An­i­mal mas­sage com­ple­ments tra­di­tional vet­eri­nary medicine

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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.”


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.


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.


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.

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