updated: October 24, 201
Did you know that dogs can receive the same benefits of massage as people do?
You don’t need to hire an expensive dog massage therapist either! This post will give you the absolute do’s and don’ts necessary to give your dog a relaxing and safe massage.
We’ll cover everything from whether you need oil for the job, which ones are safe, how to use them, and most importantly…how to safely massage your dog.
Reasons Why You Should Massage Your Dog
You would be surprised at how beneficial massage is for your canine companion. Think about all of the hard work they do running, playing, rough-housing, running their paws through cold winter snow, ice, rain, and hot pavement in the summer.
Dogs put 100% of their love and protection in us and that adds up to a whole lot of stress at the end of the day. Engaging in dog massage can:
- help decrease blood pressure
- improve the flow of lymphatic fluid
- help to build a stronger immune system
- assists in better digestion
- encourages relaxation
- improves sleep
- decrease pain
- increase circulation
- reduces muscle pain and fatigue
- reduce and improve a dog’s dry skin
It doesn’t stop there. Massaging your dog can actually help to easy your own stress, reduce your breath rate, lower blood pressure (even temporarily) and aid in anxiety relief.
Of course, we can’t forget the bonding experience. There’s nothing like sharing a few moments engaging in dog massage with your furry friend. It’s time well spent.
Carrier Oils for Dog Massage
The right combination of carrier oils and essential oils (and sometimes plain water!) can improve Oils are made for external use and can be used on any dog. It’s best to start with a small amount and test on an area of the dog’s skin first. Wait 24 hours to be sure your dog doesn’t have a reaction to the oil.
The following list of oils can be purchased just about anywhere. There’s no need to get fancy or expensive. Look for oils that are natural without added ingredients or perfumes.
There may be some confusion over whether grapeseed oil is safe for dogs. Remember, this is for application to the dog’s skin, not necessarily for ingestion. Yes, your dog may end up licking a bit off from his/her fur. Don’t worry! Grapeseed oil is an antioxidant that works great as a “carrier oil”.
Jojoba oil is sometimes used to treat skin conditions in people. However, it can also be used as a dog oil massage and makes a good carrier oil. The oil itself is a type of liquid wax that comes from jojoba seeds.
Does your dog have particularly dry or itchy skin? If so, jojoba oil may be a good thing to try for massage. This oil is considered non-toxic and non-allergenic with non-staining properties.
Sweet Almond Oil
Sweet almond oil makes another great carrier oil. It’s thought that this oil has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial properties. Unfortunately, there is little scientific evidence to back this up. That doesn’t mean it’s not safe to use on dogs.
Pure Olive Oil
It’s okay to use pure olive oil as a carrier, just be aware that it can mask the scent of the essential oil. Olive oil is full of fatty acids and can help to moisturize dry skin.
Coconut oil is thought to be the best carrier oil. Dogs can safely ingest coconut oil. It’s recommended as a once-a-week topical for dogs. Let it absorb into the skin and then rinse your dog of excessive grease.
Note: too much coconut oil in the diet can cause gastrointestinal upset.
Apricot oil isn’t recommended in a dog’s diet. However, as an essential oil carrier it may help rehydrate and soothe minor skin irritations.
Safe & Unsafe Essential Oils for Dog Massage
It’s important to understand that not all essential oils are safe for your dog.
Essential oils are the concentrated liquids of various plants. Unfortunately, some are toxic to pets. In some cases, just a few licks of the oil can cause harm. This is especially true of dogs who already suffer from underlying conditions.
Essential oils are incredible for people in many ways. They can freshen the smell of your home, improve sleep, put you in a better mood, and relieve nausea. For pets, essential oils are sometimes used to help repel fleas and reduce anxiety.
Determining whether an essential oil is toxic is complicated. There are varying degrees of toxicity in the oils which can trigger different reactions depending on the pet.
Dogs with underlying conditions like respiratory or liver disease are at higher risk of experiencing toxicity. Then, of course, there’s the degree of concentration. Some products have small amounts of essential oils where others are as high as 100%.
In some cases, essential oils can irritate or burn the skin and mouth.
Avoid using the following essential oil on a dog’s skin:
- Oil of cinnamon
- citrus essential oil
- sweet birch
- tea tree
- ylang ylang
Safe Essential Oils to Use on Dogs
Saje Natural Wellness recommends using 1 – 5 drops of any of the following essentials oils in a well-ventilated space. These are good for diffusers and can be diluted with a carrier oil to use for massage.
Saje offers plant-based essential oils that are specially formulated for pets. When shopping with Saje, be sure to ask for advice to be sure you are buying pet-safe products.
- clary sage
- mandarin & orange
- roman chamomile
Signs of Adverse Reaction to Essential Oils
When using essential oil on the dog’s skin watch for signs of adverse effects. These can include:
- abnormal, uncoordinated movement or unsteady gait
- muscle weakness
- changes in behavior
- If your dog has swallowed something with essential oils in it, what for the following”
- depression of the central nervous system
In severe cases of poisoning, your dog may experience seizures.
Are Essential Oil Diffusers Safe to Use Around Pets?
If you’re going to use a diffuser, be sure to only buy diluted essential oils that are considered pet safe. Shop in stores where educated staff are able to provide sound advice on which ones are safe and which ones are not.
Never use essential oil diffusers around dogs with respiratory problems. If you do use a diffuser, keep it out of reach of pets. Use in an area where the pet can leave if the smell gets to be too much. Some signs that your diffuser is getting the best of your dog include:
- heavy breathing
How to Safely Massage Your Dog
Before massaging your dog, use the carrier oil of your choice with a few drops of essential oil. Find a quiet spot in the house where you are both comfortable.
Professional canine massage techniques advise the following steps:
1) Help get your dog relaxed by petting him/her all over.
2) Start at the head and neck using circular motions. Keep your palms flat against the skin.
3) Use slow, long, sweeping motions.
3) Continue massaging your dog around the shoulders and then around to the chest and the front of the legs.
4) Gently massage down the back being careful to avoid pressing on the spine.
5) Work your way to the back legs .
4) Take note of any signs of pain or swelling. If your dog jumps, flinches, or shows any sign of discomfort, stop.
5) If your dog is relaxing and is enjoying the massage, you can apply a little bit more pressure.
6) Don’t forget the base of the skull and tail.
When shopping for essential oils, look for products that are marked as safe for pets. Pure essential oils should be free of artificial fragrances. Always keep essential oils out of reach of children. Used properly, diluted essential oils can provide a wonderful experience for both you and your dog.
When massaging a dog, be careful to avoid painful joints and open wounds. Start at the head and work your way down using gentle pressure and circulation motions. Stop massaging at the first sign of pain or discomfort. In the event of an allergic reaction, stop using that essential oil/carrier oil.
Remember, never press down on a dog’s joints.
Massaging your dog should be a peaceful, calming experience for pet owners and pets. Take your time and focus on your dog’s reaction. Pay attention to your dog’s cues and recognize that there will be times when you dog just doesn’t feel like getting a massage.
I want to thank you for taking the time to read this post. I hope you’ll come back for more because we have tons of new posts on the horizon.
Healthline – How to Use Carrier Oils
webmd.com – Health Benefits of Jojoba
VCA Canada – Essential Oil and Liquid Potpourri Poisoning in Dogs