Does your dog need a massage? Shelah Barr of Happy Hounds Massage gives a massage to Dewie, 2. Practitioners say massage can be a preventive measure for younger animals and rehabilitative for older ones by boosting flexibility, circulation and immunity (AP photos)
Does your dog need a massage?
Lexile

Spa treatments don't stop with people. You won't see any aromatherapy candles around, but animals get massages too, and it's become a regular service that many pet owners value as more than just glorified petting.

"People call me because their dogs are having problems," said Shelah Barr, a San Francisco dog massage therapist. "The work I do is important for animals so they have a high quality of life."

Practitioners say massage can be a preventive measure for younger animals and rehabilitative for older ones by boosting flexibility, circulation and immunity. As its popularity continues to grow, primarily among dog and horse owners, so does the debate about regulation. Some veterinarians argue that pet massage is a form of veterinary medicine that requires a license, but whether therapists need one varies by state.

Pet owners spent $4.4 billion last year on "other services," a category that includes grooming, training and services such as massage, according to the American Pet Products Association, which tracks national spending trends in the pet industry. That is a 6.1 percent jump from 2012.

Massage sessions can last 30-40 minutes, and therapists travel to homes, hotels and even an owner's workplace, said Barr, who has been practicing in San Francisco since 2006.

"There are a couple of tech companies I go to. They have a quiet office I can go into and work on the animal," said Barr, who typically sees about 15 pets a week.

The treatments don't necessarily mean incense burning around a massage table. Barr is guided by what the dog desires, which sometimes means the pet chews on a bone the whole time.

Grace Granatelli, an animal masseuse in the Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale, said she would play new-age music or "spa sounds," which help relax dogs.

In her sessions, Granatelli would have the dog lie down on the floor or its bed and start by massaging its neck. She would then move to other areas, including legs and hips. But it's not crucial that the dog lie down or sit still.

The American Veterinary Medical Association classifies animal massage as a form of veterinary care that should require a license. It is up to each state's veterinary licensing board whether to categorize it that way.

"We do consider them veterinary procedures, and we feel the same standards should be used because a lot of harm can come from them," association assistant director Adrian Hochstadt said.

Carol Forrest, a former client of Granatelli's, said her Dachshunds, Maxie and Lucy, got regular massages for five years. The two were able to relax after a massage despite dealing with issues such as arthritis. Forrest said she truly believes massage benefits dogs as much as people.

Critical thinking challenge: Why is quiet or soothing music part of the massage treatment?

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COMMENTS (17)
  • LTaylor-Cas
    12/02/2014 - 10:40 a.m.

    I think it's so cute to give dog massages. I think dogs have muscle problems the same way humans do and should be treated for it.

    • Stephen119
      12/03/2014 - 08:39 a.m.

      dogs are really cool and they really fun to have they can be mean and some could be nice they will play ball and many different games they are really cool to have

  • ws2001wrex
    12/02/2014 - 01:03 p.m.

    Quiet and soothing music is apart of a massage treatment because, it helps calm down the person or animal and lets them truly relax and get the deep treatment that they paid for. It also, allows the muscles to relax so you can feel better.

  • GJessica-Cas
    12/03/2014 - 09:16 a.m.

    I feel dogs are pretty much the same as humans. Dogs can suffer from joint and muscle pain just like the rest of us so I think it is absolutely adorable to give your dog a massage and show them some love and affection!

  • MikaylaStazewski-Ste
    12/03/2014 - 12:35 p.m.

    I am sure my dog needs and deserves a massage, especially with how old he is getting. My dog really likes his butt and belly scratched/rubbed, so I'm sure he would love a massage.

  • TehyaWhite-Ste
    12/03/2014 - 01:11 p.m.

    Quiet and soothing music is played because just as it calms humans down, it also calms the dogs down. It puts them in a state of relaxation where it is easy for the masseuse to do whatever he/she needs to do.

  • ameadows-Cla
    12/03/2014 - 01:39 p.m.

    If i had dog i would give him a massage but i would take him to the spa so yea my dog do need a massage

  • TF00Music
    12/04/2014 - 01:02 p.m.

    Because they say that it will relax the dogs. And it makes since that it would because if one of us humans got a massage, we wouldn't want it t be too quiet to the point that you can hear the person rubbing their hands across your skin.

  • TonyR6
    12/05/2014 - 10:56 a.m.

    Dogs do need massages. They are just like humans. Except they walk on 4 legs. They need to relax their muscles just as we the people do. We all need to wind down and get a nice rub.

  • havenr-Koc
    12/05/2014 - 08:07 p.m.

    I think I can speak for everyone when I say that anyone loves a good massage, including dogs. Massages are crucial to all animals, well the ones that aren't too small to accidentally squash at least.

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