5 DIY Massage Tips for Calming Your Cat or Dog


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By Wendy Rall, CMFT, CACLT, CKTP

With the holidays upon us, many of us will have friends and family over to celebrate. You may be loudly popping corks out of bottles more frequently than usual, and surely there will be more noise and food around the house. Festivities can bring on extra excitement and also cause stress for our four-legged friends. Animal massage therapy can help calm your pet during those times when they are overexcited, stressed, or anxious.

Wendy giving a neck massage to a guest at the Animal Samaritans “Yappy Hour” at Margaritaville, Palm Springs, CA. LINDASPETPHOTO.COM

1.Make Sure YOU are Calm

When massaging your pet, it’s important to have a calm, relaxed demeanor, as animals are quick to pick up on human energy. They are an emotional mirror of us, so if you are upset or stressed, your dog or cat will likely begin to feel the same by being with you.WWW.SHUTTERSTOCK.COMWWW.SHUTTERSTOCK.COM»

2.Ear Rub

With a few exceptions, most pets love an ear rub! To enhance your touch with a method that professional animal massage therapists practice, do the following: For long-eared pets, put your index finger on the inside of your pet’s ear, near the tip, and place your thumb on the outside of the tip of the ear. With light pressure, slowly rub your fingers together while you have the ear in-between. For cats and pointed-ear dogs, you’ll put your thumb on the inside and put your index finger on the outside, and rub as above. This stimulates the vagas nerve, which can aide in relaxation.


Massaging the neck can help calm your pet, because the vagus nerve travels near the neck and ears. Massage in this area can lead to relaxation and activation of the vagus. A gentle neck rub with some light squeezing and kneading will help your pup or kitty relax. A forehead rub is very beneficial. Lightly place your fingertips on the top of your dogs head. With gentle pressure move your fingertips in a small circular motion. This will effect the cerebral spinal fluid, which nourishes the central nervous system and also helps to calm your pet.

4.Back Stroke

This is what most people know as “petting”—professionally, it is called “effleurage.” With your hand gently placed on the back of your pet’s head, apply gentle pressure and stroke slowly down either side of your dogs spine, avoiding the bone. Repeat on each side of the spine. This method is good for relieving anxiety and used at the start of a massage to warm the muscles and improve lymphatic fluid flow. Gentle back stroking is a good way to introducing massage to a pet for the first time. It is also good for animals who are sensitive or have a fear of touch.

5.Wrist Rubs? Yes!

This one may sound surprising, but yes, there are pressure points at our pets “wrists” that can calm and relieve stress and anxiety. The Heart 7 is a key acupoint for calming overly active pets. It’s located on the outside of both front legs, in the indent created by the tendon, toward the back of the leg just above the wrist. With your thumb on the inside and index finger on the outside, hold the points gently for up to 30 seconds. Do this on both front legs.

Wrist pressue point

In addition to massage, you can calm your pet using music that is specifically developed for calming pets; aromatherapy, which has been very helpful with my dogs; as well as herbal calming aides, which are also great for holiday stress. To learn more about animal massage, and additional stress relievers, visit RescuedTails.com/calming-aides.

In good health!

Wendy Rall is a Certified Canine Myo-manipulative Functional Therapist providing in-home therapy sessions in the Greater Palm Springs and Joshua Tree areas. She is co-founder of the Los Cabos Humane Society and has extensive experience working with rescued dogs. Find out more at k9massages.com or call Rescued Tails Canine Massage Therapy at (951) 704-3374.

Pet Companion Mag
Pet Companion Mag
Southern California's Local Pet Magazine


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