Massage and Anxious Dogs

People often explore many different avenues of health, from prescription medication to diet and exercise plans to alternative and holistic options. Why not do the same for our animals? This winter, we will be featuring articles from Melanie Hampton, owner of Serenity Pet Massage. Melanie will share information about alternative treatment options for pets that she uses in her practice.

In this article, Melanie discusses how pet massage can help an anxious dog.

Will massage help my anxious dog?

This is the most common question I get asked. I work with a lot of dogs that suffer from separation anxiety, thunderstorm and loud noise phobias, and fear anxieties with great results.

If our animals are alive, they have stress. Stress is a natural physical and mental reaction to both good and bad experiences that can be beneficial to their health and safety. However, chronic stress can cause a variety of symptoms and can affect the overall health and well-being of our animals. It can contribute to many health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.

The central nervous system (CNS) is in charge of the “fight or flight” response. Once the perceived fear is gone, the CNS should tell all systems to go back to normal. If the CNS fails to return to normal, or if the stressor does not go away, it takes a toll on the body.

Massage stimulates the nervous system to produce hormones that have tremendous benefit on the entire body while at the same time reducing or balancing chemical levels to prevent a detrimental effect. Massage increases the available levels of dopamine (the happy hormone), serotonin (the calming hormone), and endorphins (the body’s pain reliever) while decreasing cortisol (the fight or flight hormone).

High levels of cortisol have been linked to many stress-related symptoms and illnesses such as anxiety, inflammation, and aggression. For example, a dog who feels the need to “patrol and protect” their owner’s property will have increased levels of cortisol and could suffer from a variety of stress-related symptoms.

Examples of dogs helped by massage

  • My husband and I adopted Gypsy last year. She’s a terrier mix that suffers from extreme fear anxieties. It doesn’t matter if it’s a person or an object, if it’s new, she’s afraid of it. I use massage techniques, Healing Touch for Animals®, essential oils, and positive training methods to calm her and help her cope with accepting new things in her life. It’s been a wonderful learning experience for me as we journey together and I’m able to see the differences massage has made in her life. When she begins to get scared and tense and I start to massage her, I can see and feel her visibly relax under my hands.
  • One of the most rewarding things I do is volunteer at the Wake County Animal Shelter every other week. I massage the “long-timers,” dogs that have been there for over two months and are either starting to “shut down,” or they’re possibly becoming “barrier aggressive” due to the fact that they’ve been in a shelter environment for so long. As you can imagine, these dogs really appreciate their massages! To be able to lie on my table for 30 minutes and reach a state of deep relaxation is so important for their health and well-being while they wait for their forever home.
  • Finally, I’d like to reiterate how massage can help a healthy dog. Just like regularly changing the oil in our car or brushing our teeth twice a day, getting monthly “maintenance” massages, regular exercise, feeding a diet that provides optimal nutrition, and regular wellness checks can all be vital tools to increase the quality of our pets’ lives.

Our best friend’s health and companionship is priceless!

Melanie Hampton

Serenity Pet Massage
Registered Veterinary Technician
Certified Canine and Equine Massage Therapist
Healing Touch for Animals – AP® and Reiki Practitioner
Certified Pet Food Nutrition Specialist
Pet Tech Instructor
Certified Canine Kinesiology Tape Practitioner

(919) 436-3306

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