JUST BECAUSE your pets don't do a lick of work around the house doesn't mean they don't deserve a spa day every now and again, but ugh... the money. You're already working your sweet ass to the bone trying to keep them in kibble and bits. Why not try DIY pet massage? Colonel Snuffles and Admiral Puffknuckle do a lot to keep your blood pressure down—fetching balls, looking cute, and snarfling you awake every morning—so give the gift of soothing their aching muscles.
Erica Curless, of Dog and Pony Show Bodywork near Spokane, Washington, is well versed in helping animals perform at their best. Her clients include working horses and dogs whose owners want them in tip-top condition. She humored me as I asked ignorant questions about the basics of massaging the world's lazy lapdogs.
MERCURY—What are the benefits of pet massage?
ERICA CURLESS—It makes them feel all happy and loved, so they don't piss on your couch or eat your shoes. Touch is important to all living beings. Therapeutic touch brings attention to the body so it can heal itself. One of the main benefits is loosening and lengthening muscles so they give relief to the joints. It helps keep the body supple... and prevents injury even to non-athletes. It can help recently adopted dogs or those with anxiety or social problems.
Makes sense. How do we get started?
The key is using light touch. A lot of the work I do is with pressure lighter than a nickel. One of the key areas is the sacroiliac joint where the hips and pelvis join the spine. If a layperson can just lightly put their hand on this area and think "soften," you can do a lot of good. Lay your hand flat on the inside of your dog's upper thigh and soften there, too. There isn't as much actual "rubbing" as you would think. Don't ever try to adjust or pop your pets' bones or joints. You can do real harm. I do a lot of craniosacral work on horses and dogs, which is very quiet, focused work that takes practice.
Massage makes sense for athletic and older pets, but don't healthy pets already get enough petting and loving?
When you are petting your pup you probably aren't doing it while thinking about loosening muscles. But it can have that effect. Touch brings attention to those tight areas, giving the animal the opportunity to adjust themselves.
But what about cat massage?
Who the hell would massage a cat?
So we shouldn't even give it a go with feline friends?
I really don't massage cats. I don't know much about their biomechanics, except they are totally different creatures that are so bendy and flexible with loose skin and seemingly double joints. Besides, most cats really don't have the attention span. I guess it depends on the cat. If they allow it, great. If not, keep your paws off!