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February 12, 2013

Kneading Attention: Pet Massage Demystified

Tips to help ensure your pet gets the most from his outer body experience

All Animals magazine, March/April 2013

  • Animal massage therapist Rhonda Reich and Ruby. Kevin Moloney/For The HSUS

(Continued from "Kneading Attention: Massage for Pets")

by Ruthanne Johnson

Ready for massage? Before booking a massage, talk with your veterinarian. Animals with a fever, infection, or contagious or irritable skin condition shouldn’t receive massage. Massage is also contraindicated following radiation or chemotherapy and directly on tumors.

Hands on experience Animal massage therapist Rhonda Reich recommends looking for a therapist certified in both human and animal massage and one who works closely with veterinarians. Massage schools and veterinarians can often recommend a qualified therapist. The International Association of Animal Massage and Bodywork maintains a list of therapists certified through its PetMassage program in virtually every state.

DIY Therapists will often demonstrate techniques for pet owners to use at home. If you want to master some basics on your own, cat massage therapist Maryjean Ballner recommends workshops first, followed by videos and books. After watching a video on cat massage, Los Angeles gym owner Damien Wolf was inspired to learn more and apply his knowledge to his temperamental foster dog, Shadow. “She really responded to it,” says Wolf. “ … Something changed in our relationship.” Eventually, Shadow was able to accompany Wolf to work—and became a permanent member of his family.

Managed expectations Professional pet massages can range from $35 to $100 and run from 10 minutes to more than an hour, depending on species and the individual animal’s touch tolerance. While massage can bring profound physical and behavioral effects over time, results are often subtle—not immediate and dramatic, says Ballner. “Behavioral issues … may not be solved with massage alone, but any solution will be expedited with massage.”

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