HEALING BENEFITS OF A THERAPY PET
Animal massage complements traditional veterinary medicine
Massage and acupressure are standard spa treatments and many people frequently indulge in these specialized wellness sessions. What is not as well known is that there are certified animal massage practitioners who work on dogs, horses and other creatures. Pets bring joy to countless households, and owners worry when their fur babies act abnormally. Pet lovers may try to comfort their fluffy friends’ ailments with extra snuggles and tummy scratches, but animal massage practitioners are trained to perfect that “magic touch.”
MORE THAN JUST A PAMPERING SESSION
Rocky Mountain School of Animal Acupressure and Massage trains students in equine and canine massage at its Fort Myers campus. Students often supplement their massage courses with classes on animal anatomy, and many also learn how to apply acupressure techniques to small or large animals. Additional workshops include trigger point therapy, laser therapy and animal communication. Director of curriculum Calli Rulli explains pet massage offers more than just a pampering session. While massage may provide a feel-good session for the animal, she states that benefits include “increased circulation, muscle health, general physical and emotional well-being, and more.” Animal massage practitioners often work cooperatively with veterinarians to care for pets. Rulli says each professional fulfills a unique individual role within the animal’s team of caretakers.
MOBILE CANINE MASSAGE
After graduating from Rocky Mountain School of Animal Acupressure and Massage, Kris Whipple opened Dharma Dog in Naples, to address dogs’ needs with therapeutic massage. She is certified in therapeutic, senior and sports massage, and will also visit the homes of dog owners. Whipple reasons that making home visits helps dogs feel most comfortable. It allows her to provide recommendations that can enhance the dogs’ environments, which ultimately aids their physical and mental well-being. Her canine patients often receive regular treatments. And after witnessing their own dogs benefit from massage, many veterinarians, trainers and owners will tell other dog owners about Dharma Dogs. Dogs typically begin with three to four weekly sessions before shifting to a maintenance schedule, which varies according to the dog’s needs—such as age, size and activity level. At the end of each session, Whipple reports how she addressed each problem, and gives recommendations to maintain the dog’s condition in between visits.
As expected, animal massage professionals feel greatly rewarded when they hear glowing testimonials from clients. For instance, Rocky Mountain School of Animal Acupressure and Massage staff members were delighted when an owner was able to dramatically decrease the dog’s pain medications, per veterinary instruction.
Whipple has observed positive change in her clients, too. Targeted massage enabled a largebreed dog with hip dysplasia to resume playing in the park. It also helped Whipple’s own dog, which was rescued as a puppy, to enjoy human touch and stay physically sound.
COMPLEMENTS VETERINARY CARE
Animal massage is not a substitute for veterinary care; rather, it complements traditional medicine to enhance healing and recovery. “Animal massage practitioners do not diagnose, treat or cure medical conditions,” explains Whipple. Practitioners note animal massage therapy integrates into treatment plans that incorporate traditional and alternative veterinary medicine to improve well-being.
Alison Roberts-Tse has been haphazardly scribbling in journals since she was a small-town small fry. She has degrees in communications and dance from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She now lives in London, spends time on Sanibel and obsessively plans getaways, both near and far.
Animal massage therapy (inset) reduces build-up of muscle adhesions, decreases muscle tissue atrophy and relieves pain by releasing endorphins. At right, animal massage practitioners are trained to manipulate muscle groups to improve mobility, reduce anxiety or decrease recovery time from injury or surgery.
Rocky Mountain School of Animal Acupressure and Massage students commonly learn about the school by word of mouth or researching online. The school's most popular courses are equine massage and canine massage. Those are often supplemented with applicable anatomy courses.