How to Massage Your Pet to Reduce Anxiety

Redbarn Team December 01, 2020
How to Massage Your Pet to Reduce Anxiety

Massages aren’t only for pet parents in need of a little R&R, they’re for dogs and cats too! 

Pets are hard at work giving their parents love, attention and even playing with their hoomans when they’d rather be eating treats. So, it’s time to return the favor. 

Giving your pet a massage is a great way to reconnect with your pet and build precious bonding moments. It also helps pets trust you which is especially important if you have a dog or cat who previously suffered from abuse, abandonment, or illness.

Also, what better way to show your love than the gift of relaxation?

Benefits of Pet Massages

Pet massages are a great way to help support your pet’s overall health and wellbeing. Not only do they help reduce anxiety, but there are several other health benefits:

  • Reducing joint and muscle pain
  • Aiding recovery from injury
  • Comfort for elderly pets 
  • Calms the nervous system
  • Immune-boosting benefits 
  • Helps strengthen pet to pet parent bond

Massage Technique for Beginners 

Giving a therapeutic massage to your pet involves gently applying pressure to their muscles in a stroking motion, moving the tissue with each stroke. 

Ideally, if you’ve never given your pet a massage before you want to start out by gently stroking your hands over their body (think of a slow, exaggerated belly rub), testing out light to medium pressure.

As you’re initiating the massage be sure to notice how they are responding. For cats, gentle purrs to encourage the massage is a great sign. Dogs may even close their eyes and rest while you give them this relaxing treat. 

If your pet is visibly comfortable, try massaging different areas of their body by moving around their torso to their toes, ears, and head, and if they’re comfortable, their paws as well.

Next, try kneading different areas of their muscles with your thumbs while continuing to gently stroke over other areas of their body. A great example of this is kneading and rolling out bread by hand –– your thumbs do the kneading work and your hands help to push and stretch the shape. 

Tips to Remember:

  1. Be gentle –– check-in with your pet to make sure they’re comfortable.
  2. Be strategic –– massage in circular motions starting at the torso and moving around to other areas of the body.
  3. Be patient –– try not to rush, make sudden movements, or scold your pet during the massage session, remember it’s about making them feel safe and relaxed.
  4. Be generous –– if your pet clearly enjoys their massage, treat them to an extra few minutes, and consider giving them their favorite treat after the session ends. 

As you plan for your pup or cats massage, also make sure to create a safe and comfortable environment for them. A quiet spot in your home with limited distractions is a great start. If you have a cozy blanket for them to lay on during the session that also helps. 

Let your pet decide which position is most comfortable for them –– they may enjoy a massage while sitting up or they’ll want to lay in your lap. Try not to force them into any specific posture. 

If your pet enjoys being brushed, this is also a good time to gently brush them to help increase blood flow and circulation before or after their massage session. 

Most importantly, focus on the basics: gentle touch and relaxation. Unless you are certified in pet massage techniques (kudos to you!) you’ll want to follow the steps we mentioned without doing anything too fancy. Leave the acupressure points and deep tissue work for a trained vet or massage therapist.

When to Give a Massage

Not sure when to give your pet a massage? Notice your pet’s anxiety triggers and overall anxiety levels to determine if a massage is the best treatment and when to initiate it. 

Pet Anxiety Triggers

  • Leaving the house for an extended period of time
  • Loud or abrupt noises
  • Introducing new pets, babies or family members
  • Trauma prior to ownership
  • Underlying illness or disease
  • Old age and memory loss

Pro Tip: If you aren’t sure if giving massages at home is the best way to care for your dog or cat’s anxiety be sure to consult your veterinarian. 

When to Avoid Massage  

Unfortunately, our pets can’t communicate with us (yet!) so it’s extremely important to pay attention to any underlying illness or pain. You typically want to avoid massages when pets recently had surgery, if they are ill, suffering from an infection or a skin ailment. 

Also, avoid massages after your pet has engaged in a vigorous play session since it’ll probably take them a while to calm down. 

As a rule of thumb notice if your pet is too aroused before a massage session, in pain, or showing any signs of discomfort. 

Remember, it’s all about treating your pet and returning some of the love they give to you, right back to them! 

Don’t forget to add some yummy treats to the end of their massage sessions like our delicious low-calorie Protein Puffs for cats and our protein-packed Redbarn® Choppers.

Happy bestie bonding time!