The specific requirements for canine massage therapists vary by state. In some places it may be possible to begin a career with postsecondary certification and the written consent of the dog's owner. Other states limit canine massage therapy to veterinarians and veterinary technicians.
Canine massage therapists typically work in veterinary or massage therapy fields and pursue canine massage as an additional skill set. These professionals practice massage therapy in much the same way as massage therapists for humans, applying pressure to aid healing, stress relief, and flexibility, as well as providing dog owners with information that can be used at home. Canine massage therapy is usually studied in conjunction with a traditional massage therapy or veterinary education, though some states do allow canine massage therapists to practice with written consent of the animal's owner. This career is a great option for people who want a hands-on approach to veterinary medicine or for massage therapists looking to broaden their range of knowledge.
|Career||Massage Therapist||Veterinarian||Veterinary Technologists and Technicians|
|Required Education||Postsecondary certification||Doctor of Veterinary Medicine||Associate's degree for technicians, bachelor's degree for technologists|
|Other Requirements||Voluntary certification is available through the National Board of Certification for Animal Acupressure & Massage||State licensure||Most states require a passing score on the Veterinary Technician National Examination|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||22%||9%||19%|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$38,040||$88,490||$31,800|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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 19% from 2014-2024. Meanwhile, during that same decade, massage therapy jobs are predicted to grow by 22%, physical therapy jobs are predicted to increase by 34%, veterinarian jobs are estimated to grow by 9%, and dog trainer jobs (counted among all animal care and service workers) are expected to grow 11%.
The BLS reported that the median salary for veterinary technician jobs (counted by the BLS along with veterinary technologist jobs) in 2015 was $31,800. In that same year, the median salary for massage therapists was $38,040, and for physical therapists it was $84,020. According to the BLS, veterinarians earned a median salary of $88,490, and animal trainers earned a median salary of $26,610.
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. 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. 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.
It is important to check your state guidelines before pursuing a career as a canine massage therapist to ensure you meet their criteria for licensing. Some may opt to train as a veterinarian, massage therapist or veterinary technician and take certificate training programs in canine massage therapist. Jobs related to this field are expected to grow faster than the national average for all careers during the next decade.