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Relieving Anxiety At Home With Canine Massage



We all feel a little stressed at times… and so do our pets. Loud noises, storms, injury, or changes in their environment can cause heightened stress levels. But for some, a stressful event can trigger severe anxiety. We caught up with Canine Myofunctional Therapist Sandra Bader from Paws4Paws this week to talk about ways to help calm your dog at home with massage therapy.


 

How can I tell if my dog is anxious?


One of the hardest things when it comes to our beloved furry family members is that they cannot tell us when they are feeling anxious (or are in pain). Your dog’s body language and behaviour, however, can tell you enough to know where your dog is at. You just need to learn to ‘listen’. Symptoms of anxiety are:


· Panting (even when your dog is not hot)

· Shaking or trembling

· Excessive barking

· Pacing

· Tail tucked between the legs

· Fear aggression

· Urinating in the house

· Destructive behaviour

· Repetitive or compulsive behaviour

· Digging or trying to escape

· Self-harm such as excessive licking and chewing

· General inability to settle down

· Disinterest in food and water

Most anxious dogs only display some of these symptoms and only when triggered so we need to ‘listen’ (look) more carefully in order to ‘hear’ what our dog is telling us.


How does massage help an anxious dog?


Massage stimulates the release of the hormones dopamine, serotonin and endorphins which are known as the ‘happy hormones’ and are responsible for calmness, pain relieve and happiness. These ‘happy hormones’ counteract the stress hormone cortisol in the body. Whilst cortisol is an important hormone for the fight and flight response in dangerous situations, prolonged elevated cortisol levels are problematic and can lead to behaviour problems such as chronic anxiety, aggression and even depression. Massage can help to reduce the cortisol levels in your dog.


What are the best areas of the body or pressure points to focus on when massaging my dog at home?


Your main goal is to relax your dog. Relaxation techniques are slow and gentle with steady light pressure. One of the most basic strokes is called effleurage. Effleurage is a great way to give your dog a nice, relaxing massage without having to know the anatomy of your dog’s bones and muscles. Effleurage is performed using your flat hand and fingers by applying light slow pressure to the muscles. When performed very slowly it can induce relaxation as it stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which releases ‘happy’ hormones.


Using your hand, start at the back of your dog’s head and stroke down at either side of the spine with very gentle pressure at a very slow pace. Be sure to stay off the bone. Be aware of your hand positioning and movement, and what’s underneath your palm. As soon as you feel you might be on a boney area, reduce pressure. Stroke all the way down to your dog’s lower back and into the thigh area. Repeat several times until your dog is calm. Always begin with gentle, soft pressure and slowly increase. If your dog pulls away, looks at you with a worried look, or starts licking their lips, your pressure might be too strong.


Massaging the jaw muscles is also a great way to induce relaxation in some dogs. Place your thumb on your dog’s cheek and very slowly move your thumb in a circular motion for a minute or two.


What are some tips for pawrents who are new to canine massage?


Go slow, focus your attention and be present.


 

Every dog is different, so you can also try different areas to see what is most effective for your dog. Some dogs love a good head rub, or a massage behind the ears, others love a paw massage. Once you know what works best for calming your dog you can concentrate on those areas to relieve stress more effectively.


Aromatherapy can also be an effective way to help an anxious pup to relax. To that end we created our Settle Petal Calming Massage Balm. It's chock full of nourishing organic oils and butters to soften both skin and coat while you massage your dog. It also contains pure essential oils of lavender and sweet orange to help calm and soothe anxiety and stress. For more details visit https://www.bearandkind.com/product-page/settle-petal-calm-balm .



For severe, ongoing anxiety issues or injury recovery always consult a professional. Paws4Paws provides a mobile canine massage therapy service in Melbourne metropolitan areas and works in conjunction with veterinary diagnosis to develop the right treatment plan for your dog. Visit www.paws4paws.com.au for more information.

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