Small Animal Massage Therapy: A Brief Review and Relevant Observations

Top Companion Anim Med. 2017 Dec;32(4):139-145. doi: 10.1053/j.tcam.2017.10.001. Epub 2017 Nov 8.


Massage therapy is becoming increasingly popular in human and animal physiotherapy and rehabilitation. Wider application of the technique led to research efforts aimed at providing scientific support to anecdotal beneficial effects, particularly pain relief. Recent studies have shown that massage therapy alters dopamine and serotonin levels, decreases noradrenaline levels, and modulates the immune system. Psychological effects such as reduction of stress and anxiety, with improvement of depressive patients, have been reported in humans. This article set out to review the major aspects of massage therapy based on recent publications on the topic, and to extrapolate concepts and practical aspects described in human physiotherapy to the veterinary patient, particularly the applicability of different techniques in Small Animal Medicine. Indications of massage therapy in small animals include pain relief, orthopedic rehabilitation, Canine Sports Medicine, intensive care, and management of nonspecific edema. Techniques described in this article were originally intended for use in humans and scientific data supporting anecdotal, beneficial effects in domestic animals are still lacking; this fruitful area for research is therefore open to veterinary professionals.

Keywords: dogs; massage therapy; pain; physiological effects.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Dogs
  • Edema / therapy
  • Edema / veterinary
  • Humans
  • Massage / veterinary*
  • Pain Management / veterinary
  • Wounds and Injuries / rehabilitation
  • Wounds and Injuries / veterinary