What is Dog Massage and How Will Your Pitbull Benefit From it?

By Jay

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Everyone loves massage, right? After a tiring a day at work, massaging those tight muscles is a great way to relax. But what if I tell you that dogs need it, too? Yes, romping and chasing all day can be a tiring task too. And to keep your Pitty in a good mood, a small animal massage session might be the secret.

Unlike human massage, you have to take it lightly with dogs. You’re not supposed to put too much pressure on their small bodies. Also, it’s crucial that you do the massage properly. If not, you might end up injuring your dog than easing their muscle’s tension.

You can always hire a dog massage therapist, but if you want to save the bucks, a home session with your doggo would work the same. You just have to know some tips and techniques to get started.

What is dog massage?

Dog massage is simply like what humans do during a massage session. It’s the kneading and rubbing of the joints and muscles for relief. This is intended to reduce pain and any discomfort brought by exhaustion and injuries.

If done right, this can calm a dog and even assist in the recovery of tissue injuries. There are dozens of benefits in doing dog massage but you have to do it right to reap the best results.

Nowadays, there are professional dog massage therapists that usually address muscle and joint problems. Unlike the usual masseuse, these therapists are skilled in dealing with dog behavior, anatomy, and various injuries.

small animal massage

Benefits of dog massage to Pitbulls

All dogs, not just Pitbulls, will benefit from a good massage. In fact, veterinarians will recommend massage therapy to help the dog recover from joint and muscle injuries.

In case your pooch is in tip-top shape, a massage will help in relaxation and dampening negative behavior. This is the reason why canine massage has been becoming popular in the past years.

When it comes to benefits, it’s undeniable that dog massage is worth the try. First, it’s effective in reducing pain and discomfort among dogs. However, it’s also important to remember that not all dogs like being handled. You have to slow your roll and see how your pet will react to the new stimulus.

Aside from injury recovery and relaxation, canine massage is also important to boost circulation, reduce muscle tension, and reduce adhesions. All of which will be beneficial for your dog’s movements.

But before your pooch enjoys all these perks, you have to master the following techniques:

Dog massage techniques

There are three basic small animal massage techniques that every dog owner should master. These are the effleurage, petrissage, and compression. All these three can be administered by the dog owner. Here’s my short discussion of each technique:


Effleurage is a flowy, long stroke that glides through your dog’s body. This can be used on the belly, back, and chest area.

Effleurage is a great start for a massage session as it warms up the muscles for a more intensive kneading. This is also a great calming technique and very easy to do even on large breeds.

Just remember that you should perform the effleurage in the gentlest possible manner. Your dog’s body is small and applying too much pressure may hurt more than it helps.

Besides, we have a separate technique that uses pressure as a form of massage (see ‘Compression’ below). Still, the effleurage shouldn’t be limp.

Here’s a short demonstration of the effleurage massage technique:


Petrissage, on the other hand, is the manner of kneading the dog’s skin. This is a tad more intensive than the effleurage. The twisting movement helps reduce adhesions and tension your canine’s muscles.

With a C-shape hand, you have to gently lift the skin and muscle of your dog in a circular motion. Avoid pulling the skin too much or your dog will be in pain.

Do the kneading pattern back and forth using both hands. Make sure that you move to various areas to avoid over-stroking a certain spot of your dog’s body.

To give you a clearer picture, here’s a short demonstration of the petrissage technique:


Compression technique includes using pressure to ease the tension of your dog’s muscles. This is usually applied on the leg and paw area. However, you have to remember one thing: you’re not supposed to apply pressure on the joints.

Using your thumbs, apply small dots of pressure along the arm and leg areas of your dog’s body. You can also use the heel of your hand for larger areas. Still, do this with the right amount of pressure. If your Pitbull whelps, it means you’re hurting the pooch.

Again, don’t press any joints. For a more visual instruction, here’s a video you can refer to:

Start with the gentlest pressure if you’re new to canine massage. You can also ask the help of a vet in case you’re not sure how to go through home massage sessions with your dog. And in case your pooch is recovering from injuries, I strongly recommend that you tap the help of an equine and canine massage therapy clinic.

Application of dog massage

The small animal massage has many uses. Even healthy Pitbulls will need this to stay happy, calm, and pain-free. In case you’re wondering where dog massage works, here are some of the major applications:

🐕For arthritis

Arthritis is a painful condition for dogs. Mostly, this will require life-long care which includes canine massage. To do this, apply pressure on your dog’s legs while making sure that you skip the joints. If the pooch whimpers in pain, move on to another spot.

Once you’re done applying gentle pressure on your dog’s sore legs, finish the massage session with a few minutes of effleurage. This will both relax and reduce the pain your senior Pitty is feeling.

🐕For relaxation

Is your Pitbull a bit on the edge lately? You can give it a relaxing effleurage massage. This is also great in sending a doggo to slumber during nighttime.

Also, massage helps anxious Pitbulls relax. As you know, Pitties are prone to separation anxiety plus the loud sound of fireworks can scare them off.

When massaging your doggo, avoid hugging it. Just sit on the side and gently glide your hand on its body. At first, your Pitbull’s body will feel stiff and tension-filled. After a few minutes, this, too, should relax.

🐕For pain relief

There are some beliefs that Pitbulls have a higher tolerance for pain than other breeds. This could be true but it still doesn’t erase the fact that your dog is suffering. So to ease the discomfort brought by various factors, you can give the pooch a well-deserved massage.

You can use a combination of effleurage, petrissage, and compression for this application. Just make sure that you take it as slow as possible to avoid worsening the pain your pet is enduring.

Add some petting motion at the end of the massage to help your Pitty relax.

🐕For rehabilitation

Is your dog recovering from a surgery or an injury? Canine massage will be a crucial part of the process. However, you should also know that this will require a lot of skill and care.

If you’re new to small animal massage, ask the help of a professional canine massage therapist. The expert will teach you the right way of massaging your dog’s injured body.

Also, don’t start a massage therapy unless it’s recommended by a veterinarian or a massage therapist itself. Not all injuries will do well with such physical stimulation.

🐕For bonding

If you want to boost the bond between you and your dog, you can use the sense of touch to do it. Dogs will love you for the relaxing feeling you’re giving them. Start with a mild effleurage before advancing to the other massage techniques.

Daily massages are good as long as the vet approves of it. I suggest that you keep the sessions short but productive to avoid over-massaging your dog’s body.

Spots to massage on your dog’s body

You can always give your doggo a full body massage, but it’s worth noting that there are some parts that you have to focus on. Here are some of those sweet spots that your doggo will thank you for massaging:


Ear rubs are one of the favorites of dogs. The rubbing motion on their ears releases endorphins or feel-good hormones. There’s no doubt that Pitties can’t get enough of it.

Also, ears are one of the three nerve centers on your dog’s body next to its toes and belly. This means that their ears are very sensitive to touch. Always be gentle and don’t pinch the ears while massaging.


Belly rubs are staples! So during a massage, take your time by giving this spot a nice effleurage session. Like the ears, the belly is also a nerve center that’s very reactive to touch.

Belly massage helps improve digestion and circulation in your dog’s tummy area. Dogs find it uniquely satisfying when their bellies are rubbed. However, if your Pitbull doesn’t find it appealing, don’t force it to the pooch.

small animal massage


For your dog’s back, use effleurage for a calming effect. Avoid using compression on this spot if you’re not skilled enough. You might end up injuring the spine of your pooch which will result in bigger problems.

Apply long and gentle strokes until you feel that your dog is relaxing. This is ideal if your Pitty is scared and experiencing separation anxiety.


Your Pitty’s noggin will also appreciate some love. You can do gentle rubs on your dog’s head while staring to its eyes. Some dog experts say that when your dog stares at you gently, it’s like hugging you with its eyes.

When to look for a professional dog massage therapist?

If you’re not sure how to handle the small animal massage and your dog is injured, it’s best to call an equine and canine massage therapy expert.

Never take chances, especially when it comes to your pet’s health. Your own massage drills may hurt your doggo even more if done haphazardly. Also, the good thing about hiring a canine massage therapist is you’ll be guided when it comes to home care.

How much does dog massage therapy cost?

Canine massage fees will vary depending on the therapist you’ll hire and your location. Usually, it will cost around $30 to $80 per session. It’s a bit costly but worth it, especially for dogs that are recovering from fragile conditions.

Also, some insurance companies may cover the expenses but most would not cover dog massage on their policies. Most of the time, acupuncture is the included alternative.

If you think your dog will need a canine massage as part of its treatment, you can pay for additional premiums. Still, no price can equate to professional care that your dog will receive which will help it get back up again.

What to look for a dog massage therapist?

Of course, hire only a massage therapist that you can trust. I suggest that you stick to your vet’s referral as they would probably provide the optimal massage therapy that your dog will need.

Basically, you’d want to ask the following questions first before signing up to the service:

🗸How much is the cost of each session?

🗸What treatment will my dog receive?

🗸What certifications do the therapists have?

🗸Is it located close to my home?

🗸Is the staff friendly?

Lastly, don’t shy away from busy therapists. The fact that a lot of dog owners trust their service says a lot about their skills.

A small animal massage will do wonders on your Pitbull’s health. Just make sure that you have the green light of your veterinarian before giving your pooch a session. And if you’re not confident enough to do it on your own, never hesitate to ask the assistance of professional therapists.

I am Jay, I am a pet lover. Have few Pitbulls with me. So love to write about pitbulls.

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