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Canine Massage Therapy Training Program and Career Information

Practitioners of canine massage therapy often work in the veterinary or massage therapy fields and learn canine massage as an additional skill set. Certificate programs in canine massage are offered at several schools. Licensure requirements vary by state, but canine massage therapists can seek voluntary national certification.

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Training Programs in Canine Massage Therapy

Training programs in canine massage usually award certificates. These programs vary widely in length, from one course unit to several weeks or 600 hours. Some of these programs cover various types of massage therapy, while others focus only on canine massage. Training is typically aimed at massage therapists or veterinary professionals who wish to add canine massage to their practice.

Students learn massage techniques for relaxation and rehabilitation. Coursework may cover canine body language and behavior, musculoskeletal anatomy, soft tissue palpation, pain recognition, medications, acupressure, first aid and sports massage.

Canine Massage Therapy Career Information

Some professionals - such as veterinary technicians, massage therapists, physical therapists, veterinarians and dog trainers - may learn canine massage therapy to enhance their job skills. Canine massage therapists typically verify that their patients have veterinary care before assessing their history and massage needs. Once the dog's needs are determined, the therapist applies various forms of pressure to the musculoskeletal system to help with healing, stress relief or flexibility. The therapist may also instruct dog owners in techniques to use at home.

Career Prospects and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), veterinary technicians, who are counted along with veterinary technologists, are expected to see job growth of 30% from 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov). Meanwhile, during that same decade, massage therapy jobs are predicted to grow by 23%, physical therapy jobs are predicted to increase by 36%, veterinarian jobs are estimated to grow by 12%, and dog trainer jobs (counted among all animal trainers) are expected to grow 15%.

The BLS reported that the median salary for veterinary technician jobs (counted by the BLS along with veterinary technologist jobs) was $30,500. In that same year, the median salary for massage therapists was $35,920, and for physical therapists it was $81,030. According to the BLS, veterinarians earned a median salary of $86,640, and animal trainers earned a median salary of $25,320.

Licensure and Certification

According to the American Massage Therapy Association, licensure for canine massage therapists is typically part of a state's veterinary practice law (www.amtamassage.org). However, licensure requirements vary by state. Some states, for example, only allow canine massage to be administered by veterinarians and veterinary technicians. Other states may allow canine massage therapists to practice with written consent of the pet owner.

Voluntary certification is available through the National Board of Certification for Animal Acupressure & Massage (www.nbcaam.org). Candidates for massage certification must successfully complete an online 150-question exam. In order to qualify, candidates must have completed an animal massage training program - totaling 200 hours or more - that includes coursework in animal anatomy and physiology, kinesiology, ethical practices, business and safety. Candidates must also have completed at least 50 hours of hands-on work under instructor supervision.

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