Massage is for dogs too!

I’m delighted to have a guest blog today from Hayley Hilton who is a canine massage therapist based in Warrington/Manchester. Dogs can benefit from massage as well as people!
Hayley explains why therapists don’t only treat the area that is painful – this applies to dogs and humans equally!

I’ve got pain in my back, what are you doing my feet for?

Have you ever wondered why you go in with one problem and they do something totally different than you were expecting? I get asked the same from my dog clients (obviously not from the dogs directly, just their owners… but if the dogs’ expression could be voiced in human language then i’m sure they would ask the same question) and so i have to explain that its the difference between treating the symptom or the cause.

Let me explain.

Have you ever laughed at those videos where the dog runs after a cat in the house and the crafty cat turns 90 degrees which sends the dog flying coz he can’t get traction with his paws on the laminate flooring and he shoots off in a different direction? A few months later, this dog may then develop an occasional limp with his left front leg so the owner takes them to a Vet who then refers them to a Clinical Canine Massage Therapist (That’s me, by the way, hiya! waves).

You’d think i would just concentrate on the dogs’ front leg right? Wrong.

I would do a thorough muscular health check from head to tail and as well as finding a hypertonic muscle around the left shoulder, i may also find signs of a muscular strain to the right gracilis on the inside of the upper back leg (also known as groin strain). After a conversation with the owner about ADL’s (Activities of Daily Living), i’m told about him chasing the cat around the house which they do often coz the cat likes to tease him often. So then it would be for me to identify whether the shoulder issue is separate or whether the shoulder is overcompensating with weight bearing caused by the groin strain from him slipping on the laminate all those months ago (also known as Overcompensation). Sometimes we never figure out which is the primary and which the secondary issue… which is WHY we treat the dog holistically from head to tail and from top to toe…. in order to assess and treat every muscle affected to relieve whatever pain he may be in.

Lots of joint issues start in the paws

And this is why we also treat your dog’s paws. A lot of joint issues can start with the paws because of the dog’s need to grip the floor in order to stand up straight on all 4 paws.

Dog's paw

But if their claws are too long so that they can’t grip that laminate floor properly, then they may slowly develop pain in the paws because the toes are constantly bent backwards which causes them to stand weirdly on their wrists, which causes compensatory effect to the elbows and then the shoulders. SO by treating the paws first and releasing any myofascial pain as the first step, a lot of the overcompensation issues in the joints above can be managed. And if this happens in the rear limbs of a dog then they often hold the stress in their lower back region… Just like us humans.

So next time your therapist starts your full body treatment by working on your feet when you complain of a bad back… let her. She may just be treating the source of your back issue to reduce the risk of it happening again in future… and your feet will thank you too!

About Hayley Hilton, Canine Massage Therapist

Hayley Hilton, of Hands On Heart Clinical Canine Massage Therapy helps relieve a wide variety of pain in her canine clients in the Manchester/Warrington and you can book a session or follow more muscle injury prevention tips at She is also a member of the Canine Massage Guild ( where you can find your local Therapist via their downloadable register.

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