Following in the footsteps of the rapidly growing human massage therapy industry, animal massage is quickly becoming the profession of choice among career changers, licensed massage therapists and private pet owners.
In the US alone, there are an estimated 250,000 licensed massage therapists. This number is expected to grow significantly by 2010. Many of these professionals hope to grow their business by accommodating a new clientele that has four legs and a tail.
While animal massage has been around for some time, it is now emerging as a regulated profession in many states such as Washington. It is a highly regarded complimentary therapy among veterinarians, trainers and other animal handlers.
Along with its integration into the animal care profession comes the expectation that practitioners have ample schooling in such vital areas as anatomy, kinesiology, physiology, massage techniques and first aid. In turn, these requirements attract human massage practitioners as prime candidates for this field.
Animal massage is effective for a wide spectrum of animals, from horses to reptiles. Actually, animals have performed massage on themselves or others since the dawn of time through natural grooming behaviors. Massage can increase muscle flexibility, reduce pain in stiff joints and muscles, relieve stress, improve circulation, and boost the performance of a competitive animal. Any animal's quality of life can be enhanced with massage.
Why is animal massage gaining in popularity? Northwest School of Animal Massage director Lola Michelin explains, "There are many reasons why this profession is expanding so quickly. Animals are living longer and need more specialized care. Pet ownership is on the rise. People are taking more responsibility for their pet's well-being. The interest in competition for horses and dogs continues to grow."
Curious about the salary for a massage therapist? Consider that horse massage practitioners working with high-level equine athletes earn more than $100 per hour for their work, while a canine massage therapist can fetch $45-$75 per hour depending on the area and type of therapy.
As is the case with most professions, education in animal massage is available in various formats and training levels. Choosing a school and curriculum is dependent on the state laws in which a person wishes to practice.
For example, the Northwest School of Animal Massage was founded ten years ago to help meet the legal requirements of Washington State, which currently has the highest standard of education for animal massage in the country. NWSAM's small animal and large animal curriculum surpass the 100-hour requirements in anatomy, kinesiology, behavior, massage technique, and first aid.
In Washington State the Department of Health governs the practice of animal massage, while the Washington Veterinary Board of Governors approved animal massage to be independent from the veterinary profession. Individuals wishing to practice animal massage in the State of
NWSAM has developed a comprehensive distance learning program which allows students from all over the world to learn at their own pace. A 5-day practical is still required for hands-on instruction and is vital for developing a professional level of massage technique.
Anyone interested in pursuing animal massage should contact their state's massage board, veterinary board or department of health for legal requirements.