Massage & Bodywork

July/August 2012

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TEN FOR TODAY like what you're doing, but that's not always the case." Hood recommends the book On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals (Dogwise Publishing, 2005) by Turid Rugaas to help decipher just what that licking, looking away, or panting might mean. 7. UNUSUAL CLIENTELE Dogs and horses make up the bulk of animal massage and bodywork clients, but they're by no means the only clients. Hood recently worked on a boa constrictor that was having trouble shedding its skin. (Relaxation helps the shedding process.) She's also worked with meerkats and skunks. Michelin has worked on a hairless coatimundi, a reticulated giraffe, a three-legged horse, a guide dog for the blind who was also blind, and a three-toed sloth. "If you're tired of the same clients week after week, maybe it's time you considered adding animals to your practice," Michelin says. CREATE COMFORT Some therapists do have the animals come to them for massage, but most experts say making house calls is better for several reasons. Lots of animals associate car trips with going to the vet, which makes them anxious. Plus, they're usually just more comfortable in their own 8. HOME VISITS environment. Home visits also cut down on the practitioner's overhead. But if you're determined to do the work in your own studio, make sure it's in a separate room from your human clients. Clients with pet allergies will thank you. 9. ESSENTIAL OIL SAFETY Essential oils can be used to enhance animal massage, but be wary of using them around cats. While cats express an interest in aromatherapy, Michelin says their livers are ill equipped to metabolize some of the elements found in essential oils. "Some oils even present a risk of fatal toxicity, so use caution when using oils around your household if you share it with a feline, and never apply oils directly to a cat without training first. Hydrosols can be a nice and effective alternative." It's a good idea to network with veterinarians, grief counselors, and other human care providers if you work with animals, because pet massage is never just about the pet. "That pet has a guardian who has sought you out, and who loves that animal so much she wants to invest in a not- so-common modality," says Cindy Horsfall, owner of La Paw Spa ( in Sequim, Washington, and a pioneer in canine aquatic massage. "[The owner] comes in with this unconditional love for this animal, and if you're providing geriatric canine massage, you will probably be the person who is providing therapy and comfort to both of them right up until the passing of that animal. It can be very emotional. And deep. And wonderful." 10. CARING FOR OWNERS Rebecca Jones is a tenured Massage & Bodywork freelance writer. She lives and writes in Denver, Colorado. Contact her at killarneyrose@ Compensation Specifically educated animal massage and bodywork practitioners can expect to earn anywhere from $40–$70 per session, with sessions lasting 40 to 50 minutes. If a particular owner- or trainer- client has previously been exposed to the benefits of animal bodywork, fees in the higher range are acceptable. Where an owner or trainer is new to the work, a lower fee or introductory rate may be useful. Know that some animal clients may not tolerate sessions longer than 20 to 30 minutes. Celebrate ABMP's 25th anniversary and you may win a refund on your membership. 25

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