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03 Dec 2018

Surprising Way to Treat Your Dog’s Pain Without Medication

Surprising Way to Treat Your Dog’s Pain Without Medication

Interest in holistic health care for pets is on the rise. Now more than ever, people are searching for safe, natural ways to ensure pet wellness in the form of non-traditional therapies and holistic approaches. Pet parents are finding that when paired with proper veterinary care, holistic methods are extremely effective for everything from chronic conditions to injury treatment.

Some of these holistic treatments include acupuncture, natural and/or raw diets, natural supplements, and perhaps most surprising… pet massage!

We spoke with our very own Pet Gal Laura, owner of Heart Hound Massage, to learn about her pet massage business and find out what pet massage is all about.

Heart Hound Dog Massage

About Heart Hound Massage

Laura Riley, Ph.D. has always had a passion for helping pets, and while she loves caring for pets as a sitter through The Pet Gal, she knew she wanted to make an even bigger difference in the lives of animals. Her passion for holistic treatment began when she witnessed the benefits it provided for her basset hound, Yeager.

At 8 years of age, Yeager was diagnosed with elbow dysplasia. The vet recommended daily doses of Rimadyl – an anti-inflammatory drug which can potentially cause liver damage if taken long-term. Laura was hesitant to expose Yeager to the risky side effects and decided instead to turn to acupuncture. She says the benefits of the treatment were amazing and Yeager was able to stay off medication for 4 years. Though he passed away last year, Laura has no doubt that holistic treatment increased his quality of life.

Afterward, Laura decided to make it her mission to study various holistic methods and eventually open a business that offered great holistic care to animals.

Laura’s dream came true when she recently launched her pet massage business, Heart Hound Massage. Named after her beloved Yaeger’s heart of gold, the business’ mission is to honor of Yeager’s memory by providing effective, holistic care to pets. Laura says she’d dedicated to using her therapeutic massage abilities to “help other amazing dogs live a longer, quality life to spend with their owners.”

She says the best part of her job is when clients tell her the positive effects her massage treatment has on their pets. She told us, “It’s rewarding when someone goes, ‘Oh my gosh! My dog’s been walking longer than they were before!’ It makes you feel really good.”

What is pet massage?

Laura explained that animal massage is actually very similar to human massage. In the same way humans use massages – for relaxation, as a preparation and recovery step for athletes, or as part of holistic treatment for health conditions – pet parents can utilize massages similarly to benefit their dog.

During a massage, the therapist manipulates the muscles and soft tissues in a specific, intentional way that gets the blood circulating, reduces lactic acid, and stimulates the cells, resulting in a variety of positive health and wellness benefits.

What are the benefits of pet massage?

The National Board of Certification for Animal Acupressure and Massage (NBCAAM) states that animal massage, “promotes various physiological, neurological, and psychological effects in the animal’s body supporting both physical and emotional wellness.”
Laura told us that pet massage offers benefits such as increased circulation, reduced lactic acid, increased lymph node function (which aids the immune system), and decreased muscle soreness, tension, and weakness.
Although massage is never a replacement for veterinary care, it can be used to help treat chronic conditions such as arthritis. Laura says that alongside glucosamine supplements, massage can be an excellent choice for arthritic dogs who cannot take anti-inflammatories due to negative side effects.
Like human massage, different types of massages offer different benefits. Laura is certified to perform three varieties:

Basic Massage

This type of massage is good for general holistic care for dogs of all sizes and breeds. It helps the pet’s immune and lymphatic systems and promotes a sense of calm and wellbeing.

In fact, basic massage is a great option for pets who are chronically anxious or tense. The Pet Gal’s owner, Susan Anderson, used Laura’s massage services for her dog, Jake, to help reduce his generalized anxiety prior to flying. Laura said that Jake’s tendency to be jittery and anxious was reduced, and he was better able to handle the stress of the flight.

Puppies can also benefit from basic massage, as it helps their growth, immune system development, and bone development.

Sporting Massage

Good for dogs who participate in agility or sporting competitions, sporting massage is tailored for the athletic animal. Often used before or after events, this style of massage helps to loosen up the muscles, improve gait, and helps limit injury.

Senior Massage

For aging dogs, a senior massage can help increase circulation, reduce muscle tightness and soreness, improve digestion, and help alleviate aches and pains caused by arthritis. Laura explained that massage is an excellent choice for older dogs who cannot handle the harsh effects of medication.

What kind of certification/training do pet massage therapists get?

As with any treatment your pet receives, it is important to research the provider and know that they are properly certified to provide care for your animal. When it comes to pet massage, the International Association of Animal Massage and Bodywork provides information and education to promote, advance, and grow the field. They offer a list of accredited schools at which therapists can earn their certification.

Laura studied at the Rocky Mountain School of Animal Massage in Colorado where she learned physiology, anatomy, ethics, and massage technique. After class work and a written exam, she was required to do various massage case studies before earning her certification.

She is dedicated to continuing her education by taking classes that will enable her to incorporate more holistic techniques into her massage services. For instance, Laura is actively studying Linda Tellington Jones’ TTouch technique, which is a holistic method used similarly to massage to enhance the quality of animals’ lives and to help them recover from injury or chronic conditions.

What does a typical pet massage treatment plan look like?

If you’re interested in getting your dog set up with a massage treatment plan, begin by consulting your vet. While massage can be highly beneficial, it may not be suitable for all pets and each state’s laws differ regarding animal massage.
For those located in Texas, the law requires a vet approval before treatment can begin. Start by visiting the Heart Hound Massage website to download the veterinary release form and submit a contact form to schedule your initial consultation with Laura.

Ideal for all sizes and breeds, Heart Hound Massage treatments are personalized for the specific needs of your pet. During consultations, Laura works one on one with her clients to get to know the dog’s temperament and health history. Then she establishes the pet parent’s goals and creates a unique treatment plan.

Typically, massages are scheduled weekly. Laura suggests scheduling massages during the time of day at which your pet is most relaxed. The massage itself is performed the same way one would expect a human massage to. Soft music is played, gentle touches called Effleurage Strokes are used along the dog’s calming points to get them into a relaxed state, and once the dog feels comfortable, Laura begins the massage.

For most dogs, the Effleurage Strokes get them into a calm enough state to receive massage. For anxious pets or those who are more energetic, Laura explained that she will break the massage into sections, giving the dog time in between to get their energy out. In her experience, she says the dogs often return to her quickly because the massage feels good. After the massage is complete, Laura provides the client with a full report on how the massage went.

For those interested in pursuing holistic pet massage, Laura is offering a special 10% discount for Pet Gal clients! Visit her website www.hearthoundmassage.com to schedule a consultation for your pet.

article by Pet Gal Kirstie and infographics by Pet Guy Dan.

02 Aug 2018

Is Your Dog At Risk Of Getting Heat Stroke? Everything You Need To Know

Is Your Dog At Risk Of Getting Heat Stroke?

Everything You Need To Know

When Spring and Summer arrive, we look forward to heading outdoors with our furry companions to enjoy hiking, swimming, picnics, family vacations, and more. To keep dogs happy, healthy, and cool, pet parents should be aware of the potential risks warmer weather can bring. With proper knowledge of precautions, prevention, and treatment, pet parents can safely enjoy the warm seasons with their fur babies.

Heat Health Risks

Animals’ bodies work differently than ours, so even if it doesn’t feel hot to us pets can still be at risk for heat exhaustion and heat stroke. As the temperature climbs, pet parents must be extra diligent about keeping their dogs safe and cool.

Canine heat stroke symptoms and prevention

Before heading out to enjoy time in the sun, refer to our Summer Heat Risks infographic above to help determine the potential risk of outdoor situations for your dog. Of course, you know your dog better than anyone, so use common sense and your best judgment to avoid possibly dangerous situations.

Heat Stroke

Although we typically associate heat stroke with dogs who are left in vehicles, it can be experienced in any situation which leaves them vulnerable to overheating. Without an abundance of sweat glands to help regulate body temperature, dogs are more prone to heat stroke than humans. Whether playing in the backyard, going for a long walk, or enjoying a family vacation, it is important to closely monitor your dog’s behavior and symptoms to ensure they are cool and comfortable.

Also known as hyperthermia, heat stroke begins in both dogs when their temperature reaches 104°F and higher. While a dogs age, breed, weight, and medical history all play a part in their susceptibility to heat stroke, all dogs are at risk in warm, humid environments. Symptoms of heat stroke include:

Extreme panting and/or drooling
Bright red gums, tongue, ears, and skin
Thick, sticky saliva
Vomiting and/or diarrhea with or without blood
Unresponsiveness and/or lethargy
Rapid/irregular heart and respiratory rate
Decreased urination
Dizziness
Loss of consciousness

Heat Stroke Prevention

Luckily there are many preventative measures that pet parents can take during Spring and Summer to help keep their dogs safe. NEVER leave a dog in a parked vehicle. Try to limit outdoor play to cooler parts of the day (early morning and late evening) and beware of over exercising dogs on hot or humid days. Ensure dogs always have unlimited access to shade and fresh water. Access to A/C or fans is preferable whenever possible. If your dog loves the water, a little playtime with the garden hose or time swimming never hurts!

Heat Stroke First Aid

At the first sight of symptoms, get the dog out of the heat and into a cool, well-ventilated area. Using a rectal thermometer, take the dog’s temperature. Heat stroke begins at 104°F with potentially fatal damage beginning at 106°F. If the dog is overheated, pet parents should immediately begin cooling their pet off.

Lay the dog on a cool surface and, if possible, point a fan directly towards them. Apply towels soaked in water to their head, neck, belly, and feet or use a hose or bucket to gently apply the water. Regardless of which method is used, be sure the water is cool or tepid – not cold or ice-cold. NEVER submerge the dog completely in water, as this quick shift in temperature that can cause the animal to go into shock.

The goal is to assist your dog’s natural cooling system in a quick and efficient – but not extreme – way. Offer them small, frequent drinks of water, but do not force them to drink. Continue taking the temperature every 30-60 seconds, as it is very important to stop the cooling process once body temperature has reached 103°F. Once their temperature has reached normal levels, take your pet to the vet for additional treatment and monitoring.

Of course, always use your best judgment when it comes to emergency situations. If you don’t have access to the items needed to treat your pet or if they are already showing extreme signs of heat stroke (106°F or higher temperature, vomiting/diarrhea with bleeding, collapsing, unresponsive) travel immediately to the nearest emergency veterinary office, doing your best to keep the pet cool on the way.

Warm Weather Precautions

Heat stroke is not the only concern pet parents should have during Spring and Summer. To help keep dogs safe and comfortable, keep the following warm weather safety tips in mind:

Always closely monitor dogs while swimming.
Ask your vet if your dog would benefit from a Summer haircut, but NEVER shave your dog, as their multi-layered coats help protect them from sunburn and heat stroke.
Ask your vet if your dog would benefit from animal-approved sunscreen or insect repellent.
Keep hazardous foods and materials that are more common during warmer weather away from dogs.
Keep pets safe and indoors during Fourth of July celebrations. If your pet has firework anxiety, do not leave them alone.
If traveling with your pet, discuss your pet’s needs and create a plan of action with your vet.

Paw Protection


We would never walk barefoot on searing hot surfaces, so why would we expect our dogs to do so? Pet parents may be surprised to know that surfaces of all types – concrete, sand, asphalt, wood, and metal – can cause painful burns to dog paws, even on days that only moderately warm. For instance, asphalt temperature can exceed 140°F if the weather is 87°F. A good way to test the temperature of a surface is to place the back of your hand on it for 7 seconds. If it’s too hot for you to handle, it is too hot for your pet.

To avoid paw burns, walk your dog early in the day or late in the evening and keep their mid-day potty breaks limited to grassy or shaded areas. If you must walk during the hottest part of the day, utilize paw protection such as booties.

Pest Prevention

Pet parents should be on heightened awareness during warm weather months for parasites that thrive in higher temperatures. Check your pets regularly for fleas and ticks after outdoor activity and continue using your year-round flea, tick, and heartworm prevention. If pets are not on year-round heartworm prevention, they should be tested for heartworm in Spring or early Summer.

Pets & Cars

Before hopping in the car to travel to fun, seasonal events or embark on family vacations, pet parents should be aware that vehicles can be dangerous places for pets if the proper precautions aren’t taken.

When traveling in the car with your pets, always restrain them using a safety harness. Be sure they have access to water and monitor their behavior closely for signs of heatstroke. On long car rides, plan regular stops for potty breaks and walks to help reduce stress. If your pet has car anxiety discuss with your vet if there are supplements or medications that they might benefit from while traveling.

The golden rule regarding pets and cars is to NEVER leave pets unattended in parked vehicles. Even on days that are simply warm, temperatures can rise inside a car by nearly 20°F in just 10 minutes – even with windows cracked or air conditioning on. Serious illness, irreversible damage, and even death can result from a pet being left in a vehicle, so always make sure car trips with pets are planned accordingly to avoid leaving them alone.

Educated Pet Sitters

Spring and Summer months are a popular time for traveling. If you’re not bringing your pets with you on your family vacation, priceless peace of mind can be found by leaving your pets in the hands of trained, knowledgeable professionals who know how to provide top-of-the-line pet care.

In addition to being avid pet lovers, the Pet Gal’s sitters are trained in pet first aid and behavior. Whether simply providing daily dog walks while you’re at work or pet sitting services while you’re on a long vacation, our Pet Gals know the best practices for safe outdoor activity on hot days and are trained on the prevention and treatment of heat stroke and other warm weather-related incidents.

article by Pet Gal Kirstie and infographics by Pet Guy Dan.