How communication between veterinarians and a canine (and feline) massage therapist (CCMT or CFMT) can ensure a safe treatment plan for your clients.
Massage therapy can be a valuable addition to a clinic’s treatment options. Whether a client or their veterinarian initiate the idea of supportive massage therapy, the benefits for the patient and the potential for successful treatment will increase with good communication on behalf of the veterinarian and certified canine (and feline) massage therapist (CCMT or CFMT).
Appropriate processes when working with a CCMT or CFMT
Vets may come across reasons for their clients to consult a CCMT or CFMT and should keep them in mind for referrals. Veterinarians are all familiar with the need to forward the relevant medical history of a patients’ condition to a referral specialist/practitioner. This communication is just as important when referring a client to a CCMT or CFMT. Ideally, with the clients’ approval, the pertinent medical history and any treatment restrictions should be forwarded to the therapist. This will help reduce potential problems or misunderstandings that could negatively impact the patient or slow achievement of the desired outcome.
A CCMT or CFMT will likely become aware of some contraindications through their interview and intake history notes, however clients may not remember or think to disclose particular conditions. Getting permission from the client to contact the animals’ veterinarian can be crucial for a successful outcome in some cases.
Contraindications and caveats
There are a number of contraindications and caveats that a veterinarian should inform a massage therapist about before starting treatment. If a CCMT or CFMT does not know these contraindications beforehand, it can pose risk to the patient and prevent proper treatment. Contraindications and caveats include:
Acute pain and/or inflammation – Injury resulting in severe pain, heat, and/or inflammation should be examined by a vet first. Massage can only begin after the area of pain, heat, and/or inflammation has been resolved.
Cancer – Light massage, especially acupressure, can be used safely for the palliative process, otherwise massage will increase lymphatic flow, increasing the potential for cancer cell metastasis.
Circulation problems – Massage in the case of edema is safe in short, frequent sessions. As for hematoma, massage could be dangerous, as it may cause small blood clots to break away and migrate to the heart, lungs, or brain.
Dermatological conditions – Mange, hot spots, septic foci, or ringworm can be severely aggravated by massage, so the therapist must be sure the patient is receiving veterinary care, and massage may only be done in non-affected sites.
Infectious or contagious disease – Do not massage in the case of these types of diseases, including Kennel Cough, Distemper, Infectious Enteritis, or any viral or bacterial related illness. The possibility for contamination of equipment, including hands and clothing, is too great, and spreading such an infection is too easy. In the case of fever (when the body temperature exceeds 38.5 C +/- 1 degree), massage may work against the immune system and the body’s ability to regulate temperature, and the infection could also spread deeper into the body.
Post-surgery – Hemorrhaging could result in areas not fully healed, therefore massage may only commence two weeks after surgery, or once the sutures have been removed, and only in areas that are remote from the surgical site. The surgical site will not be massaged for at least another six weeks after this.
Pregnancy – Neck, arm and leg massage is okay, but massage cannot be done over the abdomen or low back where the fetuses could be disturbed and labor triggered prematurely.
These are just some of the potential contraindications, and there are details on more including after meals, diabetes, epilepsy and heart conditions.
Keeping each other in mind and sharing our experiences with our patients as we go along is always helpful, especially as the pet’s healthcare needs change. For the most part, information will be communicated back and forth through the clients and it will be important to encourage them to share certain information between the therapist and veterinarian as is required.
It is crucial to establish good communication right from the start, prior to the animal’s first massage appointment to ensure lines of communication flow smoothly between vet and therapist from that point on throughout the animal’s life.