Animal Massage Schools

Massage therapists are able to massage animals: dogs, horses, zoo animals, rehab for most any animal are most popular. It can be used to help horses move better in whatever event they participate in–from trail riding to Olympic events and horse racing. It can be helpful for animals that assist humans in every aspect. There are even aquatic massage specialists for dogs and horses.

In many states, massage has to be overseen by a veterinarian or in some states done only by a veterinarian. This is because animal massage is fairly new and many have come before working on animals without the required knowledge and hurting animals more than they are helping. Many of the laws restricting animal massage are in the veterinarian laws as compared to the WA State Massage Laws that have specific language.

Learning animal massage is usually not a part of basic massage school. It is something that is usually learned after graduating from massage school unless you live in WA State where there is an animal massage therapist special licensing law:

WAC 246-830-435 Animal massage training.

(1) For the purpose of animal massage therapist endorsement as provided in chapter 18.108 RCW, board approval will be given to any education and training program that consists of a minimum of one hundred hours. An hour of education and training is defined as fifty minutes out of a clock hour of actual instructional time. These one hundred hours must consist of the following:(a) Twenty-five hours of animal massage technique;(b) Twenty-five hours of animal kinesiology;(c) Twenty hours of animal anatomy and physiology;(d) Four hours of animal first aid which includes knowledge of normal vital signs, identification of emergency or life threatening situations, emergency first-aid application, and legal boundaries of emergency situations; and(e) Twenty-six hours of proper handling techniques which must include instruction on the ability to control the animal to minimize risk of harm to the animal and the animal massage therapist.(2) Any school or training program that is required to be licensed by private vocational education (see chapter 28C.10 RCW or Title 28B RCW), or any other statute, must complete those requirements before the board will consider the training for approval.

The Northwest School of Animal Massage was part of creating that specific legislation. The licensing for animal massage therapists varies by states. The International Association of Animal Massage Therapists has a list of laws around animal massage.

Animal massage school will require you to learn anatomy, physiology, kinesiology and pathology for whatever animal you want to be working with. In-depth knowledge is required to become an animal massage therapist. This is not just about massaging your pet. Sports taping, acupressure and lymphatic drainage methods are most common in this category.

You will also need to learn how to start and run your own business as most are self-employed in this field. You work will have you traveling to horse training facilities, private owners and places like zoos and animal rehabilitation organizations.

Benefits of Animal Massage

As with most benefits of massage that are cited for people massage, most of what we know about massage is unproven. What we do know is that massage helps with various conditions like stress, muscle tightness, pain and can be applied to animals as well.

History of Animal Massage

1866 – The book: The Anatriptic Art A History of the Art Termed Anatripsis by Hippocrates, Tripsis by Galen, Frictio by Celsus, Manipulation by Beveridge, and Medical Rubbing in Ordinary Language, from the Earliest Times to the Present Day. Followed by an Account of Its Virtues in the Cure of Disease and Maintenance of Health By Walter Johnson · 1866 talks about equine and canine massage therapy.

I have now traced, very incompletely, in outline, the history of the venerable custom of rubbing; and will only add that in ancient, as in modern times, friction was considered very conducive to the health of animals. The horse, as every one knows, is much improved in
condition by regular friction . In England this is accomplished by the curry- comb, or a wisp of straw , but in India , as in ancient Greece , the groom rubs his horse with his own naked hand. My Indian friends assure me that their horses have, in consequence, a far finer coat than English horses. Friction is also useful to the dog . Arrian says, “ And great is the advantage to the dog of rubbing of the whole body – not less than to the horse, for it is good to knit and strengthen the limbs, and it makes the hair soft, and its hue glossy , and it cleanses the impurities of the skin . One should rub the back and the loins with the right hand, placing the left hand under the belly , in order that the dog may not be hurt from being squeezed from above into a crouching position ; and the ribs
should be rubbed with both hands ; and the buttocks as far as the extremities of the feet ; and the shoulder blades as well. And when they seem to have had enough, lift her up by the tail, and having given her a
stretching , let her go. And she will shake herself, when let go, and show thatshe liked the treatment.” — “ Arrian Cynegeticus.” Ed. R . HERCHER : Teubner.

1970s – Jack Meagher, worked with horses in the Olympics and wrote one of the first books – Beating Muscle Injuries in Horses (amz).
1975 Began working with United States Three Day Event Team and Coach Jack LeGoff
1976 Accompanied USET to Montreal Olympics
1978 World Championships in Lexington, KY
1982 World Championship Carriage Driving, Appledorr, Holland
1984 World Championship Carriage Driving, Hungary

1970 – 1980 Don Doran
Decade of Champions in Thoroughbred Racing
Don Doran began his career educated and inspired by trainers of great horses such as: Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Affirmed, Alydar, Shuvee, Ruffian and Forego.
Introduced to the technique of “Rubbing” a horse by the Old School
1972- 1975 Served in the U.S. Marine Corp and learned the fundamentals of
the healing art of massage while stationed in Japan.
1979- 1988 Partner and general manager of Broadlands Farm, a major
thoroughbred breeding, foaling and rehabilitation facility. Successfully incorporated massage techniques into his equine rehabilitation program.
1989 Became a licensed human massage therapist, specializing in
human sports massage Established University of Florida’s first sports massage program for the swim and track teams
Independent research to correlate human and equine athletic
1993, Don launched his equine massage therapy program

1970’s – Linda Tellington Jones creates what is first known as TTEAM® (Tellington TTouch® Equine Awareness Method) now named Tellington TTouch®
23 books about TTouch (amazon link) which have been printed in fifteen languages. Her most recent is Training & Retraining Horses the Tellington Way – Starting Right or Starting Over with Enlightened Methods and Hands-On Techniques.  Linda Tellington Jones with Mandy Pretty.

2000 – International Association of Animal Massage and Bodywork / Association of Canine Water Therapy (IAAMB/ACWT) created.

The future of animal massage therapists

Legislative issues will have to be ironed out across the US. We really need a model legislation that can be used across the states to ensure the safety and well being of animals who are given massage therapy sessions. The main goal of licensing is to protect the population that it serves. This is usually done by the Board of Massage in each state. Right now the Veterinarian Boards are running the show. They don’t yet trust the training and experience of animal massage therapists. This is common and will take time to overcome. As we get more training and more are Certified in animal massage will bring respect to the profession.


The Horse Anatomy Work Book (for Veterinarians and massage students.)