HEALTH AND WELLNESS
It's never too late to paws and breathe.
By Alma J. Buelva
EVERYONE can use a good massage every now and then, even dogs. The older and bigger the dog, the more they could use a regular rubbing down to relieve their achy breaky joints.
Canine massage therapy expert Sharon Koung said big dogs are more prone to joint problems than small dogs, and all dogs in general wear off their joints as they age.
Koung who works at Kreature Care in Singapore which specializes in canine massage therapy and related health services, said dogs with joints and bone problems experience any of the following: lameness, skipping steps, inability or difficulty in getting up from a lying position, inflammation, stiffness, pain, swelling and grating or crackling sound when they move.
The symptoms may not be obvious at first, but dog owners can get a leg up, so to speak, of their dogs' condition before it gets worse by making it a habit to massage and feel their dogs regularly.
“Dogs like cats are good at hiding their pain or illness. It would help them a lot if their humans could detect early which part of their body is stiff or has spasms,” said Koung.
The simple stroking of the dog's body from head to back legs is already the beginning of preventive care. It prepares the dog's body for massage, it warms them up and helps their blood to circulate better.
“Massage your dogs at least 10 to 15 minutes in the morning or when they're just next to you as you watch TV...Touch them everyday to notice irregularities and to know their bodies better so you can help prevent problems early,” said Koung.
Senior dogs, especially those with stiff and locked shoulder joints, and dogs undergoing post operation care and strength training can benefit from massage therapy. It is also imperative for dogs to get a massage when they have collapsed spine, torn ligament, hip dysplasia and double hip dysplasia, nerve disorder and nerve damage resulting from fall.
Massage therapy is also advisable for dogs suffering from toxoplasmosis characterized by uncoordinated gait and muscle weakness, rigid contraction of the limbs, and muscle athropy (crawls on all fours).
But even while they're still young and healthy, dogs can use a good daily rub down to improve their general well being, said Koung.
“Massaging your dog helps improve their blood circulation, increase joint strength and flexibility and provides pain relief,” said Koung.
Among the important areas to be massaged are the dog's spine area, neck muscles, shoulder muscles, back muscles and the front and back legs.
“Massage the spine area, not on the spine itself, but on the side only. Use your thumbs to massage the side of the spines then rub down using circular motion. Gently rotate around the side of the spine. Sometimes, a dog feels spasm or pain. Apply heat pack for 20 seconds in sore areas before rubbing it again,” Koung said.
Joints and legs should also be massaged using circular motion. “Use the flat part of your fingertips to massage the body, especially the side of the neck bone,” she added.
Palpation. Feel or touch the dog with your hand and or fingertips to determine sensitivity and consistency in the given area. Locate muscle spasms.
Direct pressure/ Point massage. Use ball of your finger or thumbs to massage the dog. When massaging very small cats and dogs, use ball of index fingers. For tense muscles and qi points (located along vertebrae and joints area), apply medium circular pressure. Direct pressure and point massage help to relax the pet, soften their muscles and prepare them for next level of pressure.
Effleurage. Stroke pets using flat palms and fingers along the fur line. Stroke slowly and lightly in the beginning and gradually increase pressure. The fur line starts from the head to toe along back, shoulder to front legs, backside to back legs. This type of massage helps drain the lactic acid accumulated in the dog's body after a workout.
Stretching. Koung highly recommends stretching with joint rotation for dogs. “But always support the area or muscle being stretched. Do not pull. Do not over stretch. If the dog pulls back its leg, let it go,” she said.
When stretching the dog's back leg, for example, support the dog by having it lean against your own body and holding the upper part of its leg before moderately stretching it using your other hand.
Aside from giving massages, Koung said dog owners can help their pets with joints and muscle conditions by using anti-slip mats in the dog areas, raising the height of their dog's food and water bowl and rubbing their body with heat packs to relieve sore spots.
Kreature Care is the first certified animal massage therapy center in Singapore.
* Lameness in dogs explained