Grieving Cat’s Aquatic PetMassage is Transformative

By Jonathan Rudinger | October 22, 2021 |

I just facilitated an in-hand swim session in the PetMassage heated indoor hydrotherapy pool…with Chloe…a cat.

Chloe’s mom was nervous, apprehensive about putting her kitty in water. Naturally.

For Chloe it was a very new experience, as it would be for most house-cats. Like most cats, she had never swum before. What Chloe shared with me was revelatory. It pointed out a potentially big reason for creating the hydrotherapy pool for pets.

Chloe is smart; she might say that compared to all the other cats she’s known, she’s brilliant. She’s also spiritually evolved. Naturally, that comes with being a cat.

And, like all cats, she craves stimulation. Adventure. As an indoor cat she’s figured out ways to experience the thrill of the hunt. She’s mastered the sneak, the stalk, the ankle ambush, the chase, the nuanced (tail curl and flip) and the extremes, like the arched hiss and the faux-frightened leap to the side.

As I carried her around in the pool she looked around and asked through her widened eyes and flattened ears, “How stimulated do you think we are perched on the backs of sofas, watching birds outside the window? How satisfied would you be, if that was all the intellectual stimulation you had?”

I thought about the intellectual stagnation I felt last year when we were all sheltering in place. It was stifling. I leapt at any excuse to get out and participate in life outside-the-house.

I recalled a walking tutorial I had back when I was in college, with another art student from Cincinnati whose gift was/is visual perception. I was directed to focus my attention on the intricate shapes, patterns, and combinations of colors in random objects around us. With every twig, stone and blade of grass I picked up, each cloud I watched, I appreciated, honored and deeply connected with their aesthetics and qualities (Kami spirits). I had defined myself as an artist. I knew how to look. In that one 20-minute walk, that sunny Spring afternoon, my abilities to perceive deepened. With this fundamentally transformative lesson, the world I knew shifted. I learned to see.

Chloe recently lost her best cat friend. They’d been together since kittens. She is in grieving mode. Since her housemate’s passing last August, she requests more time with her people, she’s lost weight, has a compromised immune system, and presents other signs of depression.

My sense is that she’s been stuck in a loop. She thinks about her companion and the emptiness and loneliness she feels since he left. It’s her only cognitive topic; because, nothing new has been presented that can refill that emotional space in her heart.

That changed today. Chloe had her 1st swim/Aquatic PetMassage session and she did wonderfully. It was an enrichment activity that worked her body, mind and spirit. Chloe got to experience something new and exciting.

After her brief session, still wrapped in her towel, she softened her gaze, and appeared to be looking inward. We could tell that she was processing what she’d just done. Then, pleased with her bravery and success, she calmly began grooming her paws.

Chloe is no longer the same cat who was wheeled into the PetMassage reception room in a shrouded baby carriage. She is now a cat who knows she is a master at overcoming apprehension, of remembering that she’s a swimmer, of trusting me, a stranger, to hold her safe while her mundane world confuses and expands. Her breadth of worldly experiences now includes everything she gained in her Aquatic PetMassage. New exciting experiences can now fill her thoughts. Chloe is transformed.

What kind of fresh new enriching intellectual stimulation have your house cats gotten recently? Can you see how enrichment exposure, both mental and physical, will help them? Chloe shows us just some of the benefits that cats get with swimming.

At PetMassage Aquatics, we are committed to holding a space for therapeutic enrichment for our friends of the feline persuasion. Wednesdays are strictly reserved for cats!

Canine Front Limb Dewclaw Removal and the Resulting Carpal Injury and Arthritis Risks

By Beth Farkas | August 10, 2021 |

Full Title: Canine Front Limb Dewclaw Removal and the Resulting Carpal Injury and Arthritis Risks

Author: Jennifer L. Manning-Paro

Date of Publication: June 26, 2021


Research Paper Text:

The canine dewclaw is the first digit of the paw, located on the inside (or medial side) of the front, and in some dogs, the rear legs. For the purpose of this paper only the front dewclaws will be discussed. It has long been a practice of most breeders to remove the rear (if present) and often the front dewclaws of puppies at about two to three days of age. This is thought to reduce the risk of injury to the digit and for aesthetic purposes. Resent findings have found that this practice is actually unnecessary and often detrimental to the dog’s physical wellbeing.

The functions of front dewclaws have historically been misunderstood, as many believe they serve no purpose. This however is not the case. The dewclaws function to stabilize the carpal joint when the dog is at a canter and/or making sharp turns. The dewclaw can actually be seen touching and digging into the ground as the dog makes a turn. This action provides extra traction and serves to reduce the torque on the front leg (2). The dewclaws are also used to grip objects, whether it be a toy, the ground, or the ice if they have fallen into the water. During these instances, if a dog does not have its front dewclaws, the leg will actually twist on its axis to overcompensate. This increases the pressure on the carpus and in turn, the rest of the forelimb all the way up to the shoulder (7). Those that advocate for the removal of the dewclaws believe that by doing so it will reduce the risk of them being torn off (6). However, this does not seem that great of a factor considering the benefits to the dog allowed to keeps its dewclaws. Thankfully, due to some resent research and studies, more and more breeders are opting to leave the dewclaws on their puppies.

The front dewclaws contain two bones, the proximal phalanx and the distal phalanx. Attached to these bones are four tendons and two muscles, the extensor pollicis logus et indicis proprius and flexor digitorum profundus. Once the dewclaw is removed, these muscles are then left to atrophy, weakening the entire structure of the carpus (7). With this weakening of the carpus, combined with the increased torque placed on the limb at high speeds, the athletic dog without its front dewclaws is placed at a higher risk of injury.

A recent study published by the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association surveyed the risk factors for digit injuries in dogs involved with agility type events. The injuries they saw were “classified as sprain or strain, fracture, arthritis, tendon or ligament injury, dislocation or subluxation, broken or ripped nail, or other injury”. They concluded that the absence of the front dewclaws was one of the greatest factors “associated with significantly increased odds of injury”. They went as far as to advise against the removal of the front dewclaws from dogs being used in agility type activities (3).

While it is predominantly the canine athlete that is affected by injuries due to absence of the dewclaws, the non-athlete can also feel the effects. Without the dewclaw during some activities the leg will still twist on its axis. Over a lifetime of this kind of torque and pressure on the carpus, and the rest of the limb, the middle-aged and senior dogs will start to show signs of painful arthritis in all joints of the leg.

Canine athletes that present with injury to the front limb, especially the carpus, can experience some relief through the application of PetMassage. These dogs will present with various symptoms including; inflammation and swelling, pain upon palpation, general limb weakness, muscle atrophy, and a noticeable limp. Some of these dogs will also present with symptoms of arthritis if the injures are chronic in nature. Massage techniques should be applied to all four limbs, since oftentimes the other limbs will be overcompensating for the injured one. Some helpful PetMassage techniques to utilize would be compression on the shoulder area, joint mobilization over all joints of the limbs, frictioning over the entire limb, and positional release applied to all four limbs (5). For those dogs presenting with arthritis, including the non-athletic ones, the use of PetMassage as part of their health routine will greatly increase their quality of life.

ASHGI. (2014, March). Dewclaws. Retrieved September 17, 2020, from
Cavachon Gazette. (2013, April 17). Dewclaws, Running and Arthritis….Is there a link? Retrieved September 17, 2020, from

Debra C. Sellon, Katherine Martucci, John R. Wenz, Denis J. Marcellin-Little, Michelle Powers, Kimberley L. Cullen. A survey of risk factors for digit injuries among dogs training and competing in agility events. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2018;252:75-83

Medalen, C. (2019, November). Stabilization of the canine dewclaw. Retrieved September 17, 2020, from

Rudinger, J. (2019). Canine massage for passionate dog people. Toledo, OH: PetMassage Media.

Rodriguez, I. (2020, August 27). The Dewclaws Debate – Keep Them or Lose Them? Retrieved September 17, 2020, from

Zink, DVM PhD DACVSMR, C. (2020, January 10). Do the Dew(claws)? Retrieved September 17, 2020, from
*Photographs obtained from

I can rely on PetMassage as an ongoing resource whenever I have dog care questions.

By Jonathan Rudinger | May 5, 2021 |

Those Blasted Research Papers – Awesome Info!

By Jonathan Rudinger | May 5, 2021 |

Sharing a message from one of the graduates of our PetMassage program.


One of my own rescued adult puppy mill dogs has just been diagnosed with luxating patellas – yep, both of them.

Immediately I thought of those research papers we all have to do.  What a wealth of information!

Thank you so much for making us do those darn things!


One of the requirements for completing the PetMassage Foundation Level Program is researching and writing short paper on a topic that has to do with dog anatomy, pathology, physiology, behavior, training, and/or bodywork. All of the papers are available as a resource for our dogcare community on the website at


Threshold Fears

By PetMassage | April 14, 2021 |

Full Title: Threshold Fears

Author: Codi Falley

Date of Publication: April 13, 2021


Research Paper Text:

When searching this topic online I discovered that the fear of walking through a doorway between rooms or in and out of the house is a real fear in dogs. They will hesitate, cower and flat out refuse to go through them. Owners are forced to push, drag and even carry their furry loved one in and out. Some accounts state that its a behavior a rescue dog came with, or dogs that have “suddenly for no reason” become fearful. While others still are of dogs that had a door close on them at one point with varying degrees of injury. Many owners feel helpless, responsible, and tend to treat the symptom and not the cause. By doing things like bribing their pet with treats, repetitive coercing, either nicely or negatively only reinforces the behavior.  The primary advice from experts that seems to pop up on dog related blogs is the too general term Obedience Training. They suggest things to try like, going through to other room sitting and calling for them to follow, offering treats and even repeatedly walking back and forth.  Obedience classes do provide the owner and the dog time to bond and speak to each other, but each individual case is different and there is no 100% answer.  By treating the symptom you are often reinforcing the fear, or worse making the dog more afraid of you than the doorway.

My experience with being a dog parent over the last 25 years has been educational to say the least. Different dogs present different problems, which in turn require different answers. Some fixes have come easy, some have come with several mistakes and some have yet to be answered at all. Doesn’t mean I stop asking the questions. It all comes down to communication. You can’t find out if the problem is with you or the dog if you can’t ask your dog. So we need to learn to SPEAK DOG.  One of my dogs of the past, a Rhodesian Ridgeback German Shepard mix named Latte-Chino was a very dominant, protective male. He grew up going to dog parks with his many step siblings. He came when called, he listened to his Mom most of the time. The problem presented itself “out of the blue” one day at the park he started a fight with a bigger dog. I of course reacted, separating the dogs and apologizing to the other owner and generally got emotional about it. Didn’t have any issues up until that day, but once he started he continued this behavior more and more often. I noticed that he would watch the gates and when a bigger dog would come in the park he would immediately walk up and show signs that he might want to dominate that dog. It didn’t always become a fight, sometimes he would just walk up, posture up, sniff, and walk away. Other times he would become obsessed with that dog and follow them until eventually I had to leash him and remove him to a different end of the park. This obviously upset me, I would be on edge and constantly be hyper vigilant. Many months passed, and many mini altercations, until I figured out it wasn’t a problem with Latte, it was a problem with me. He was just being an alpha dog, and he was picking up on my stress and acting as a leader protecting me. Once I understood what he was doing I could change what was wrong with my behavior to net the results I wanted from him. I am there to protect him not the other way around.  When we were near the gates, I would observe him but keep myself calm, by breathing slowly and deliberately moving around the park he sensed my confidence and didn’t feel the need to protect me anymore. I didn’t know it at the time but I was reasserting my role as leader and thus changed his behavior.

Going back to the fear of the doorway. Regardless of the why or the how the dog became afraid of going between rooms, if you can gain the trust of the dog you will have a better chance of getting them to work through their fear. Dogs will follow their instincts to be pack animals. If you are in fact the leader in the house, the dog will trust you and be less fearful if you earn that trust through example. Own that leadership. A dog will follow you if they sense that you are leading them to things they need. Walk confidently through your home. Show them there is nothing to be afraid of. If you let them go into a room first they have no one to show them that it is ok. Dogs pick up on very subtle things like breathing and heart rate. If they sense that you are unsure they in turn will be hesitant.  Verbal commands can come across to a dog as elevated stress because it is not how they communicate. Body language is more subtle and recognizable to them. Calm your breathing, slow your heart rate, confidently walk into the room and they will follow. If you turn and try to coerce them, call them, pull them or push them it is sending mixed signals. Some dogs will respond to one or the other but it’s not allowing them to conquer their fear, only know that they made it through that time. What about the next?  That is what being a leader in the pack is, if you want to maintain that role you have to constantly reinforce that trust bond by repetitive demonstration. We want to be loved by these furry little children, we want them to know that we love them. We can tell them all we want but they don’t speak human. We have to show them, lead by example and they will follow. Knowing and understanding your dog and their needs is essential to creating a safe and loving environment for both human and canine.






The Effects of Canine Massage and Phantom Limbs

By PetMassage | April 14, 2021 |

Full Title: The Effects of Canine Massage and Phantom Limbs

Author: Hailey Fullerton

Date of Publication: April 13, 2021


Research Paper Text:

There are several reasons that dogs end up needing and undergoing a limb amputation.  Cancer and trauma tend to be the most common.  The majority of dogs get along well on three legs, otherwise known as tripods.

In most cases the entire limb will be amputated since the remaining bone will no longer serve a purpose.

The candidate for this research paper is a 6-year-old Yellow Labrador Retriever named Ole.  Ole was hit by a car around one year of age resulting in a full amputation of his front left leg and shoulder.  Dogs carry 60% of their weight in the front-end making recovery slightly more challenging than a rear end amputation.

Initial visit with Ole I was able to see the direct affects the amputation had on him.  Ole’s posture was dropped in the rear, never fully extending his rear limbs when standing.  Ole was very excited about his massage and I was excited to see how all his muscles felt.  We started on his left side, same side as his amputation. When I started to massage his phantom limb he nudged me to move on so I did.  Everything felt pretty good on this side.  He was a huge fan of the skin rolling.  Moving over to the right side, most of Ole’s muscles were very tight in his shoulder and neck.  I started by feeling my way around his shoulder, followed that with some gentle stretching and then focused on gentle compression down the leg and back up with frictioning around the joints.  I then used the same technique used on the ribs on the neck starting at the spine and applying gentle pressure with my fingers and moving towards the chest.  Ole was showing signs of being very relaxed with eyes closed and hardly any other movement.  We finished the session and Ole happily went about his day exploring his yard outside.  When I visited again a few weeks later his muscles were much more relaxed in his right shoulder.  Ole nudged me away from his phantom limb during the second session as well.  The beautiful thing about animals is they tend to not dwell on what they have lost.  They are amazing creatures.

Even though massage can help amputee patients greatly, it was my experience in Ole’s case that massaging, or trying to massage his phantom limb didn’t seem to be of interest to the pet.  Or was it.  Did the attempt at massaging his phantom limb help with the healing process of his pulled muscles in the alternate shoulder?  I truly believe assessing the whole animal is important, whether they nudge you to move on or not you have accepted the pet in their entirety.


Pendergrass, JoAnna, DVM. (2018, January 4). New Insights Into the Phantom Complex for Small Animals.  Retrieved from

Nelson, Jim. (2009, October 22). Tips for Managing Phantom Limb Pain in Dogs. Retrieved from

IVAMP. (2021). Pets and Amputation. Retrieved from





My hands move through the exact right movements that enable dogs to recover their body love.

By Anastasia Rudinger | April 1, 2021 |

Waves inspire canine massage.

By Jonathan Rudinger | April 1, 2021 |

Waves tracing patterns in the sand: what could be more inspirational! The water and wind flowing rhythmically along the shore aligns perfectly with the flowing dance of massage.

Whenever I stroll along a beach, I pause to experience the ebb and flow of the waves. I watch, close my eyes, and simply observe. The wind compressing my shirt against my chest, ballooning out behind me. The air’s smell and taste; so clean. I open and close my hands with my breath. I join into the grand immensity. there are messages there. I could decode them if I chose.

Initially, I witness encroachment, control, and retreat.

It’s the human condition. All the phases of life are represented: inception, youth, maturity, old age, and death. Each with its naïveté, hubris, wisdom, despair, and rebirth. It’s all there, in the water.

There’s always another wave. Always hope, as the oncoming wave erases, compounds, revises, and replaces what has come before. That’s a metaphor for massage!

I scheduled 2 massages, back to back. First the owner, then his dog. While applying MFR, Myofascial Release, to my human client’s back, I imagined the movement of waves at the beach.

My hands drifted up, paused, held the skin in gentle traction, and released, as it receded. Ebb and flow. In my mind, I imagined silhouettes of lacy sea foam. Tiny bubbles thinning to translucent, and disintegrating. I imagined millennia of memories de-gassing, discharging their contents.

Another wave rolls over them, flowing as high up onto the beach as its lifetime of inertia can push it. It too pauses, expresses itself, eviscerates its bubbles, and recedes.

Each wave marks the sand with its very individual impression. Each wave is an old memory and the creation of a new memory. It joins and supersedes what had been collected and carried for years!

The movement is:

  • touch/connect
  • slide forward
  • hold slowly releasing pressure
  • tap with your fingertips to pop the energetic bubbles.
  • While you tap, visualize the next wave rolling over your wrists.
  • Allow it to carry your hands with it
  • and repeat the sequence.

I can never be sure what my client was feeling. I just trusted that this massage was the right method to do. Just as I began to question myself, he sighed, and said “My pain just disappeared. Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it.” So, I did.

When his massage was complete, I felt radiant! Invigorated! It was as if I had just spent an hour at the shore. I skipped to the canine massage room where his dog was waiting.

I soon found myself flowing with “the wave” again. I slid my hands into the dog’s undercoat, and flowed up his spine to his shoulder blades. There, I held, and slowly releasing the pressure, tapped the skin with my fingertips.  Tiny bubbles popping on the sand.

The next wave dragged my hands back toward me. I lifted them as they moved, smoothing the surface hair with my palms. I felt the tug. My fingers dove back into the undercoat and flowed back toward the head.  They again paused, released, tapped, and receded.

Slide, hold, release, tap, retreat. Slide, hold, release, tap, retreat. It had a pleasant rhythm. Up, pause, tap, and back. Under, over, and through.

I checked in on my monitors. How’s the dog responding? How does it feel in my body? It was right.

This dog normally maintains an anxious pant. He swallowed, closed his mouth, rested his muzzle on his paws, and released a great sigh. He was expressing his contentment. His body said “Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it.” So, I did.

Note of appreciation from a former PetMassage graduate

By Jonathan Rudinger | March 31, 2021 |

Note of appreciation.  Every once in a while, we get a note of appreciation for the work we are doing growing and teaching PetMassage. This is one we received last week.

“Dear Jonathan –

Thanks so much for contacting me.  Because I’m fast approaching 80, I’m slowing down a bit.  However, I want you to know that, of all the classes I took in my career, my favorite was your PetMassage.  Through the years, I studied canine massage therapy classes from everyone who taught the subject.

“Without a doubt, your class was the best one!  I loved those days in Toledo in your classroom.  I loved every word and every class you taught.

I taught a lot of canine massage therapy classes and like to think there are many people out there who no longer “pet” their special companions.

Thanks for writing.  I enjoyed hearing from you.


Thurman attended her PetMassage workshop way back in 2002. We’ve been teaching canine massage for a long time.

If you have the intent to create a canine massage and/or canine aquatic PetMassage business as a certified professional, and are deciding with whom to train, please consider PetMassage.

Notice how each particle moves.

By Jonathan Rudinger | January 15, 2021 |

Notice how each particle moves,
Notice how everyone has just arrived here from a journey,
Notice how each wants a different food,
Notice how the stars vanish as the sun comes up,
and how all streams stream toward the ocean.

This applies to dogs too, especially while our senses are heightened during massage.