About Canine Massage

Back on Track Veterinary Hospital & Rehabilitation Center is proud to announce the addition of canine massage. We welcome our newest employee, Heidi Frey, a certified canine massage therapist. View her bio on our Staff page. Heidi offers canine massage at our O'Fallon, Missouri clinic in 30- and 60-minute sessions.

To help inform our established and future customers about canine massage, we asked Hiedi to provide some insight into this new service.  

What are the benefits of canine massage?

Similar to humans, canine muscle and fascia can become tight, affecting over time the dog’s quality of movement. This tightness can occur in all types of dogs, those who are sedentary to the more active dogs. Benefits of massage include:

  • increase in blood and lymph flow

  • release tight areas of the muscle and fascia

  • restore normal movement patterns

  • generally has a relaxing benefit. 

Sporting and working dogs put more stress on their body and skeletal system and can more frequently have muscle fatigue and tightness. A maintenance schedule of massage can help keep them moving well and prevent injuries. In all dogs, canine massage can be used for injury prevention and general well being. Massage can also enhance the recovery process of some medical conditions including orthopedic post surgery, arthritis, dysplasia, and others. 

If your dog has a medical condition, consult your veterinarian for assessment and allow them to determine if massage is appropriate. Canine massage providers are often not veterinarians and this modality should not be used as a substitute for veterinary care in cases of some injuries and other health conditions.

Do most dogs tolerate or enjoy massage? 

It depends on the dog and the provider. The "massage dance" describes the communication that occurs between the provider and recipient. When viewed through the eyes of the dog, the massage provider's body position and touch are sometimes perceived as rude or dominant. Moreover, if the touch starts out too intense and causes discomfort in the dog, they’ll be less likely to cooperate. Dogs do not understand that discomfort now means feeling good later the way humans might accept trigger point or deep myofascial release techniques. 

I've known dogs who have never had a massage relax completely all on their choice. Some could be persuaded into a relaxed position with some treat reinforcement, and others were determined that standing is as relaxed as they are going to allow for a first session! Even those that don't feel comfortable lying on their side (which is most relaxing for the muscles and allows the canine massage provider the best access to tight postural muscles), can benefit and often over time, begin to accept, relax and I would say "enjoy" the massage. No two dogs respond in exactly the same way, but they will let us know how they are feeling if we watch, listen, and respond to them. 

What is your favorite aspect of canine massage? 

I really enjoy the "massage dance" of communication, whether they fully relax into the touch, or just come to an understanding that I'm here to help. I appreciate that the dog and the human are trusting me, and because of this, it is genuinely satisfying to see a dog move better, feel better, and express joy in their own unique way because they just do what they feel.

What can owners do at home to complement what you do? 

Once again, this is very similar to human massage. The best thing to do at home is keep your dog moving. Movement helps activate the muscles that may have been tight or otherwise turned off and can be accessed following massage. This can be as simple as going for a walk or doing some sit to stands or down to stands with good form to earn their meals. More detailed things can include skin rolling along the spine or stretching specific joint/muscle areas as these will reinforce and help the dog maintain the benefits of the massage for a longer period of time.

How did you become interested in canine massage?

I grew up on a farm and have always loved animals, especially dogs. I wanted to be a veterinarian at a young age but chose a different professional path. Eventually, I started looking for a way to complement my athletic training and personal training certifications and found that there was an open door for canine massage. I received my certification through the Lang Institute of Canine Massage of Loveland, CO.

Please help us welcome Heidi to the Back on Track team. We hope she can be of help to your pets! Call and schedule your appointment today.