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.

Dogs recognize and accept my touch’s intention.

By Anastasia Rudinger | January 15, 2021 |

Let’s Dash to Unify Opposing Camps.

By Jonathan Rudinger | December 16, 2020 |

I’ve read that there are 10 kinds of people in this world. Those who understand binary numbers and those who don’t.

I remember the moment I made a commitment to align myself with one group as opposed -and be opposed-to another. I was in college. This was back in the late 1960s. I’d been cutting across the Oval, a large grassy area in front of The Ohio State University library, to get to my next class. A fellow student was standing on a bench, addressing anyone who’d listen to him. Like a soapbox. I was intrigued. I paused to listen. He looked at me and challenged me. Could I, in good conscience, allow the status quo of war, deceit, and inequality to continue? The straps of my heavy canvas book bag dug into my shoulder. There, in the hot Spring sunshine, awkwardly, uncomfortably, I experienced introspection. Goosebumps. I searched my soul and found my answer, my compass, and my tribe.

There were a lot of us boomers that were awakening. We were young and impressionable. With our affluence and sense of open ended opportunity, we were learning who we were, what our options were, and striving to figure out what our purposes were in life.

We were for love, for social, racial, and gender equality, for religious freedom, free speech, and definitely jazz and rock and roll. Gleefully, we join peaceful sit-ins and rallies. Our goals were to change university policies and political agendas.

Mostly we wanted change. Sound familiar? There was a lot of uncertainty. Automation was replacing workers. Unions were shrinking. The manufacturing from overseas was newer, more efficient, and more competitive. The first early computers were beginning to be introduced into daily life. The Gold Standard was replaced with “faith.” We were still grieving the assassination of our leader, John F. Kennedy, and felt vulnerable. We felt betrayed by his successor, who represented old guard, not the young idealist we identified with so strongly. We were convinced he was entrenching us in the war more every day by only listening to advisors that were the military “hawks.”

Our looming concerns were the Viet Nam war and the Draft. Fiercely righteous, we were “anti-establishment” thinkers and activists.

We saw ourselves as proponents of justice, freedom, and peace. We wore our bell bottom jeans and T-shirts, puka beads, sandals (or Earth shoes), wire rimmed glasses, bandanas, and lots and lots of hair. We acknowledged our fellow tribespeople with a knowing smile and the 2 fingers up “peace sign” greeting. This was the group I identified with. There was us. And there was them, the “not us”.

Us and them. Black and white. Yin and yang. The “people” and the “man.” The Aquarian’s and the Troglodytes. Binary. You know: 10.

As we eventually matured and removed the garlands of daisies from our hair, we learned that life happens in the gray spaces; the dash between 01-10. Like the dash on tombstones that represent the life that happened between the year someone was born and the year they died.

As a population, we are now even more divided than we were in the 1960’s civil rights and anti-war protestations. This is not a new phenomenon.

Political stance has become identity. Each of the binary sides claims exclusive points of view and defends their positions against the other. Each claims their truth to be righteous. Each takes comfort and pride in belonging to the tribe of correct like-minded thinkers, the ones on the right side of history.

Both have painted themselves into a corner, fallen into the trap. Having demonized the “other” for their beliefs, they are committed to disrespect and non-cooperation. The camps are so separate, each has its own news sources and refutes any others as illegitimate. They cannot agree. It’s unreasonable.

Each side says it’s our way or nobody’s way. Agreement, conciliation may create a crack in the philosophical armor.

What we have done is created deep schisms in our families, communities, social networks, and country.

We are so estranged, is there any topic, anything at all, that we can agree on, rally around, to join with each other? Is there anything that we can rally ‘round that can reestablish trust, humanity, harmony, respect, and community? Anything?

If you were to create a Venn diagram, a chart showing overlapping circles to illustrate the similarities, differences, and relationships between our belief systems, and tribal identifications, you’d see an interesting intersection, or “platypode”.

You could identify as Red and Blue, Republican or Democrat. You could make your political statements by buying your paint at Home Depot or Lowe’s, your craft supplies at Hobby Lobby or Michael’s, meet for lunch at a Chick-fil-A or a local coffee shop. We have our camps, our tribes.

Platypoding all these, there is one idea, one passion, that we all share. There is a singular conviction that unites us all: our passion for maintaining the health and wellbeing of our dogs.

If this pandemic experience has taught us anything, it’s demonstrated that dogs are essential in our lives. Besides the fact that dogs were instrumental in our human civilization developing in the first place (, they’ve been here for us now. During all the the lockdowns, social distancing, and imposed isolations of this pandemic, it has been our dogs, with their unflagging support and companionship, that have allowed us to keep it together; to maintain sanity and hope. They are one of our most valuable natural resources. More than ever, we realize that we have a responsibility to do everything we can to protect them.

Whether you are a practitioner in traditional veterinary medicine or TCM, use allopathic medicines or homeopathic tinctures, base your approach on physiology or energy-work, reach for the scalpel or with the palm, one idea that unites us all is the importance of touch. We all rely on using the physical connection to influence the flow of body fluids.

All caregivers of dogs know we need to touch dogs to affect change. Dogs need our touch for the change effect.

Another concept that I’d like to believe unites us is that thorough professional training is essential. The practice of canine massage develops and evolves. Each generation builds on the shared experiences of previous and current practitioners. There is no reason to feel you need to reinvent the wheel from your own resources.

Another, is credentialing. These 3 circles of intent intersect to distinguish professionals from amateurs, practitioners from hobbyists, and those who could inadvertently injure dogs from those who have learned how not to.

The programs we have developed to assist dogs include PetMassage, dry and Canine Aquatic PetMassage.

Contact when you are ready to be trained to be a professional canine massage practitioner, and become certified/credentialed in canine massage. We will guide you to learn the skills you need to know. And because touch is a personal connection, our training is in person, in on-site vocational training workshops at our school in Toledo Ohio. This is where an instructor with practical canine massage experience works with you. This is the way to learn what professional PetMassage Practitioners say and do to create businesses that are fulfilling, legal, and successful.

During these times of apprehension about catching or passing the corona virus, please be assured that our workshops are safe havens for training.

  • We have reduced class sizes, so that students are spaced 2 meters apart. -Masks and hand cleansing are mandatory.
  • And the hotels and restaurants that we recommend are maintaining the highest standards of cleanliness and service.
  • Learn about workshops, home study programs, and original PetMassage books/DVDs (Christmas gifts) here:

It’s easy to find out more about PetMassage and each course and product offering. You don’t have to navigate a labyrinth to get the information you want. On our website nothing is hidden. You can even find Research Papers, previous Helpful Hints, and all of Anastasia’s Affirmations. Check out the extensive site map on the bottom of each page at It’s there for your convenience.

For the love of dogs, my colleagues, clients, and I work and live in respectful cooperation and harmony.

By Anastasia Rudinger | December 16, 2020 |

Brown Recluse Spider Bites on Dogs

By PetMassage | December 10, 2020 |

Full Title: Brown Recluse Spider Bites on Dogs

Author: Heather Baublitz

Date of Publication: September 17, 2020


Research Paper Text:

How dangerous are Brown Recluse Spider bites to dogs? A spider’s hemotoxic venom does have the potential to be fatal especially in small dogs. The venom of a brown recluse spider penetrates deeper into the tissues sometimes affecting fat and muscles The Spiders venom causes necrosis in the skin (cell death) As progression goes on the dead cells will turn black and fall off, leaving a gaping wound that may be the width of the hand. The venom destroys the surrounding tissue of the bite. The bite leaves a creator like scar after being healed.

Symptoms appear in 4-8 hours after a bite, a red itchy skin lesion develops around the site. The bite may sometimes have a bullseye look with a white center or a ring around the outside. There may be a blistered area, as well as redness and swelling. Systemic infection can take up to four days to appear: Thirst, fever, vomiting, nausea, anemia, water retention (edema), renal failure, weakness, muscle or joint pain, seizures, swelling, redness, puss, weak pulse, increased heart rate, lethargy, trouble walking, or standing, drooling and diarrhea. Are all just a few symptoms to look for.

How can you tell your dog was bitten by the Brown Recluse Spider? Dogs may yelp, increasingly anxious and excited, some will whine, or excessively lick at the wound site, look for drunk walking. (bites often impact coordination) A brown recluse spider is not an aggressive spider they will not bite unless becoming unintentionally disturbed in its space, like being stepped on or crushed. Brown recluse prefer dark and uninhabited spaces away from humans and animals. They are active at night, building irregular webs under logs, rocks or in a house in closets or cardboard boxes.  The spider is recognizable by its brown in color and the violin shaped mark on its back. But not at spiders have this marking the young don’t receive till older. The recluse spiders have six eyes rather than three.   They measure 8-15 mm in body size and its longish legs around 2-3 cm. The best way to tell what kind of spider the bites from is by capturing it. The standard examination includes a complete blood profile, including a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count and a urinalysis. A coagulation profile may also be used to check your dog’s clotting ability. You can ask your doctor to check for venom, but this is not commonly used unless the brown recluse bite is specifically suspected.

Treatments for the recluse spider bites include Ice packs for redness and swelling, Corticosteroids are often prescribed to stop the necrosis from spreading too much, and it helps contain the venom in the infected cells, and systemic illness from starting.

The brown recluse spider is commonly found in the mid-west section of U.S. West to Colorado and New Mexico. East to Northern Georgia and throughout the southern U.S and up the Mississippi River valley to southern Wisconsin.

My Australian Shepherd was bitten about a year ago now. The wound doubled in size within hours and was red and pussy, by the time I got him to the veterinarian the next morning the wound was larger than my hand the center where the bite was, was still red and pussy. The surrounding area was black.  The veterinarian ran blood work and started anti-biotics immediately, he recommended me to hold ice on it 3-4 times a day and wrap the area so he couldn’t lick at site. Due to the large damaged area, Dr. Mack wanted to sedate Brutus and remove all the damaged tissue from the area within a week.

Every morning and evening I would rub cold Epson salt compresses on the affected area within five days the dead tissue fell off on its own before the procedure to remove it.

References: poison
Personal experience


Who Stole My Tail and Why Does It Itch? A Look at Phantom Limb Pain and Phantom Limb Sensation

By PetMassage | December 10, 2020 |

Full Title: Who Stole My Tail and Why Does It Itch? A Look at Phantom Limb Pain and Phantom Limb Sensation

Author: Jacqueline Miaso

Date of Publication: December 8, 2020


Research Paper Text:

Since 70 to 80% of human amputees report phantom sensations of some sort within six months of amputation, and most reporting it immediately after surgery, with pain ranging from “mild and infrequent to severe and chronic” per Nicole Cutler, L.Ac, MTCM, Dipl. Ac, in her article Bodywork Techniques for Phantom Pain, I think we can safely extrapolate that dogs may also experience this.  Whether it is just for limbs, or also encompasses tail and ear docking, we have no way of knowing for sure.  Humans, however, have reported it after losing not only an arm or leg, but also an eye or a breast.

Ms. Cutler also states that “new amputees tend to have frequent and intense sensations several times every day, often continuously for a few hours at a time.  After a while, the sensations typically become less frequent, less intense…however, many amputees report that phantom pain never completely disappears.”

The Amputee Coalition of America describes phantom limb pain (PLP) as “ongoing painful sensations that seem to be coming from the part of the limb that is no longer there.  The limb is gone but the pain is real.” And, according to, also reported by amputees is Phantom Limb Sensation – an itch, a tickle, or as if the missing limb is asleep.  Most often it is mild and not painful. PLP however “may feel like a quick zing or flash up your limb.  Or it may feel more like burning, twisting, cramping, or aching.”

Fortunately there are ways to alleviate the pain – one of which is massage.  According to B-L Family Practice in South Carolina, “Many patients find that having the amputation site massaged can help alleviate phantom limb pain.  Massage soothes the nerve endings in this area, helping them to relax and stop sending pain signals to your brain.”  They recommend gentle pressure at the amputation site.

Moreover, since the dogs cannot tell us if they are having pain or sensations, performing massage as if they do will certainly cause no harm.  And the deep relaxation that many dogs experience from massage can certainly aid in pain relief.

Reiki has proven helpful in humans as has Cranial-Sacral therapy with its gentle touch to increase cerebrospinal fluid circulation.  With dog massage we are always working to increase the flow of body fluids especially along the spine. So it makes sense that these methods will help in pain relief in dogs especially since many experts believe the cause of phantom pain is generated from the spinal cord and brain as part of the neural circuitry.  It is theorized that the area of the brain responsible for perceiving sensation begins to act abnormally and “thinks” the body part still exists. states that “The massage therapy we offer can increase blood flow to and from the area of amputation helping to improve circulation.  This can also aid in reducing phantom pain as poor blood circulation can be a contributing factor to phantom pain.”

The Massage Clinic at St. John’s Rehabilitation Hospital, Toronto, Canada, lists the following indicators for post-amputation massage therapy: “Reduce swelling, increase circulation, reduce muscle tightness and stiffness, reduce scar tissue tightness, reduce spasms, increase muscle length, decrease pain, decrease anxiety and stress, improve sleep (i.e. duration), increase state of relaxation.”

St. John’s further says that massage therapy may consist of the following:  “massage applied directly to the amputated end (stump), to the muscles and soft tissues above the amputated area (the residual limb), or to soft tissues at the proximal end of the effected limb.”  A more general massage can help as well with the goal of reducing stress and anxiety.

Compensatory structures (areas not directly associated with the amputated limb) need to also be considered for massage.  We already know that a dog limping on his right front leg probably needs to have his left front leg thoroughly massaged because he will put more stress on it in order to take pressure off the injured or aching leg.   This imbalance can lead to repetitive strain disorders in the unaffected limbs and needs to be addressed early on. Also common in people with lower limb loss is back and neck pain.  Since dogs normally carry 60% of their body weight on their front legs, amputation of a front limb may cause even more back strain than a rear limb, so extra attention to the back may be even more important.

It is interesting that headaches are very commonly reported after amputation, with many possible causes.  Massage therapy in humans has proven to help decrease the muscle tightness and soft tissue restriction and induce a relaxation effect which can manage, if not eliminate, headache symptoms.  Since dogs stubbornly refuse to learn to talk to us (in our language), why not assume that they may have headaches for a while (especially if they shy away from contact with their heads), and pay extra attention to the entire head, including ears or ear stumps.

When initially researching this topic, one of my questions to myself was: How do we know if we’re helping ease phantom pain or sensation if we don’t know if the dog is experiencing it? Well, we don’t know for sure that dogs experience phantom limb pain or phantom limb sensation but based on how they have been used and misused extensively throughout history for various experiments because they so closely resemble us, I think we can assume that they do.  Massage therapy has proven very effective for a large majority of humans post-amputation so why wouldn’t we try it for dogs.  Since the majority of the painful PLP occurs soon after amputation, treatment should begin as soon as possible and continue as long as needed.  In my massage practice with dogs, I have found they let me know which areas are still painful and which are better than the last time I saw them so if you “listen” to your dog you can learn how long to continue a specific massage method.  After all, according to “The evidence on mood improvement from amputee massage therapy is strong.”    

And who doesn’t want their dog to be in a good mood!