Veterinarians often get questions from dog owners: how can I help my dog at home with arthritis? What can I do to alleviate his pain? So what can be done to reassure dog owners, other than following their vet’s instructions to take medication? In fact, some simple home care can make your beloved dog comfortable. Massage and heat therapy are great ways to relieve sore muscles and joint pain. So how can we massage our dog properly?
Here Are Three Reasons to Pamper Your Dog with Canine Massage and Heat Therapy
- It Reduces Stress and Anxiety
- It Decreases Pain
Massage and Heat therapy can help muscle movements stimulate the release of endorphins, which can help relieve pain. If your dog feels soreness and stiffness in his joints and muscles, heat therapy can help relax those tense areas.
- It Improves Circulation and Lymphatic Flow
Massage and Heat therapy can improve blood circulation and lymphatic circulation, thus benefiting the whole body. Good circulation ensures that your dog’s brain and other organs get a healthy supply of blood, oxygen, and nutrients, and keeps their skin and coat healthy. Improving the flow of lymph helps carry metabolic waste away from muscles and internal organs.
How to Massage Your Dog
When massaging your dog, the most important thing is that you use gentle movements and technique to make sure they are comfortable throughout the process. While some people may prefer a deep tissue massage, it is best to use light pressure on dogs and avoid anything fast, hard, or sudden to prevent any ill effects. Try massaging your dog gradually from the following regions.
Stifle/knee Region Massage
The first place we are going to focus on is the stifle. The stifle is otherwise known as the knee in the dog. The stifle is a common place for arthritis because of cranial cruciate rupture or ACL tears in the dog. You can always see masseurs perform a variety of techniques. The masseur usually massage dogs’ muscles and joints with his fingers and then apply pressure to a larger area with his knuckles. We can also use the palm of the hand to achieve full range of joint motion by stretching and extending the area. What that does is that breaks down a lot of the adhesions that from a surgery, arthritis, and trauma to the leg or from any other reason where the leg is not utilized, extended and flexed to its full range of motion. So that is the stifle region.
The next region we’re going to go to is the hip. The hip is a dog’s unique joint. It is the place called the femur, where is the long bone of the thigh attaches to the pelvis. So this is kind of a socket joint where there is a ball that sits in a socket, like a light bulb sits in a light fixture. There’s a couple of different ways to massage this joint. You can use your fingers to massage the whole area of the hip, and you can also use your palm to apply pressure evenly over the area.
The hip is unique because it’s a joint that moves at 360 degrees, so you can take that hip through its full range of motion and every once in a while. This puts off dogs, especially an older dog with hip arthritis, but this is good because it keeps the muscles supple. It keeps the muscles going through their range of motion, and it helps to strengthen the muscles and ultimately alleviate pain. Then you can change the direction of the massage. You can also do it by flexing it and extending the stifle at the same time. Now this is a little bit more vigorous exercise and can cause more pain or objection, but it’s a good exercise to keep that leg rolling and to keep that leg moving, and hopefully eliminate pain through massage.
The next area that you can go to move on to is the back. When you feel down the center of your dog’s back, you will feel some small little protuberances or little points and those are the dorsal spinous process of the vertebrae bodies. On each side of those little points are two muscles, and lots of times those muscles will get tight, they’ll get painful and inflamed when a dog has back arthritis. So we can actually massage those two areas. The length of those two muscles putting pressure about as much pressure as you would put.
When you were trying to draw a line in the sand, you can pressure on those two muscles, and then you can do that focally if you know exactly where your dog hurts. Let’s say in the thoracolumbar region, which is kind of the middle of very center of the back. If you know exactly where your dog hurts and you can apply pressure directly to that area. It is encouraged to put it on both sides of the back, not just one side. You can use one hand and spread your fingers. You can do that as hard or soft as you want, some dogs will resent it when you do it harder and when you push down deep into those muscle bellies. You don’t need to worry about hurting your dog, but you should be aware of the fact that dogs with a back problem can be sore. It can bite and sometimes if you hit it just right while you’re doing these techniques, it can be quite painful. So that’s an explanation of back massage.
Front Elbow Massage
We will now go on to the next which is going to be the front elbow. Front elbow is a common place, probably the second most common place for dog arthritis. It is a very complex joint and It’s an intersection of three different bones. Large breed dogs, such as Labradors, Rottweilers, the elbow needs to be taken through its full range of motion. You can extend that elbow, then flex it. Lots of times you will feel an arthritic dog’s elbow crackle and it doesn’t feel all that good. It feels like there’s a lot of grinding and it’s kind of like you got a bunch of sand or something in the joint, and it’s not real appealing to hear that joint grind as you extend it through its full range of motion.
You can massage the dog at different levels, such as the inside and the outside point of the joint. Massage while stretching up and down. The extensor tendons the triceps, all those different muscle groups and pull the leg back towards. You pull it all the way back towards you. The elbow is a common region to get arthritis and it’s a real common area that you can massage and you can really help those muscles in that area.
Heat Therapy For Your Dog
Massage has many benefits for relieving joint pain, and it’s great to combine heat therapy with your dog’s home care. Heat therapy can encourage the healing of damaged tissue, decrease joint stiffness, stimulate joint fluid, It can also distract the brain from the pain.
It’s important to note that heat therapy should be warm, not hot. Heat therapy should not be painful or burn the skin. In addition, effective heat therapy provides a constant temperature for an extended period of time. So how long should heat be applied? Application time depends on where the pain is located. To be effective, the heat must penetrate down into the affected muscles and joint tissues. Too short of a session will warm only the skin and not the affected tissues.
In general, minor to moderate pain in joints close to the skin’s surface, such as the ankle or elbow, many only require 15 to 20 minutes of heat therapy. For more intense or deeper injuries, such as moderate to severe arthritis in the hip or lower back, sessions or 30 minutes or even longer may be beneficial. A great option is to wear a heating brace that will allow your dog to get physical therapy without even knowing it.