Massage Therapy Goes to the Dogs
CALGARY, AB When one thinks of canine massage, it's easy to envision pampered pooches in a posh Beverly Hills spa waiting for a manicure. And while there are facilities that cater to spoiling pets with services once reserved for the rich and famous, certified canine therapeutic and maintenance massage therapist Pamela Porosky explains what the complimentary therapy is really about.
"Sure, it's relaxing, but that's just a side effect of the treatment," says Porosky, founder of The Raven's Wing Animal Reiki and Massage. "There are some amazing benefits for dogs of all backgrounds, from the weekend warrior, to the active working dog, to the senior dog who gets real relief from painful arthritis."
She adds that even the rescue dog with behavioural or emotional issues can benefit from massage.
"Touch is a very powerful tool, and in massage we're not just getting the blood flowing, the circulation going, we're connecting with the animal through positive touch, expressing that our intention is for their benefit, and helping them become more comfortable in their own space, in their own body."
Porosky presented a seminar on alternative animal therapies at the 12th annual Calgary Pet Expo on both May 5 and 6, where The Raven's Wing Animal Reiki and Massage officially took flight as one of Calgary's newest pet-related businesses. She addressed some of the questions and stereotypes surrounding complimentary animal therapies in general, and massage for dogs specifically.
Canine massage is a relatively newer option as an alternative animal therapy in Southern Alberta, but it's been around for quite some time in North America in general, especially in the state of Colorado, where Porosky studied canine maintenance and therapeutic massage, as well as sports massage for the canine athlete at the Rocky Mountain School of Animal Acupressure and Massage, where she also studied and was certified in Animal Aromatherapy.
"There are nearly as many canine massage therapists in Colorado as there are dogs," Porosky jokes. "But pet owners there are aware of the benefits, so there's plenty of demand. There are a lot of animals here that could benefit, too; it's more about educating owners. I think my own dad thought it was a bit 'out there' until he saw the reaction of his own dog to a session. And this is a guy who has had massages himself, who has had Reiki and acupuncture treatments."
Albertans have long known about the benefits of equine massage and "treated" their horses with the therapy, whether a companion animal on the family acreage, or a champion at Spruce Meadows.
"Faster recovery times from injury or surgery, improved immune function, overall well-being and quality of life? That sounds like something I would want for the animals in my life and lower vet bills," Porosky laughs, who massages her own canine companion on a regular basis.
"It really helped him when he was a puppy to find relief from growing pains. Now, he's the laziest dog I've ever met! But 10 minutes of massage is the equivalent to roughly 30 minutes of anaerobic activity, so I know if I can't get him off the couch, he's at least getting those muscles worked.
"Cats love it too," she notes, "but they don't always sit for it. I prefer energy therapies with them, like Reiki, or a combination of Reiki and massage. I let them dictate each session. But guinea pigs? I've yet to meet one that turns down a good back rub!"
One thing Porosky emphasizes, though, is that massage therapy or any other complimentary therapy is not a suitable replacement for traditional veterinary care.
"It can certainly help with a number of conditions and help with the overall well-being of a pet, but it should never be used instead of veterinary treatments and regular checkups. In some cases, it should not even be applied to the animal without veterinary approval."
And because massage for companion animals isn't that common in Canada yet, Porosky further warns: "The reason I went to school in Colorado is because I couldn't find a reputable school in Western Canada. It's not properly regulated here yet, as it is in most states, so even though I found one or two canine massage therapists, I couldn't find anyone in the area who was actually certified or insured, which is really important when someone is handling your pet, whether it's getting a massage, physiotherapy or a nail trim.
"And then let your pet decide," she states. "They will let you know what they think of the practitioner and of the treatment, and if it's the right thing for them. Your pet will thank you for letting them be part of their own healing process."
About the Author: Porosky is a member of the International Association of Animal Massage and Bodywork (IAAMB), an organization that helps regulate the practice and insure members, as well as the Shelter Animal Reiki Association (SARA), which helps bring Reiki into animal shelters throughout North America.
For more information contact Pamela Porosky of Raven's Wing Animal Reiki and Massage:
32 Aberdare Crescent NE
T2A 6V7 Canada
Note: This section of the Canada's Guide to Dogs website is intended as a source of information only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional care. Always consult with your Veterinarian about health related matters.