Treat Your Dog's Arthritis with Touch

By none

Dear Dr. Shawn:

I was wondering if you thought massage might be helpful for my dog, a nine-year-old golden retriever. He has arthritis and seems really sore after a hard day’s play. I don’t want to hurt him but massage always helps me after a tough workout.


Physical therapy, including hands-on therapies like massage, acupressure, and T-Touch, can be very helpful for all pets.

Massage involves using pressure—anywhere from gentle pressure to deep tissue pressure—to increase circulation to the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints. While you don’t specifically say what part of him gets sore, my guess is the hips are a particular problem (as they are for most larger breeds of dogs).

In addition to massage, acupressure at the hip points may also be helpful, even if your dog does not receive regular acupuncture. The three major hip points are located in a semicircle around the hip joints. Feel the head of the femur (the long leg bone that fits into the socket of the hip joint). The acupressure points are located at the nine-o’clock, 12 -o’clock, and three-o’clock positions. For a dog his size, pressing about one-half to one inch into the joint area is adequate. Massage each point for about 30 to 60 seconds, or longer if he likes it.

I also recommend passive joint movement for arthritic dogs, as this helps break down adhesions and improves joint mobility. Simply flexing and extending the hips for 30 to 60 seconds is all that’s needed. Your vet can show you how to do this if you’re unsure.

T-Touch is another form of hands-on therapy that utilizes very light touching of various areas of the body. It’s beyond the scope of this article to describe in detail how to do this, so I recommend you consult any of the books or videos available for help. Suffice it to say that the point of T-Touch is different from massage and acupressure in that it is designed to relieve anxiety and stress in pets. It obviously can be used with the other techniques to assist in relaxation of the pet, which will make the massage and acupressure easier for your dog to accept.

Also, don’t forget about the value of joint supplements in maintaining normal, pain-free cartilage in your dog. Most of my patients do not regularly take medications (NSAIDS) when the owners use supplements plus the techniques I have described.

Finally, keep in mind that massage can be painful if done too hard. Take it easy on him and only use as much pressure as he allows. I think massage will help him recover quickly from your playtime with him, and any hands-on therapy will increase the human-animal bond between pet and owner.

Dr. Shawn

By none| December 18, 2008
Categories:  Nest

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