I think most people know what massage is at this point. Many have experienced it for themselves and know firsthand the wonderful effects it can have on your health and general well-being.
I have often found, however, that there is still a huge misconception about massage for animals. Many think that is is just an unnecessary spa treatment for overly spoiled pets; a waste of money. Nothing could be further from the truth. Animals need massage just as much as we do; their bodies and systems are very much like ours, and they suffer from the same aches and pains.
Ailments such as arthritis, sore muscles, and general stiffness are conditions that come to mind when you think about instances when massage is helpful, but it is also a wonderful tool with psychological issues, such as helping fearful animals who have experienced trauma or abuse build self-confidence and re-gain their trust in people.
What is Massage?
Massage is a manual kneading and stroking technique that works on all the layers of muscle and connective tissue. Various forms of massage have been practiced since ancient times. The well-known quote from Hippocrates “The physician must be experienced in many things, but assuredly in rubbing” is dated 460BC.
When you say massage, you are usually talking about Swedish or deep tissue massage. Swedish massage (called classic massage in Sweden) uses 5 types of strokes to help (among other things) loosen knots, increase flexibility, speed up the removal of toxins, bring more oxygen to the blood, strengthen the immune system, and improve relaxation. Deep tissue massage uses the same strokes, but with a bit more pressure to access the deeper layers of muscle and fascia.
On people, it is usually preformed with the receiver unclothed (covered by a sheet) on a massage table. Massage on animals is done either on a table or on the floor/ground, depending on the type of animal and his/her preference.
Meet Lon Black
Today’s massage case study comes from Lon Black, who is a certified Small Animal Massage Therapist working through Hope Veterinary Services in Brooklyn, New York.
Lon was always around animals as a child and and sensed even then that he had healing abilities. As an adult, he studied different alternative healing modalities. He graduated from the Laura Norman Reflexology School in NYC in 1984, and studied Reiki in 1999 – 2000. As he used Reiki on his own pets, he realized how well they responded to it.
A few years later, with a desire to leave a corporate job, Lon stumbled upon some information about the upcoming new animal massage program at Bancroft School of Massage Therapy in Worcester, MA. He applied and was accepted into the school’s first graduating class.
Lon graduated from the Small Animal Massage Certification Program at Bancroft in 2004 and started his animal massage business immediately following graduation.
He is also a Reiki Master and has a Small Animal Acupressure certification from Tallgrass Animal Acupressure Institute. In addition to seeing clients, Lon teaches pet owners how to use massage techniques with a particular mindset intended to benefit the owner as well as the pet.
For more massage case studies, see the “Massage Helps A Samoyed Get Back On His Feet And A PBGV With Epilepsy” post.