their level. 


If your dog has developed an injury or is not performing to their full potential, I will work with you to get them back to competing or working at their previous level and beyond.

A canine athlete: Services

Massage for the senior dog

Just because your dog is older, they do not have to put up with being stiff, sore, and slow!

As a dog ages, their body may slow down as their muscle and joint function deteriorates. You may notice a reduction in their activity levels, loss of muscle mass and strength in their muscle, including a loss of flexibility.  As they get older there is a thinning of the joint cartilage which increases stress on their joints which can predispose them to conditions such as osteoarthritis.  Every day wear and tear begins to take its toll and orthopaedic conditions such as arthritis and neurological conditions such as intervertebral disc disease can occur.

The good news is Clinical Canine Massage is the perfect therapy for a senior dog, it  provides a non-invasive therapy to help relieve some of the pain, loosen up their tight muscles and help to slow down the degenerative process and helps to support orthopaedic issues like arthritis.

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Symptoms indicating your senior dog could be “slowing down” and can benefit from a massage are:

  • Stiffening up, maybe more so in the morning, after exercise or after they’ve been at rest, possibly ‘warming’ out of it as the day goes on

  • Reluctance to go for a walk, slowing down on walk

  • Not having the energy levels they once had

  • Reluctance or inability to perform everyday activities such as jumping into/out of the car, onto the sofa/bed, finding it difficult to climb the stairs etc

  • Loss of muscle mass, especially in the hind legs

  • Generally slowing down

  • Joints become less flexible

  • Conditions such as osteoarthritis and spondylosis begin to develop

  • You may notice twitching in muscles and shaking in limbs

  • Generally lost their zest for life

How Massage can Help a Senior Dog

Canine Massage therapy can be an important part of their health maintenance plan, with dogs having maintenance session regularly to improve their quality of life allowing them to feel younger, healthier, and more mobile.

There is a long list of benefits to a senior dog that can come from Clinical Canine massage; the main ones are listed below;

  • Increases flexibility by improving tissue elasticity

  • Reduces pain and soreness, improves comfort levels

  • Helps your dog feel better and move better

  • Reduces stiffness

  • Improves circulation


Gives your Dog a Better Quality of Life!

One of the immediate benefits of massage is a feeling of deep relaxation and calm, Improving your dogs’ mood and reducing their stress levels. massage prompts the release of endorphins – the brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) that produce feelings of well-being, and making them feel relaxed. Levels of stress hormones, such as adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine, are also reduced which emotionally lift the dog, giving them a better quality of life.

A canine athlete: Services

Massage for Overweight Dogs

In addition to being at a greater risk for heart disease, circulatory problems, diabetes, liver disease, overweight dogs show greater incidences of developing serious joint complications too. The bones, joints, muscles, and associated tendons and ligaments all work together to give the dog smooth and efficient movement. If they are required to carry excess weight, they can start to become damaged which can lead to orthopaedic conditions and soft tissue injuries.

Symptoms to look out for in an overweight dog are:

  • High fat to muscle ratio

  • Unable to see rib cage

  • Loss of waist

  • Sleeps a lot; lethargy

  • Pants heavily after exercise

  • Mobility issues, struggling to walk, struggling to do everyday daily activities 

Pain and joint changes associated with obesity include:

  • Earlier onset hip and elbow dysplasia which can become more severe

  • Ligament tears. Extra tension on joints caused by an increased weight load can also lead to damage of certain ligaments such as the ligaments in the knee, the anterior cruciate ligament, is very prone to strains or tears

  • Earlier onset of Arthritis.  Excess weight, which adds stress on the joints

  • Early onset of Osteoarthritis. Excess wear and tear on the joints will increase the chances of osteoarthritis causing chronic pain and inflammation. Furthermore, fat tissue is biologically active and secretes hormones and other chemicals that both cause and enhance inflammation


How massage can help your overweight dog

  • Canine massage helps by warming the muscles and the surrounding area helping make them more supple and relieving the muscle tension

  • Massaging improves circulation 

  • It breaks up adhesions that tends to form in the connective tissue of a stiff arthritic dog 

  • It reduces pain inflammation, muscle spasms and stiffness

  • It loosens constricted muscles and tissues around the joints; increasing mobility and flexibility of the the limbs

  • It lubricates the joints, improving their range of motion, increasing the flexibility of the limbs

A canine athlete: Services

Massage for Nervous/Anxious Dogs

Canine Massages are great for dogs who are nervous, anxious and hyperactive. The effect that massage can have on the body is profound, it improves not only a dog’s physical, but also their emotional well-being.

Is your dog nervous or anxious?

If your dog is nervous or anxious, it is likely that there sympathetic nervous is in overdrive. The sympathetic nervous system will release certain endocrine hormones like cortisol that can significantly have a negative impact on your dog’s overall health.

Symptoms that your dog may be experiencing stress or anxiety include:

  • Diarrhoea and/or vomiting

  • Negatively effects the immune system, making your dog more likely to become ill. Frequent urination and defecation

  • Persistent skin and coat problems

  • Change in behaviour, more destructive, barking, winning

  • Lethargy and laziness

  • Restlessness

  • Excessive hunger or thirst

  • Excessive grooming, licking tail or limbs


If your dog is anxious then massage can be an extremely effective, safe treatment to help them cope with their world

Dogs can easily get stressed, nervous or anxious, it could be due to any of the following:

  • Dog in pain through muscular injury, or a chronic orthopaedic condition

  • Attacked by another dog/scared of strangers

  • Loud noises i.e. thunderstorms, fireworks

  • Changes in circumstances i.e. moving house, left alone more frequently

  • Rescued/re-homed

Canine Massage reduces stress in your dog

Massage positively influences the autonomic nervous system and helps to change stress levels. Using massage techniques on your dog, neural pathways are activated which Inhibit the release of stress hormones like cortisol and increase oxytocin, the “feel-good” hormone. 

Massage can help the anxious dog, it:

  • Alleviates pain

  • Elicits a positive emotional state

  • Releasing tension

  • Calms the dog

  • Lowers stress hormones in the body therefore reducing stress levels

  • Promotes comfort, bonding and emotional well-being

  • Releases endorphins and boosts the immune system


Your nervous dog and their massage session

Many owners fear that their dogs will not settle for massage and are often surprised to see their dogs settle. My goals when massaging your dog are to relax them using soothing massage techniques before gently easing into their massage treatment session.

I work with care, empathy and consideration and use massage techniques to calm and promote relaxation. My clinic offers a tranquil, quiet space with relaxing music to help calm their state of mind and to help settle them.

A canine athlete: Services

Massage for Post-Operative Recovery

Depending on the surgical procedures, your dog might be immobilised for days or even weeks which can impact on both the physical and psychological welfare of your dog.  Whether it was an orthopaedic condition, neutering, abdominal surgery or any surgery, many dogs  find it beneficial to have a full structured massage to assist in their recovery.

How soon we can massage after surgery depends on the type/reason for the

procedure and your vet will be able to advise you on the time-scale but it is usually between four and six weeks after surgery.

What can happen after surgery to your dog

A reduction in your dogs’ mobility during post-operation, can lead to:

  • Poor circulation

  • A reduction of blood and lymph

  • Muscle wasting (atrophy)

  • Reduced flexibility in the muscles

  • Overcompensation and referred pain

  • Tight and injury prone muscles

  • Poor joint stability with poor range of motion

This enforced rest can also leave your dog very bored, anxious and stressed; affecting your dog psychologically.

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How Massage can help your dog after surgery

  • Massage will help with your dog’s mobility, pain management and promote a speedier return back to their fitness 

  • It aids in easing the pain and encouraging nutrients to the tissues thus speeding up tissue recovery

  • Massage helps to realign and remodel the scar tissue caused or created by the surgery allowing for easier movement of the repaired tissue

  • It increases your dog’s circulation and help the body pump more oxygen and nutrients into tissues and vital organs, this allows the surgical rehabilitating area(s) to become more flexible and heal quicker

  • Improves their mood and character, eases boredom stress and anxiety

A canine athlete: Services

Massage for the Tripawd

There are a multitude of reasons that a dog may lose a limb and become a tripawd; whether it is due to injury, cancer or a birth defect, sometimes amputation is a necessity.

If you’re facing the heart-wrenching decision of whether to amputate your dog’s leg, or are considering adopting an amputee dog, Canine Massage can dramatically help  in their rehabilitation process.

Your  dog will have to learn very quickly how to adjust, they will have to learn to walk, sit and stand again and how to negotiate things to which they previously would not have given a second glance. This will have an impact on the rest of your dogs’ body and cause them to  overcompensate with their other limbs. This results in habitual patterns of tension and what we call "Protective Muscle Splinting". This is when muscles have to work harder to stabilise the joint: these over-worked muscles will often become hypertonic and accumulate painful stress areas known as trigger points which refer pain to the rest of the body.


Canine Massage is an amazingly effective form of rehabilitation for tripawd dogs and helps to keep muscles fit, healthy and to reduce the risk of physical injury and address the areas of overcompensation.

Please see How your dog will benefit from Canine Massage.

A canine athlete: Services
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