Courtesy of Dr. Jan Steele/Claws And Paws Animal Rehab
Neck massage on a rabbit involves a very small area from the back of the neck to the shoulders.
What might small animal pets think about massage? The following is an excerpt from Angus the rabbit’s diary.
“June 3: It happened again today. It’s just not fair. I know I’m the baby of the house, and my big brother the dog does all kinds of sports and wins these weird-colored paperlike things. For some reason, Mom and Dad get all happy about the blue ones, but I like the red ones better. I bet I could win a pretty red one and probably an ugly blue one, too, if they’d just tell me how to do it. I can jump much higher than Max can, and I can dodge obstacles better too — he is always tripping over something. Then he complains and whines, and what do Mom and Dad do? They rub his neck and back and his arm and leg muscles, too. It looks like it feels so good — it’s just not fair. I want them to give me rubs, too.”
Fortunately for Angus, his mom and dad read an article about animal massage and decided to try it on him, too, even though he’s not an athlete — and he loved it!
Pet massage should always be a pleasant experience for your pet. If your pet tries to get away or shows any obvious signs of distress or pain, stop! Something is wrong. If it’s not just your technique being too rough, it may be an actual injury that needs to be evaluated by a medical professional.
Small Animal Massage Question 2:
Our pets cannot communicate to us as precisely as humans can; therefore, I believe it is very important that any massage performed by a pet owner be a positive, relaxing, “feel good” experience. Often it is also an excellent way to develop an even closer bond with your pet.
Small Animal Massage Question 4:
How much pressure should I use? Not much at all — and then even less. It’s important to keep in mind the relative size of your pet to the size of you and your hands. What feels like very light pressure on your back, would likely feel like a lot more pressure on a mouse’s back.
I recommend that pet owners perform massage on their pet’s muscles only. So, muscles should feel a bit squishy and definitely not hard like bone. Only use enough pressure to massage the muscles, and focus on the neck behind the skull, and the back. Those areas (like on humans) tend to hold the most stress and are constantly used to maintain posture, which can leave them vulnerable to strains.
Petting is hand contact on your pet’s fur and skin only and is often done in long strokes. Petting is very superficial and does not penetrate to the muscles. Massage is meant to target the muscles that are under the skin and on top of the bones. So, you want to go a little deeper than just fur and skin, but not so deep that you feel something hard like bone.
The take home message is to only massage “squishy stuff,” and avoid attempting to massage any abdominal muscles because the internal organs are too close to the surface. Only a trained medical professional should instruct you on how to safely massage the abdominal region — if it is even warranted (which is rare).