Skip to Content

9 Ways To Massage A Dog With Arthritis (How-to)

How To Massage A Dog With Arthritis

There are no known ways to cure arthritis in dogs…

Despite that, you can help your arthritic pooch feel better.

A way to do it is through massage therapy…

But before you do, you must note the proper ways of massaging your arthritic canine.

Read to learn:

  • 9 ways to massage a dog with arthritis.
  • 3 reminders when massaging your arthritic dog.
  • When you should massage your canine with arthritis.
  • How to act with caution when massaging your arthritic pooch (3 notes to take down).
  • And many more…

Should you massage a dog with arthritis?

You should massage a dog with arthritis, given that you’ve sought the advice of a veterinarian. You can perform home massage therapy on your arthritic dog once you know the proper ways to do it. Such therapy can alleviate pain and discomfort from your canine’s arthritis. 

How to massage a dog with arthritis – 9 ways

Canine massage therapy is continuously growing in recognition. Research tells us that it’s beneficial and can treat a lot of ailments.

Among many conditions, massage therapy can help with osteoarthritis in dogs.

But, for it to work best on your dog, you must massage them using the best available methods that you can practice.

#1: Starting it right

The start of something might not define the total picture, but it’s a crucial part of any process…

And even massaging your arthritic dog needs the proper start.

That’s why I’m beginning with this guide before I talk about the methods of massaging your dog.

With that, you must start each massage therapy session the proper way.

How can you do that?

Reminders when massaging your arthritic dog

Reminder #1: The first thing to note is your dog’s mood.

You won’t be able to proceed with your session if they’re not up for it.

Once your fur baby shows any sign of reluctance, it’s best not to push forward with the session.

Note: This is mainly present during the start of your dog’s physical therapy journey. That’s why it’s essential to train your dog regarding this activity from the start.

Reminder #2: Make sure your dog’s in a comfortable position.

One of the best positions is making your canine lie on their side. 

Halfway on the massage, you can roll them gently and massage the new perimeter. 

Moreover, this is important to you as well. Lying Fido down on their side gives you wide access to their body.

Another comfortable position for your dog is ‘the superman.’

It’s where their belly lies flat on the surface. Then, their back legs are spread out, while their front legs are stretched forward.

In this position, you can gently give them a back massage.

Reminder #3: Begin each massage session with gentle strokes only.

Don’t immediately apply too much pressure on your dog’s body.

For now, assess their body and their reaction to the activity even further.

#2: Stray away from arthritic joints

Yes, your dog is arthritic, and you want to help relieve the pain that they’re feeling…

But, the goal is not to massage directly to their arthritic joints…

In fact, you have to stray away from such areas. No matter what method you use, you must remember this part of the guide.


Those parts of their body are the points of pain.

According to vets, arthritis brings inflammation to your pup’s joints.

With that, you should avoid applying pressure directly to those areas. That’s because you might cause more discomfort to your dog.

If you happen to massage over an arthritic joint, your dog might whine as you touch them.

They might also get startled. The latter is dangerous, especially if your canine is already old…

How so?

That’s because senior dogs have a problem with being touched in the first place…

Add that shock from the sudden pain of directly pressing on their painful joint…


You might risk yourself getting bitten by Fido.

#3: Long gentle backstrokes

Massage A Dog With Arthritis With Long Gentle Backstrokes

Vets from PetMD recommend starting with this method…

That’s because this is a simple way to introduce massage to your dog. It helps calm your pooch for the start of the massage.

This works best if they’re in the superman position that I mentioned.

Start by gently stroking the back of their head up to the base of their tail. 

While doing this, your hand motions should be long and flowing.

In performing this method, a lot of your canine’s body part gets affected positively.

Research says it’s due to one of the many benefits of massage…

They found out that massage can help improve blood circulation in the body.

And with a healthy blood flow comes many other surges of improvement.

Their body will receive a proper amount of oxygen and nutrients…

Most importantly, for your arthritic dog, their sore muscles will be relieved. 

With the improved circulation, blood around their joints is more healthily flowing.

You might also like: 11 Amazing Benefits Of Giving Your Dog A Massage

#4: Gently twist their skin

Aside from gentle pressing strokes, twisting their skin can also help relieve pain.

How so?

That’s because this method can help reduce muscle and tissue tension.

You can do this by gently pinching a portion of their skin. Then, carefully twist it using your index finger.

Your dog’s muscles won’t be the only beneficiaries of this method.

Tension in the body is often caused by stress…

So, a massage would be like hitting 2 birds with 1 stone…

You alleviate their pain from their arthritis while you also reduce their stress.

With that, doing this would rejuvenate your fur baby so much. 

So, expect this…

After many more massages, they’ll grow a fondness for this refreshing activity.

For further reading: 7 Surprising Reasons Why Dogs Like Massages

#5: Effleurage technique

This method is a part of a typical massage session.

Do this when your dog’s lying on their side.

In effleurage, you’ll use your whole hands. Glide them in your dog’s body by applying light to moderate pressure.

Start from their toes, then work up toward their torso and heart. 

After that, move your hands to their backside. Then, glide your hands up toward their head.

#6: Concussive strokes

Vets allow for therapeutic massage to involve concussive strokes.


This is typically used around areas with a large muscle mass in your dog’s body.

In this technique, you’ll use the edge of your hands to make chopping motions. Do so with light to medium pressure only.


Moving to areas with less muscle mass, tapping can replace chopping.

Keep your fingers together and slightly curve your palm. Then, use that to tap the area that you’re working on.


Cup your hand and turn it on the side to use the edge of your palm.

When your hand is closed, there’s a circular surface created on both sides. Use that to tap your canine’s body.

From time to time, drag your hand around lightly.

#7: Rub those thighs and glutes

These are the ideal parts to a massage for your dog who has arthritis.

That’s because their thighs and glutes are near their joints.

Here’s how to do it…

Massage the back of their legs or glutes using gentle pressure.

You can make use of your thumbs on this part. Doing so would also help you grip their thighs.

Use your thumbs to make circular motions. It’s a thorough method. That’s why it’s recommended to make clockwise thumb circles.

While doing this, press lightly on their muscles.

#8: Act with care and caution 

As I said earlier, you must start each massage therapy session the proper way…

But the start is not the only time you should pay attention to…

Throughout the session, you must act with care and caution.

With that, here are some reminders to note when you’re massaging your arthritic canine:

Note #1: Only apply light pressure when massaging your dog with arthritis.

From time to time, you’d increase this pressure to a moderate level. 

After that, you can’t press any harder anymore.

Note #2: Take your time while you’re massaging them.

Rushing might make you massage them aggressively.

Note #3: Arthritis is most common in dogs with old age.

With that, your senior dog might not only be experiencing arthritis. There might be more ailments that they’re feeling.

If there are, take them into consideration.

An example question that you need to answer is:

“Are there anything you need to avoid so that you won’t affect other conditions?”

There are more questions to ask regarding this…

And only a veterinarian can best help you assess this situation.

#9: Finish it off with a stretch

After getting a massage, there’s this desire to stay in bed for a while…

That’s because getting up means that the relaxation will be over.

Plus, your body might feel weak due to the amount of relief. It’s like your screws are loose, and your joints are wobbly…

Your dog might experience the same thing.

It might seem like your dog has suddenly become lazy. But, there are many reasons for a dog to get lazy. This isn’t one of them.

They’re just prone to be reluctant to get up for a while…

That’s why you should finish the massage session with a stretch.

This is part of guiding their body back to motion.

Start with stretching each of their legs upward. Then, gently move it back and forth.

By doing so, you restore their mobility. Moreover, they’ll be more flexible after the massage.

But most of all, they won’t feel very loose after the section.

They can get up and walk while still feeling rejuvenated.

Warning: If your dog shows any sign of discomfort from stretching, then don’t force it. 

When should I massage my dog with arthritis?

You should massage your dog with arthritis at least twice a day. The first recommended massage session is in the morning. The second is in the evening before your dog’s bedtime.

Dogs develop muscle stiffness overnight.

It’s due to staying in sleeping positions for a long time.

Giving them a massage in the morning can release that stiffness that they’re feeling.

Moreover, it’s like a warm-up for the day.

A massage prepares them for the activities that they’ll perform throughout the day.

Note: It doesn’t matter if they’re going to be active on that day or not.

Then, after a long day, your arthritic dog would appreciate another massage session.

It relieves the pain and discomfort that they experience during the day.

Moreover, undergoing a session before bedtime can help their muscles relax. With that, the massage helps your dog fall asleep faster and better.

Once this schedule is established, you must remain consistent with it.

By doing so, your fur baby will do well on each massage session. It’s because they know when to expect it.