The polar vortex of cold is upon us and during this time our bodies can take a beating. Our muscles shiver and tense, our teeth chatter, our hairs rise up and our hypothalamus works in overdrive in order to keep our vital organs warm.
Let’s be honest here. Cold weather is for the birds and even they migrate South! While you’re waiting in the sub-zero temperatures for your bus or train, are you enjoying it or are you daydreaming about a tropical destination and a massage at the beach? Getting to the tropical destination may not be an option, but a massage is. Imagine yourself lying on a cushy heated table in a calming room, while a talented massage therapist warms your tissue and melts your tightness and soreness away.
Cold weather stresses the body and stress subsequently tightens our muscles, immobilizes our joints, creates imbalance and makes us bundles of pain, trudging through the tundra. This scenario is also true with our four- legged companions. There is little scientific research on the subject, but animal care givers everywhere have noted the same behavior in their animals as themselves, including stiffness, soreness and exacerbated arthritic pain.
There are some common sense tips for keeping your dog warm. For outside activities you should dress your pets accordingly. This may include sweaters, coats, boots etc. Puppies, geriatric and very small dogs should be kept indoors during extreme cold. Utilizing a pee pad during this time or putting a pad right outside your door will not break your dogs’ housetraining. Keeping dogs hydrated is crucial as dehydration can contribute to myofascial constriction and soreness. Keep your house warm enough or provide extra bedding for warmth. Don’t hesitate to feed your pets “warm” foods.
Massage therapy can be great tool for alleviating the stress of cold weather, muscle stiffness and arthritic pain. Using direct massage before and after going outside with your dog, warms up the tissue so that it functions at its fullest capacity which means the muscle is contracting and relaxing at its normal resting length. When your muscles get cold they contract, which inhibits blood flow and limits movement. This lack of movement is not good for joints and can aggravate already diseased joints.
What kind of massage can we do for our pets? Whether your pet goes outside or not, massage is important. A couple minutes of gentle compression on larger muscle groups will warm the tissue which in turn helps them move better. Compression massage is particularly useful if the pet is cold or coming in from the outside. Light gentle compression strokes will warm the tissue and pump fresh blood and oxygen into the tissue. This in turn allows better movement at the joints which will keep excessive fluid out of inflamed joints and nourish them.
A full therapeutic massage provided by a professional can alleviate trigger points, myofascial constriction and chronic pain which all contribute to the degenerative process of arthritis.
Cold and stress are triggers of myofascial pain and dysfunction in our pets. The less triggers the better and we can manage these conditions in our pets.
One in five dogs and 90% of senior cats suffer from arthritis and just like humans, the cold weather revs up our arthritic symptoms. Our pets can’t tell us, but they often show us. They don’t complain like us, but they tell us in small ways. They don’t run to the medicine cabinet or pick up the phone to make a massage appointment, but they’re feeling the effects of the winter weather just as much as us.
So during this cold weather season make sure to bundle up, keep warm and get a massage. It’s good for both of you!
For more information on providing compression techniques for your pet, visit this video on our Youtube Channel.