An animal massage therapist is a professional who helps improve the health and well-being of animals through massage therapy. Some of these professionals specialize in a particular species of animal, such as horses or dogs, while others will work with any animal. If you want to become an animal massage therapist, it is important that you enjoy working with animals.
Develop an understanding of how animal massage therapy works. Similar to human massage therapy, the purpose of this practice is to relieve stress, identify areas of muscular soreness, alleviate joint and muscle pain, and increase flexibility. An animal massage therapist must know the intended result of a therapy session in order to be effective.
Learn how to massage humans first. Although you are working with different musculoskeletal systems, the movements and pressure variations are astonishingly similar. You don't need to take a full course in human massage therapy, but it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with how it works, and to practice on willing participants.
Strengthen the muscles in your hands, wrists and forearms. An animal massage therapist must be very strong to provide massages for several animals each day, and stronger individuals will have better results. It isn't necessarily that you need to provide a significant amount of pressure; rather, muscle stamina is the key.
Initiate an internship with an animal massage therapist. Although there are plenty of classes, courses and seminars that you can take, it is always best to receive hands-on, personalized training with someone who is an expert in his field. An internship will allow you to gain experience working in the field while observing real-life situations that you will have to eventually handle on your own.
Become certified in animal massage therapy (see Resources below). This isn't required by law, but you will be able to build your business faster if you have certification. Once you learn the basics of massage therapy during your internship, gaining certification will allow you to demonstrate what you've learned and will identify points of weakness that you need to improve.
Hand exercises are very important for an animal massage therapist. For example, you can carry around a foam rubber ball to squeeze when you have a free minute. You can work either on your own or with a business that specializes in animal massage. It is sometimes easier to seek employment to gain experience before striking out on your own.
An animal massage therapist should carry liability insurance. If you were to cause injury to one of your patients, you will want to be covered by insurance.