Animals need love, too–and that includes enjoying all the benefits of massage therapy.

Pet massage is growing in popularity and can help your furry friend maintain a better quality of life. And the great news is, it can all be learned easily through home study courses taken within your own home.

For pet massage therapy, which often focuses on dogs, cats and horses, there are many benefits, including an increase of oxygen into the muscles and tissues, elasticity of muscles, range of motion, flexibility, stride length, performance level at shows and events, as well as reduced recovery time. Massage also gives release to contracted muscles, stress and tension.

To help promote pet massage, this week is National Pet Week. During this week, massage therapists can use information about this modality to help educate and inform the public about the benefits of massage to cats, dogs, horses and other animals, as well as to market an animal massage practice.

The practice of pet massage therapy has been practiced for centuries. Scientists have found evidence massage was used on horses in ancient Egypt, China and Italy to keep them at peak performance.

An Internet search listed numerous home study courses in animal massage any massage therapist can take. Some of those pet massage therapy courses include the basic physiology of the animal’s muscles, the location of each major muscle and muscle group, the activity controlled by each muscle, massage strokes, pressure, massage techniques, sequences, general anatomy and business practices.

These courses are also divided into categories that are different for cats, dogs and horses.

While studies in the pet massage field are limited, the Ohio-based PetMassage Research Institute Inc. is in the process of conducting numerous projects that measure the effects of pet massage on dogs. The institute is looking for volunteers for several studies that include subjects like post-op rehabilitation, respiratory dysfunction, gait problems, hip dysplasia, neck and spine injuries, seizure disorders, trauma from accidents and sports injuries, grieving and separation anxiety.

The studies include 10 sessions over a five-week period. Each study is divided into two parts: the active massage element and the control element.

Make sure you check with your national and state licensing bodies to make sure the courses you select are acceptable for continuing education credits.

Jeremy Maready