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Certified Canine Massage Therapist and Owner of Feel So Good Canine Massage, JoAnne Dykhuizen, discussed the many physical and psychological benefits of canine massage at the library, 9400 S. Troy Ave., Evergreen Park. (Photo by Kelly White)

Certified Canine Massage Therapist and Owner of Feel So Good Canine Massage, JoAnne Dykhuizen, discussed the many physical and psychological benefits of canine massage at the library, 9400 S. Troy Ave., Evergreen Park. (Photo by Kelly White)

Residents learn the benefits of canine massage at the Evergreen Park Library

By Kelly White

Summer can leave some pets stressed.

In order to cure some of that anxiety, the Evergreen Park Public Library held a class on understanding the benefits of canine massage.

JoAnne Dykhuizen, a certified Canine Massage Therapist and owner of Feel So Good Canine Massage, discussed the many physical and psychological benefits of canine massage and demonstrated a few techniques patrons could use to attain astounding results with their canine during a recent visit to the library, 9400 S. Troy Ave., Evergreen Park.

“I feel most people have never heard of canine massage before so they don’t really know what it is or understand how beneficial canine massage can be for their dog,” Dykhuizen, of Tinley Park, said. “Most people think only senior dogs can benefit from massage. So not true. Any dog from puppy through senior dog can benefit from massage.”

Canine massage therapy is a form of alternative therapy the benefits of which may include relaxation, increased oxygenation, relief from pain, improved joint flexibility, as well as miscellaneous benefits to the immune system. It uses touch to maintain or improve both physical and emotional well-being.

Emotionally, massage accustoms dogs to touch and enhances the bonding relationship to humans.

“By paying early attention to your dog, it will benefit in the long run and can add years to your dog’s life,” Dykhuizen said.

Dykhuizen, who has been working as a licensed canine massage therapist since April of 2013, said through direct work on the dog’s soft tissues, canine massage can improve blood flow, alleviate stress, reduce pain, relax tight and sore muscles, and help heal sprains and strains. In addition, many believe it also strengthens the immune system, improves digestion, and lowers blood pressure.

“Not all dogs show their pain,” Dykhuizen said. “In fact, 60 percent of dogs hide their pain, so my question to pet parents is, what pain is your dog hiding from you?”

There are numerous canine massage techniques that are used in canine massage and each session is customized to meet the individual dog’s needs.

“For pet owners who themselves get a massage, canine massage therapists use Swedish Massage techniques which are the same techniques used by human massage therapists,” Dykhuizen said.

There are also techniques that are easy to do right at home: effleurage, which consists of long, soothing strokes used to begin, transition and end the massage. This technique helps the dog relax, warms up the underlying tissues, and encourages blood flow throughout the body; and petrissage, which is kneading or rolling motions created by fingertips that increase blood flow and lymphatic drainage and stimulate the removal of any toxins that may be trapped in the tissues. This technique is commonly used on the dogs’ ears, typically one at a time.

Dykhuizen reminded dog owners to be gentle, go slow and to always consider seeking out a certified canine massage therapist for dogs with serious health issues. Canine Massage Therapy should not be used as a substitute for veterinary medical care. A veterinarian should be consulted regularly, particularly if issues that may require diagnosis or medical treatment are present.

Her own interest in canine massage developed right at home.

“When my husband, John, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, he had read that golden retrievers and Labrador retrievers were good dogs for people with disabilities,” Dykhuizen said. “We adopted a 9-week-old golden retriever, Duke. As Duke started getting older, he started exhibiting discomforts due to various issues that are common among senior dogs. Since Duke helped me so much after John’s death with his unconditional love and always making me laugh with his antics, I wanted to do whatever I could to help him in whatever way I could.”

Dykhuizen then began studying the benefits of canine massage and made the decision to attend canine massage school.

“Although Duke is no longer with me, I started my own business in his memory. I love working with pet owners by sharing knowledge about the importance of canine massage and ways they can help their dog maintain a good quality of life,” she said.

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