Give your dog a treat: Massages help pets' well-being

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May 20, 2006|By DR. MARTY BECKER | DR. MARTY BECKER,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

When we pet our dogs, we know by looking into their dreamy eyes how good it feels. But what about giving our dogs a massage? Experts say this is a good idea.

Petting and massage are different according to Toledo, Ohio,-based Jonathan Rudinger, author of Effective Pet Massage for Dogs. "Massage is a deliberate and focused technique with each stroke controlled in pressure, direction and intention." Experts claim that massage increases blood circulation, lymph movement and brings a sense of comfort and tranquillity.

Studies have shown that when people have affectionate contact with their dog's skin for just a few minutes, measurable amounts of positive biochemicals (oxytocin, prolactin, serotonin, phenylethalamine) are released into the bodies of both the dog and person. While we always knew this act made both of us feel good, we didn't know it was so good for us. My book, The Healing Power of Pets, documented how the human-animal health connection is helping people to lower their blood pressure; decrease cholesterol levels; minimize stress by dropping cortisol levels; blunt chronic pain; elevate moods; and even raise children's IQ scores.

According to Dr. Narda G. Robinson, assistant professor in Complimentary and Alternative Medicine at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Colorado State University, what remains unknown is whether the benefits from massage arise simply from gentle touch, or whether the mechanical impact of massage itself yields healthful benefits. "With so many massage techniques available, it would be helpful to know which specific methods optimize performance, promote healing, increase relaxation and prevent injuries."

We massage our little papillon/poodle/Yorkie, Quixote, every morning when he first wakes up. According to Dr. Rolan Tripp, founder of www.animalbehavior .net, the best way to introduce your dog to a massage is when the dog is relaxed or sleepy. "You may even want to give the dog little treats as this is a new experience. Begin by moving the skin over the dog's body in a gentle manner coupled with lovey-dovey sweet talk."

Consider learning advanced techniques from two books: Effective Pet Massage for Dogs by Jonathan Rudinger and Canine Massage by Jean-Pierre Hourdebaigt and Shari Seymour.

Dr. Marty Becker is the veterinary contributor to "Good Morning America" and hosts "Top Vets Talk Pets" on healthradio network.com.

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