Hollywood is brimming with pet spas staffed by hair stylists, beauticians, and trainers. They even have certified massage therapists. This kind of pampering has a lot of us laughing in disbelief, but the area of massage is something actually worth consideration…
Animals were turned to by masseuse’s back in the 70’s with the development of equine massage for race horses. The idea of an animal needing or benefiting from massage was quite controversial back then, but now animal massage has grown by leaps and bounds. Animal massage schools have popped up across the United States to offer therapeutic touch to dogs, cats, and horses. But while they may get all the attention, it’s something that can be beneficial for animals of all types for all sorts of reasons.
Pain & Tension
We’re all familiar with how massage can ease tense muscles and reduce the pains of movement, but it may lessen nerve compression too. The benefits can even be boiled down to a microscopic level. In 2012, a study was published on the cellular impact of massage which revealed the truth behind it’s rumored benefits. Participants performed intense aerobic exercise which was followed by a 10 minute massage on one leg. When all was said and done, legs that had received massage following physical activity had a drop in the cytokines responsible for pain and inflammation.
Circulation & Healing
Aside from pain relief, massage also helps to improve circulation. This obviously benefits a body by helping the body’s natural flow of nutrients and wastes, but it can also bolster the healing process. This can be especially helpful with older animals with compromised mobility. As a bonus, touching your livestock will have you familiar with your body. Should abnormalities come up, you’ll be able to take note of them and bring any concerns to your veterinarian.
For us humans, a good massage is the equivalent of an induced coma. Having tight and painful muscles soothed can be as pleasurable as it is relieving, and it does wonders to soothe anxieties too. Focusing on the touch of our masseuse helps us to focus our awareness on the present moment. That right there works magic with stressed bodies and minds. On top of that though, massage can actually reduce stress hormones and increase serotonin. So not only does massage provoke a more peaceful state, but it can also encourage a happier frame of mind. We may not be able to get animals to explain how massage affects their emotional well-being, but it’s safe to say it poses benefits.
Aside from the potential effects on an animal’s mood, massage gets raves for promoting closer human-animal relationships. Simply taking the time to spend with your livestock promotes bonding and encourages trust. Massage time also allows you the opportunity to get to know your animal. The more time you spend with them, the more familiar you’ll become with their likes and dislikes. You’ll also be able to see catch their funny quirks and learn their nonverbal cues of communication.
Photo courtesy of Nisa Yeh.