Your dog’s body is built around a system of bones and muscles that offer support, protection and mobility. When your dog’s muscles are well developed and his joints, tendon and ligaments are strong and healthy, the self-sufficiency of his movements and effortlessness of his stride are freely evident and he is relaxed and happy. Sometimes your best efforts can’t prevent an illness or injury from throwing him out of balance. Perhaps you have always relied on conventional veterinary medicine to deal with problems but lately you’re drawn to the world of holistic care and hands-on therapies (Allegretti & Sommers, 2003). When your companion animal or sports dog needs you to find the right treatment for an injured paw or has difficulties getting up after sitting, how will you choose which course of treatment is suitable for you? A common alternative therapy is Canine Myofunctional Therapy.
What is Canine Myofunctional Therapy
Canine Myofunctional Therapy (CMT) is a holistic therapeutic treatment that integrates specialised remedial massage of soft tissues and stretching techniques. Myofunctional Therapy encourages proper muscle function, aids restricted joint movement by addressing muscular dysfunction and helps treat common musculoskeletal problems and some health conditions.
Massage Therapy is one of the most ancient forms of Natural Therapy since touch produces healing. Hands are a great “tool” to accurately locate and assess abnormalities, soreness, tension, adhesions and any deviation that might not be visible on an X-ray. Massage can also aid illness, injury or surgery recovery through stress reduction and enhance tissue healing. On the whole massage enables muscle tissue to relax, extend and maintain a heathy tone by increasing circulation of blood and lymph to the skin and underlying muscles (Schwartz, 1996).
Your dog’s body: what goes on inside?
Your dog has over 700 muscles in its body and some attach directly to bones via tendons. Muscles and tendons make up the bulk of a dog’s body and account for about 60% of its body weight. Muscles also move bones and maintain skeletal alignment, they give your dog mobility, provide power and enable the body to maintain posture and generate majority of the bodies heat.
Joints are the meeting place between two bones (Hourdebaigt, 2004), they allow articulation and produce motion. “When muscles are, tight or stressed, they shorten, causing the joints to ride closer than they normally should, thus restricting movement” (Rogers D. S., 2013). CMT assists elimination of waste around the joints and improves range of movement, it also prevents muscle contraction from putting unnecessary stress on the joints of opposing muscles which can cause wear and tear on the structures of the joint and potentially predispose it to arthritis.
Which techniques are applied during Canine Myofunctional Therapy?
Several remedial massage techniques are incorporated in Canine Myofunctional Therapy, most common techniques are Effleurage and Petrissage. Stretching is also a fundamental part of Canine Myofunctional Therapy, generally stretching is conducted at the end of a massage session after the muscles have warmed up and are in a relaxed state. Dog’s already instinctively stretch on their own however there are many muscles that they cannot stretch by themselves. For our dogs to live and age gracefully, it’s important we integrate a stretching routine to maintain their flexibility and strength, thereby averting injuries to the muscles and joints (Foster, 2009).
Owners should keep in mind that remedial massage treats the entire body and supplies energetic support to facilitate the body’s natural healing process. Each dog will need a tailored treatment and subsequent care.
Your dog’s body is a complex, living “machine”. The body relies on all the systems to operate in harmony to ensure good health and equilibrium. By applying regular Myofunctional Therapy we can help keep your dog’s muscular pain and stress to a minimum, amplify the human-animal bond by building trust, contribute to their maintenance and preventative care while helping preserve sound structure and reliable temperament which in turn should significantly extend your dog to optimum capability and may prolong their longevity.
Allegretti, J., & Sommers, K. (2003). The complete holistic dog book Home health care for our Canine Companions. Berkeley, California, United States of America: Celestial Arts.
Foster, S. F. (2009). The Healthy Way to Stretch Your Dog A Physical Therapy Approach. Wenatchee, Washington, USA: Dogwise Publishing.
Hourdebaigt, J.-P. (2004). Canine Massage: a complete reference manual (2nd Edition ed.). Wenatchee, WA., USA: Dogwise Publishing.
Ojai School of Canine Massage. (2015). Canine Stretching. Retrieved June 13, 2016, from Ojai School of Canine Massage: http://ojaischoolofmassage.com/canine-massage-resources/
Robertson, J. (2010). The complete dog massage manual. Parkway Farm Business Park, Middle Farm Way, Poundbury, Dorchester, Dorset, England: Veloce Publishing Limited.
Rogers, D. S. (2013). The National College of Traditional Medicine © Certificate in Canine Myofunctional Therapy Course Manual.
Schwartz, C. (1996). Four Paws Five Directions: A guide to chinese medicine for cats and dogs. Berkeley, California, United States of America: Celestial Arts Publishing.
Individual blogs are based upon the opinions of the specific author, who retains full copyright. The material is not intended as medical advice, it’s intended as a sharing of knowledge and information.
We are not veterinarians and do not diagnose any conditions, perform surgery or prescribe medications, we can assess the muscles as part of being a Canine Myofunctional Therapist. Muscle therapy is not a replacement for proper veterinary care and any injury or disease must be medically diagnosed and treated by a veterinarian. We encourage you to make your own pet health care choices in collaboration with a certified pet health care professional.