July 03, 2011 DEAR DR. FOX: In one of your recent columns, you addressed arthritic cats and dogs. I am particularly interested to know how to perform massage on my 10-year-old female cat, Baby. You had advised a reader on your massage treatment, and this person seemed happy with the results. Would you please forward to me a description or instruction on how to do this massage treatment? — J.G., Germantown, Md.

DEAR J.G.: I have no simple description to mail out that deals with therapeutic massage for dogs and cats. Giving a proper massage requires some study, especially of an animal's basic anatomy and where and how to apply various therapeutic massage maneuvers. My books "The Healing Touch for Cats" and "The Healing Touch for Dogs" (Newmarket Press) are available at amazon.com or can be ordered directly from the publisher.

There also is an excellent animal-massage training center for those wishing to receive professional instruction leading to certification. For more details, contact the Tallgrass Animal Acupressure Institute in Larkspur, Colo. (888-841-7211, www.nbcaam.org). Without prior, basic instruction, massaging an animal can do more harm than good. The animal must be relaxed and trusting for the "healing touch" to have any therapeutic effects. These include helping reduce tension, pain and inflammation, and boosting immune-system neurochemicals; animal massage also has diagnostic value when given on a regular basis.

Canine massage:
‘Pampering’ pooch has benefits
February 7, 2008
By KIM LOCCISANO, For The Times Leader 

Athletes at almost every level have experienced the benefits of deep muscle tissue massage, but until recently the idea of employing these techniques to improve the overall quality of life enjoyed by dogs and horses was given little or no thought. But, Becky Brandenburg of Martins Ferry has been working for almost a decade to broaden this viewpoint.

She recently became certified to instruct others in the skills needed to become a canine sports massage therapist. Additionally, she has just completed plans to begin offering classes for students interested in equine sports massage therapy instruction and certification.

“This class is designed for anyone who wishes to learn,” she said of the basis for her program focused on canine sports massage therapy and on the subsequently developed course targeting knowledge and skills needed to provide sports massage therapy for horses.

Word of these new programs becoming available through Brandenburg has spread quickly among those who work with dogs. She is expecting the same strong response from individuals interested in acquiring the knowledge and the hands-on skills employed in this discipline, but who are interested in working with horses.

While the general public may not be familiar with the idea of sports massage therapy having direct applications for dogs and for horses, it is not such a new idea to those who have worked with such animals, especially those involved in athletic pursuits such as racing or hunting events. 

Recently, a means of combining her passion for helping animals and for teaching came together when the first group of students completed an intensive canine massage therapy program now available through her professional resources: Brandenburg Equine and Canine Massage Therapy.

Eight years ago Brandenburg’s sincere interest in learning massage therapy techniques beneficial to horses put her on the first step of this unique path.

The program she immersed herself in focused on working with horses, but soon became an avenue through which she connected to similar information targeting improving the quality of life for dogs.

Over the years she has been employed by an ever growing number of dog and horse owners, managers and care givers from throughout the region. The animals she has been asked to work with have come from various lifestyles, including those living as household pets to those working in demanding show and competitive environments.

She admits there are many who initially scoff at the idea of such formalized programs for improving the quality of life of an animal, but that reality does not trouble Brandenburg. She has come to believe deeply that the process of employing deep tissue sports massage techniques for dogs and horses can bring immediate benefits and long term ones as well to all involved: animals and humans alike.

But, the benefits of sports massage therapy for dogs is not restricted to those who live in a competitive world, such as a racing or field trial dog, rescue or scent dog.

“Canine massage therapy is beneficial for all types of dogs, from pets to dogs active in obedience, agility, search and rescue, police K-9 units and guide dogs,” said Brandenburg. “Progressive dog owners are realizing the same benefits for their animals as those in the equine field. The massage sequence and benefits are the same for both dogs and horses.

“The sports massage therapy application involves working with the 26 muscle groups on each side of the dog’s body. Each massage lasts approximately 45 minutes,” she said.

Having learned these techniques initially to improve the overall quality of life for her own horse and dogs, Brandenburg knows from personal experience the positive influence the techniques can have on the animals.

“So much of a dog or horse’s body is muscle there is ample reason to keep that system in as healthy a working order as possible, regardless whether the animal is an active athlete or the favorite horse of the smallest rider or a pampered pound pooch,” says Brandenburg.

Reasons students come to Brandenburg’s canine sports massage therapy certification classes vary widely, but all have a common thread: a love and respect for animals and their individual quality of life whether they are a professional athlete on the race track or a beloved pet.

“Medical science is making it possible for our dogs to live much longer lives. However, with that come the problems that are associated with aging. Massage therapy helps the older, less active dog live a more comfortable life,” she said. “Regular massage therapy can benefit your dog during recovery from injury or surgery.”

Brandenburg cautions against entertaining thoughts that sports massage therapy makes regular trips to the veterinarian unnecessary: quite the opposite is true and are not interchangeable, she said. 

The possibility of earning certification in canine massage therapy is hardly a passing trend, and is viewed by many professionals, experienced animal care specialists, and trainers as an opportunity too good to pass up without giving it a try.

When canine crazed citizens take their seats at the prestigious American Kennel Club’s Westminster Dog Show this year they will each be introduced to Brandenburg, her skills as a therapist and as a teacher.

“When I decided to go national with my certification classes I chose a number of dog fancy magazines where I wanted to run ads, one of those is the program for the annual Westminster Kennel Club show held in Madison Square Garden in New York,” she said.

Her message to potential clients and students is clear: her program is about sharing knowledge which will equip an individual with the skills necessary to enhance the quality of an animal’s life and their performance, whether that is spent playing catch in the or standing for examination by a judge at a national breed championship.

Shortly after the first of the year Brandenburg saw her inaugural groups of students proceed through the course successfully. It included four experienced veterinary technicians – all employed at a large practice in New York City. Rounding out the roster was a local specialist who will be working with a local veterinarian’s established practice.

“I have been a therapist for eight years and an educator for 30 years. This program is the result of those worlds colliding,” Brandenburg said of a new certification program she is now qualified to teach which focused on techniques of sports massage therapy specifically designed to benefit canine patients.

Brandenburg holds a bachelor’s degree in education from West Liberty State College, is a certified animal massage therapist, is a member of the International Association of Animal Massage Therapists and the International Association of Animal Massage and Bodywork.

She has studied with the leading training organizations in the field of animal massage and has worked with one such group in curriculum development. The canine massage certification offered is a unique program developed from her years working in both sports massage therapy and education.

Although Brandenburg’s certification program is open to those who already work in the health services for animals, it is not limited to that group of professionals.

“Students have said they are interested in this program simply because they want to learn how to enhance the quality of their pet’s life,” said Brandenburg. “What they often don’t realize is that through the sports massage therapy process they will also realize a benefit themselves.”

Brandenburg recommends the education garnered through her course work for those who: “seek deeper understanding of the healing art of massage; who learn best in a small group as class size is limited to four students; who want intensive hands-on experience and instruction; who wish to learn the importance of professionalism and business ethics; and who seek instruction from someone who is currently operating a thriving practice.”

The program is based on intense academic standards and testing benchmarks, she explained.

Included topics for those in the currently offered canine sports massage therapy classes are: the history and benefits of massage; basic anatomy and muscle function of the animal; tactile application of techniques realized by working with dogs of varying sizes, levels of health and personalities, she explained.

Some basic benefits of sports massage therapy which can routinely be expected include: enhanced muscle tone; reduction of inflammation and swelling in joints, thereby alleviating pain; increases the flow of nutrients to the muscles; stimulating circulation and releases endorphins; helping to maintain the whole body in better physical condition; easing muscle spasms; increases synovial fluid in joints; lengthens connective tissue; and generally improves the disposition of the animal.”

“Sixty percent of a horse and/or dog’s body weight is muscle. It is the system that is responsible for movement. Maximum function and comfort in the muscle system will result in the greatest motion possible. Muscle soreness can be the result of injury, structural imbalance, over stretching or over use/ misuse. Muscle problems are cumulative. If a problem exists in one area, the animal will have to compensate by tensing up and/ or using other muscle to protect the injured muscle. Any number of secondary problems can then occur which will in turn compromise movement.

“Regular massage can aid in the prevention of these issues,” she said. “Once a problem exists, massage helps to break up the tight knots of adhering muscle fibers which restrict full muscle extension. Massage will find any damaged or potentially compromised area of muscle and restore it to improved function.”

1620 E. Houston Suite 100
Spokane, WA  99217
Animal Wellness
Connection, LLC

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Spokane's first Canine Fitness Center opens 

Every day crowds all over Spokane flock to places like Oz Fitness and other local fitness centers to stay and in shape. And the Spokane area has no shortage of fitness centers , with even more in the works. But up until now none have catered to the specialty of the Animal Wellness Connection. That's because Animal Wellness Connection is Spokane's first Fitness Center for Dogs.

 Animal Wellness Connection is actually not a completely new business, but up until last month they have been operating out of a smaller shared business location. Animal Wellness Connection is now open, completely on their own at 1620 E. Houston , Suite 100 in Spokane . The new location is a bit out of the way but still convenient to all of North Spokane and only a very short trip off of Nevada or Francis .

 Animal Wellness Connection does offer and on site fitness center for dogs but has many other services as well , most which are also available exclusively for canines. The business is home to canine hydrotherapy , regular canine fitness classes , canine massage and even grooming. Massage services for humans are also available.

 Animal Wellness Connection offers holistic pet healing services and even can throw paw spa parties on site, more info on all these services and more are available in the link at the end of this article.

 The services offered by the Animal Wellness Connection are quite affordable as well, but do very depending on what service your pet needs. Contact the business or click on the link for pricing info.

 For pricing and more info on Animal Wellness Connection in Spokane visit-


 Phone: 509-954-1371
ACTION CAM: 'Animal Wellness Connection' Is A Four-Legged Friend's Paradise!
Posted: Jan 13, 2014 8:59 AM PST Updated: Jan 13, 2014 12:53 PM PST 
by Nichole Mischke, KHQ Local News Web Specialist 

ACTION CAM - You've heard of the "dog days of summer," but what about winter? This time of year it can be tough to get outside and exercise with your dog
The Animal Wellness Connection at 1620 E. Houston in North Spokane offers a spa like setting with plenty of fun things to do with your four-legged friend! From massage, treadmills, swimming pools even exercise balls, your pet is sure to have a good time!he Animal Wellness Connection at 1620 E. Houston in North Spokane offers a spa like setting with plenty of fun things to do with your four-legged friend! From massage, treadmills, swimming pools even exercise balls, your pet is sure to have a good time!

by Jordan Longacre & KREM.com
Posted on December 10, 2013 at 7:50 AM
Updated Tuesday, Dec 10 at 1:35 PM 


SPOKANE, Wash. -- Located in North Spokane, a small gym and spa is a one of a kind in the Inland Northwest.

Animal Wellness Connection is all about dogs and other small animals. It is a place for people and their pets to stay active participate in group classes and even get spa treatments like massages and aromatherapy.

Owner Lorna Boydston opened her doors just a couple months ago. “This is a place that is designed just for dogs to relax to have fun and really enjoy themselves; it’s all about the dogs. We have programs just for athletic dogs, for the senior dogs, overweight dogs and just maintenance programs,” said Boydston.

Her vision is to have a place where dogs and people can spend time together, but it is more than just a fun place to go. The focus is on developing healthy lifestyles for both dogs and their owners.

AWC also includes hydrotherapy, physical therapy and training for dog competitions. With more than 40 years of experience in showing dogs, Boydston spent the last several years learning therapeutic techniques. These techniques help dogs overcome physical limitations, emotional trauma and overall enhancing their quality of life. “For shelter dogs, rescue dogs it’s a great way to build up confidence and get them used to human touch and understanding there are people out there that care about them” said Boydston.

With temperatures well below freezing, AWC is the perfect place to combine staying active, having fun and most importantly staying warm. “[It’s] getting impossible to get out and exercise with your dog. Coming to the gym there is plenty of exercises to do. We have classes that are for the dogs, classes that are for owners and the dog,” says Boydston.  

There are classes targeted toward kids, large groups and one-on-one training. The environment is well suited for people and pets; it is full of fun, color and plenty of activities for everyone. To learn more about AWC and how to sign up for classes, visit ww.animalwellnessconnection.com

Gym welcomes dogs and their humans
Posted: Dec 10, 2013 10:32 PM PST Updated: Dec 17, 2013 10:32 PM PST

Animal Wellness Connection is a place where people and pets sweat it out together. (Source: KREM/CNN)Animal Wellness Connection is a place where people and pets sweat it out together. (Source: KREM/CNN) 

SPOKANE, WA (KREM/CNN) - This isn't your typical gym, and it's not the usual gym goers. In fact, half of those in attendance are four-legged and furry.

Animal Wellness Connection is a place where people and pets sweat it out together.

"You know, you sign up for the gym, but it's really difficult to stick to a program and the same with the dogs. And in this weather nobody wants to run around outside," said Lorna Boydston, owner of Animal Wellness Connection.

Boydston opened the doors a couple of months ago, giving people and their pets a warm place to stay active, which is essential, especially during the winter months.

Of course, it doesn't stop there. AWC offers training, physical therapy and even hydrotherapy.

No matter what the reason, it's all about staying active and having fun with your canine companion.

"We have classes that are for the dogs," Boydston said. "We have classes for owners and the dog."

When dogs and owners are done sweating it out in the gym, they can have a couple's massage, and the dog can have a blueberry facial scrub.

"It's all about the dogs," Boydston said.

Her experience spans more than 40 years, and her connection with the animals really shows.

Animal Wellness Connection is open year round and provides training for dogs and their people

Jordan Longacre
Wilmington, NC 28412

A large fitness gym in a portion of the Animal Wellness Center, in North Spokane, caters to canines, even though it rivals some workout centers designed for human exercise.

 The 1,100-square-foot gym is filled with therapy balls, ladder-like floor obstacles, and other fitness equipment, including a treadmill designed and manufactured for dogs by GoPet LLC, of Pennsylvania. 

On the gym’s cushioned rubber-mat flooring, dogs can practice quick turns or a range of motions to mimic moves used at outdoor dog agility courses. Lorna Boydston, owner of Animal Wellness Center, says that in fitness classes, dogs are trained to do stretches and exercises side-by-side with their owners.

The gym is one part of the 3,000-square-foot Animal Wellness Center at 1620 E. Houston that Boydston designed to resemble a spa-like setting geared to pets for services that include therapeutic animal massages. Rooms are filled with aromatherapy, calming music, and soothing décor.

 “We have calming music playing throughout, usually harp or piano music, so the dogs can most benefit from the holistic treatments,” Boydston says. “We try to create a very relaxing atmosphere for the dogs.”

Such animal wellness services are gaining popularity in Seattle and other parts of the U.S., Boydston says, especially for customers who have dogs that are athletic, used in service or rescue work, or entered in breed show competitions.

Boydston opened the center last fall to provide services geared to holistic wellness for pets, primarily for dogs, but it doesn’t offer veterinary services. In recent years, Boydston has worked as an artist and raised beagles. 

Boydston and one part-time pet services assistant currently are the center’s only employees, although two independent contractors provide specialized services by appointment.

A Deer Park resident, Boydston grew up on a farm in Colbert, where her parents had a kennel and raised different working dog breeds that were shown or trained for work, including as police service dogs. As a member of the Spokane Kennel Club, Boydston also shows beagles.

She became interested in animal therapeutic remedies in 2007, and sought training at the Northwest School of Animal Massage, in Vashon, Wash. She now is licensed by the state as a small animal massage practitioner.

The state Department of Health has licensed animal massage practitioners since 2011, she says. The license she received required training a minimum of 300 hours, passing a certification test by the National Board of Certification for Animal Acupressure and Massage, and paying a state fee.

In addition to the fitness gym and massages, the center provides hydrotherapy for exercise and rehabilitation of dogs in a heated indoor pool. In a separate room near the pool, the center also offers dog grooming services. A groomer, who works as an independent contractor, is at the center part time, Boydston says.

Overall, she says the business is beginning to build clients, and is providing about three or four animal massages a week. The fitness classes have had up to 10 people attending with their dogs.

 “We’re building up clients using the gym, and we have some people who come regularly, but in this town, dog sports are big so we expect that to grow,” Boydston says. “There is a big need out there for this. Fitness is still a new concept for dogs, but it’s growing nationally by leaps and bounds.” 

Near the center’s entrance, one small room is designed for canine massages and includes a grooming table of about 40 inches by 24 inches in size that’s adapted with special cushioning to position a dog so that Boydston can do the massages. 

She provides geriatric massages for older dogs, sports massages, rehabilitation massages, and general massages for relaxation. A massage session typically lasts for about an hour and costs $45.

The center has a second small massage room set aside for people to receive massages given by a licensed massage therapist, Kerri Miller, who works at the center part time as an independent contractor, Boydston says. Miller also is certified as a small animal massage practitioner to perform massages for dogs in the adjacent animal massage room.

Boydston asserts that canine massages especially benefit athletic dogs that perform at sporting events, breed shows, or as service and rescue canines.

“It gives athletic dogs an edge to stay in shape and be less prone to injuries,” she says. “We do offer massage therapy for some cats, but it’s 50-50 with the cats. They either really love it and get a lot of value or really hate it.”

The center includes a lobby waiting area that has a small drinking fountain for its dog visitors, and the walls are painted a soft green, which Boydston says is more for the owners’ benefit because scientists believe dogs only can see blue and yellow colors.

Brighter colors are part of decorations in the center’s gym, where a fitness class typically lasts about an hour or slightly longer. A class usually is held once a week for four to six weeks, at a cost that ranges from $40 to $75 for a series, which is based on the course subject such as if it’s for more advanced canines. Some of the classes include “K9 Team Fitness Beginner Class,” “Core Strength & Fitness for the Performance Dog,” and “Senior Fitness Class.”

Owners also can pay for individual fitness coaching for dogs, which is $35 an hour.

Some of the sessions also train dogs to stand or balance their forelegs on therapy balls, she adds, which teaches balance to help with core and muscle strength. For dogs that need rehabilitation after an injury or medical treatment, such training also helps them regain muscle use, she says.

Overall, Boydston says the fitness can help dogs improve range of motion and build muscle to become more active, enter agility competitions, lose weight, or improve mobility for older canines.

“It’s the same principle you use for human athletes,” she adds. “Performance dogs are more prone to injuries if they haven’t improved their range of movement, built up muscles and flexibility. Unlike people, though, dogs will just keep going. We try to slow that down and protect them.”

For sessions on the gym’s dog treadmill, a dog is trained and wears a safety harness held onto by the center’s handlers, Boydston says. The GoPet treadmill, which has side railings, is stationed next to a traditional treadmill for people, so pet owners can use it while their dogs are next to them.

“We have to train the dogs to walk on the treadmill at first,” she says. “We usually have a dog running on it by the first visit. This time of year, it’s hard to run outside with your dog because of the ice. For dogs that are big competitors, they can stay in shape.”

With the center’s hydrotherapy service, Boydston says, canines can gently exercise muscles in the pool that measures about 13 feet by almost 8 feet wide, and has depth of 4 and 1/2 feet. The water is kept at a 91- to 93-degree temperature, she says.

Dog owners and pets walk up a short flight of stairs to a platform to enter the pool. 

For arthritic dogs or canines recovering from surgeries, they can be lifted to the platform on a hydraulic table.

She says the business asks that the owner be near the pool as dogs enter, and at least one therapist is in the pool. The dogs wear life preservers with a handle for the first few times they enter the pool, she says, until they get comfortable with the water therapy.

A hydrotherapy session lasts about an hour and costs $75, but the price includes massages in the water and then afterward on land, Boydston says, and the dog isn’t in the pool the entire time.

The pool also has an endless current feature, which can help athletic dogs strengthen muscles by swimming against the current, Boydston says. For the hydrotherapy service, Boydston says she received training at La Paw Spa in Sequim, Wash.

“A five-minute swim is like a five-mile jog,” she says. “The beauty is the water supports them, so it’s non-weight bearing on their joints. There is resistance, so it works their muscles. It’s great for dogs recovering from surgeries to get back into using their limbs, or it’s good for older dogs with mobility problems, arthritis, or hip dysplasia.”
- See more at: http://www.spokanejournal.com/local-news/fitness-for-fido/#sthash.gLnbYaHI.dpuf
Reporter Treva Lind covers natural resources and technology at the Journal of Business. A Nevada transplant and recovering swim mom, Treva has worked for the Journal since 2011. - See more at: http://www.spokanejournal.com/local-news/fitness-for-fido/#sthash.gLnbYaHI.dpufeporter Treva Lind covers natural resources and technology at the Journal of Business. A Nevada transplant and recovering swim mom, Treva has worked for the Journal since 2011. - See more at: http://www.spokanejournal.com/local-news/fitness-for-fido/#sthash.gLnbYaHI.dpuf

Article and Pictures by Reporter Treva Lind
January 16th, 2014