SAN ANTONIO, Texas – If you've ever had a good massage by a trained therapist, you know it's good for many aches and pains. That's also true for dogs.
It's a new trend in alternative animal medicine that is getting more popular in San Antonio, thanks to the work of a talented canine massage therapist, Jerry Hess.
Kylie is an Australian Cattle dog. She is also a therapy dog, and at one time, was up for adoption through an animal rescue group. She ended up there after being found as a stray with a broken leg.
Her dog parents brought her home to live with their other dog, a Blue Heeler named Rocky. But a constant limp and her lowered head made Barbara Nelson realize that Kylie needed help.
A surgeon was consulted and acupuncture was tried, but the most impressive result came from animal massage.
Jerry Hess visits Kylie regularly for massage sessions, and he treats the session as though he were working on a person. On the human size portable padded massage table, Kylie relaxes on a soft towel where Hess begins the work.
"I work in a particular rhythm, which is the dog's own rhythm," said Hess.
Kylie lays on her side for the session, only seeming to stir when she hears Barbara's husband open the refrigerator.
"My job from session to session is to gauge her overall symmetry movement and to keep the area supple," said Hess. The technique he uses is called Canine kinesthetics. It's similar to the massage that's been used for decades on horses.
Hess trained in the massage technique three years ago when he received a call from a local shelter looking for help with two of their temperamental dogs. His magic massage did the trick.
"These dogs got adopted out, and these were long-term residents of the shelter," said Hess. "They were considered non-adoptable.".
Hess charges $60 for a session. In order to ease stress on the both the dog and the owner, he prefers to come to the owners house. For owners who want to try a bit of dog massage on their own, Hess has a few tips.
"You have to use enough pressure, you have to have a rhythm, you have to have depth," said Hess.
It's helpful to have some understanding of canine anatomy, so you know where muscles and joints are. If the dog starts squirming or panting when you work on an area, back off, lower the pressure, or just work around the area, and don't be surprised if you find yourself getting as relaxed as your dog.
As for Kylie, Barbara has seen good changes since the massages began.
"I've seen a lot of personality change, she's a lot more confident, she carries her head up," said Barbara. "She does limp, it's going to be a chronic limp, but it's not as obvious, and she just moves so much better."
To learn more about pet massage or to find a certified pet massage therapist near you, go to www.petmassage.com.