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Canine Massage and ‘Equissage’: A new string to your therapeutic bow?

July 31, 2016 4 min read


Dog rests its head on a massage table.

Although it isn’t exactly mainstream yet, a quick Google search will throw up a surprising amount of results under this category. Canine massage seems to be one of the most popular therapies, especially in the US. There are a whole range of schools and organisations offering tuition and advice on canine massage; there are also books and manuals available on the subject. Nevertheless it had completely escaped my attention until recently, when a customer emailed us asking whether we did massage beds for dogs, and if not, whether we would consider manufacturing them because canine massage was really taking off. I was intrigued, so I decided to have a little look into it.

In the below video, a dog called Mitt has apparently had his health fully restored after a series of massage treatments. Suffering from Lymes Disease and Hip Dysplasia, he could barely walk despite being only four years old. The dog seems completely at home in the video and is happy to just lie there while the therapist works her magic; unsurprisingly, given that most animals are happy to be petted until you have had enough. And muscles are muscles, whatever species you are!



The video is educational too, as the therapist goes into a fair amount of detail in how she is treating the dog and why she is using each technique. After all, the physiology of a dog may be similar but there are bound to be a few grey areas we hadn’t considered if attempting something like this for the first time.

The perks certainly outweigh the risks

There is surely a certain appeal in this kind of work for anyone who loves animals. It is unlikely that we would face many of the issues we might have to as therapists working with the general public, and of course there are bound to be days where things go wrong, here and there, for whatever reason. But animals have no expectations, are non-judgmental and aren’t going to quibble if you hadn’t given it 100% that day. Plus, let’s face it – they’re easy to love! For many people, it’s love at first sight with most animals, and fortunately the feeling is often mutual. We frequently offer them our attention for free, so wouldn’t it be great if you could make some cash out of it too?  

It appears to be a job with a few obvious perks. You may well be working regularly with animals that have health issues and this is likely to be considered a plus point as we all love to feel that we’ve done something to help, made somebody’s day better etc.; otherwise we probably wouldn’t be in the industry in the first place. What’s more, horse massage therapists are certainly paid pretty well, bringing in between $50 and $100 per hour in the US. Claiming to be a ‘Horse Masseuse’ would certainly be a conversation starter at parties.

A predictable issue, if you could even call it that, is apparent in the above video too - the dog seems fairly interested in having his belly rubbed and is trying to turn over. If you were working with excitable animals that weren’t well trained, it could be a lot more difficult to administer a treatment. Another thing perhaps worth considering before embarking on such a career path is that if you are dealing with sick or injured animals and an animal is feeling pain because of a health condition, it could perhaps react badly to the massage. It would surely be sensible to have a good idea of the temperament of the animals you are working with and a full brief from the owners or a vet. Nobody wants to be kicked by an angry horse, that’s for sure! It makes sense that therapists would be dealing with mainly sick animals, as the chances are that pet owners and not going to be bringing their animals in just for a treat – we love them, but I’m not sure that the majority of pet owners love them that much. A bone and squeaky toy is about as luxury as it gets for most dogs!

Equissage, Equinology, Equine Massage, etc

It might seem likely that Equine massage would be more common, given that horses are still used for racing, show jumping and the like; they are bound to experience the same problems that human athletes face, needing sports massage treatments and general relaxation. For that reason there are a wealth of videos available on You Tube demonstrating techniques and giving advice. It looks to have acquired some seemingly tongue-in-cheek names – being referred to as ‘Equissage’, or ‘Equinology’ and similar. People who own horses generally have to put a lot of time and effort into caring for them, so it makes sense that equine massage might be a more established therapy. Yet dogs don’t get nearly as much input into their lives – some are even lucky to get to run around the local recreational ground once a week.

Would animal massage be something you’d consider branching out into? Do you think the word should be spread? After all, there are surely many animals in need of this kind of attention and it may not even have occurred to the owners that this is an option, never mind a necessity. Would you have any concerns over this kind of work, and should it be necessary to be fully qualified? 

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