page header image

Your Happy Pet: Canine Massage & Acupressure a Perfect Pair

Original Publication Date: March 24, 2014
By C. Sue Furman, Ph.D.

Canine massage and canine acupressure have incredible power to relax, comfort, rehabilitate and encourage healing in your pet's body. However, the origins and the way in which these modalities affect the body are somewhat different.

Artifacts from many countries indicate massage may have been used among prehistoric folk. The wonders of touch or instinctive massage were probably recognized when the first primitive man bumped his head on the roof of his cave and reached to rub his aching noggin.

What appears to be therapeutic touch is documented in cave paintings circa 15,000 B.C., and the Chinese made detailed written accounts of the use of massage as early as 3,000 B.C. So how does this ancient modality work?

Massage manipulates soft tissues by rubbing, kneading, tapping and stretching. These techniques increase circulation, soften superficial fascia, move toxins and increase flexibility and range of motion. They also increase circulation and stimulate the instant release of endorphins, hormones and neurotransmitters that act at a cellular level to immediately change the outlook of the one who is touched.

While massage has been used to soothe human afflictions for thousands of years, it only recently became popular in promoting a balanced body and mind.

Acupressure has its ancient origins in Traditional Chinese Medicine that believed Qi, or life force energy, flowed through river-like meridians of the body. The ancients used metaphors concerning climate and elements in their world that were thought to impede the flow of Qi. They believed this caused blockage of the meridians and imbalance in the body.

Probably by trial and error and careful observation, they determined specific acupoints. When stimulated by acupuncture using a fine needle or by acupressure using fingertip pressure, the blockage was released, Qi flowed, and the body was healed. Early Chinese medical textbooks include illustrations of acupoints for animals like horses and elephants that were of economic importance. Pets were probably not of great concern.

Interestingly, the very points the ancients determined are the same acupoints recognized today. However, modern science has shown each acupoint contains a nerve and blood vessels. Contemporary acupuncture and acupressure practitioners no longer think of the imaginary meridian lines conjured by the ancients. Instead, animal anatomy and physiology are at the forefront prior to an acupuncture or acupressure treatment.

The nerves, vessels and muscles of the pet are considered. With that information, appropriate acupoints can be selected to address specific problems such as pain, digestive dysfunction or stress.

The beginnings of massage and acupressure go back thousands of years and focus was on wholeness of form and function of body and mind. Today, the focus remains the same, but the understanding of the modalities is now based on your pet's anatomy and physiology. Both have remarkable powers to encourage healing. The two modalities complement each other, and when applied together, work synergistically to create a strong therapeutic partnership to encourage healing in your pet.

Sue Furman, Ph.D, has published two books and a DVD on canine massage and teaches classes in pet massage, acupressure, first aid and CPR. See her schedule and submit questions at