How to Massage a Dog with Bad Hips

Medium
5 - 15 Minutes
1 Day

Introduction

Hip dysplasia or arthritis are common conditions in older dogs, especially in some breeds. While massage will not cure these conditions, it can provide temporary relief of pain in the hip joint, by loosening up the muscles in the area and allowing the joint better range of motion. If your dog has injured himself, muscles or ligaments in the hip area can go into spasm to support injured tissues. Massage to the hip area can increase blood supply, which removes toxins and increases oxygenation to injured tissues. Massage will also encourage muscles to relax, which will decrease your dog’s pain. Also, pain from an injury or a medical condition can result in changes in your dog's gait, which puts further strain on hip muscles and can result in muscle soreness in the hips.  If your dog has pain in his hips, rule out a degenerative condition that may require medication, as well as massage, to address.

Dog's Perspective

Most dogs appreciate a hip massage. The hips are not an area your dog considers invasive, and he is probably used to being petted and touched in the hip area, so massaging should not be difficult. However, if your dog is experiencing a lot of pain from a medical condition or injury, he may be more sensitive to being touched on his hips. You will want to proceed with caution so as not to cause discomfort and a negative reaction from your dog.

The Basic Hip Massage Method

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Step
1
Position dog
Have your dog lie down on his side on a flat surface with the hip that is experience soreness facing up.
Step
2
Relaxing touch
Stroke your dog’s body with a massage brush or with your hand to relax him.
Step
3
Apply circular touch
Start moving your hand in a circular motion over the hip area, feel for tense areas and note pain reactions.
Step
4
Add pressure
Start placing a small amount of pressure through your fingertips while continuing to make circular motions over your dog's hip area. Increase pressure, if your dog gives a pain response or appears overly sensitive to increased pressure, ease off.
Step
5
Switch sides
Have your dog lie down on his other side, if possible, and repeat massage on the other side. Even if that is not the side experiencing pain, muscles in “good” limbs can overcompensate and will benefit from massage.
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The Two Hand Hip Massage Method

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Step
1
Position your dog on belly
Have your dog sit or lie on his belly so you can access both sides of their body at the same time.
Step
2
Start gentle touching
Use a massage brush or stroke with your hands along your dog’s body and over his hips to relax your dog.
Step
3
Make circular motions on both sides
Put your hands on both sides of your dog's haunches and start making circular motions, applying pressure.
Step
4
Switch sides
Reverse direction by switching hands, putting opposite hands on opposite hips, and continuing circular motions so that each hip gets even stimulation.
Step
5
Hold to warm
Wrap your hand around thigh muscles and hold for several seconds to transfer heat, relax tissues and end massage.
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Caution & Considerations

  • Do not massage broken skin, or when skin conditions or infection are present.
  • Do not massage when there is an infection in tissues or joints.
  • Do not massage dislocated or broken limbs or hips.
  • Consult a veterinarian regarding hip pain of unknown origin, to determine if a medical condition is present that needs to be treated.
  • Do not force a massage if your dog indicates pain or discomfort
  • Try to work evenly on both sides, even if the injury is on one side, to achieve balance and prevent strain on muscles that are overcompensating for injuries.

Conclusion

Hip pain in dogs, as they age or from exertion when working or playing, is not uncommon. While a massage may not fix a chronic condition, it can provide pain relief and improve functioning in the area. Acute injuries can benefit from massage by relaxing muscles that have spasmed to immobilize injured tissues and by increasing blood flow to the area. Remember that even muscles that are not injured can overcompensate when injuries occur, especially in the hip, and will benefit from a massage to oxygenate and relax straining muscle tissues.  Be gentle and let your dog be your guide as to how much pressure to apply and where to apply it.

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