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Small Animal Massage and Water (Hydro) Therapy

Interview with Cathy Chen-Rennie, canine hydrotherapist

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Tucker enjoys a hug and a massage from therapist Cathy Chen-Rennie © The Rex Center

Tucker enjoys a hug and a massage from therapist Cathy Chen-Rennie

© The Rex Center
This interview is part of a series of interviews with animal rehabilitation therapists.

Disclaimer: I have not worked with these therapists and do not know them personally. If you decide to seek out similar therapies for your pet, please consult your veterinarian for his/her opinion, a recommendation, or a direct referral.

This interview is with Cathy Chen-Rennie, a canine water trainer and therapist in California.

Question: What is your name/business name and web site?
Answer: My name is Cathy Chen-Rennie. The business name is The Rex Center -- training, aquatic, and holistic services for dogs. Our website is www.therexcenter.com.

Question: What types of therapies do you do (hydro, massage, etc.) on what types of conditions (common injuries, arthritis)?
Answer: At The Rex Center, we offer canine warm-water assisted swimming, massage, acupressure, and reiki. In the pool, we offer swimming with or without a massage practitioner or 'swim coach'. We try to make the session relaxing and focus on letting the dog safely stay in the water for an extended amount of time - this allows the dog benefit from the water. Usually the young dogs that we see have been diagnosed with a hip displaysia, knee or spine problem and are swimming for low impact, controlled exercise. But, sometimes, they just come for fun!

Dogs who come in post (knee or hip) surgery for a short period of time in order to exercise safely during recovery. On the other hand, the focus with older dogs, who may have arthritis or limited range of motion, is to spend time in the water, relax, unwind and soak in the time being weightless and maybe stretch their legs just a little bit. The focus is less on exercise/swimming and more on taking weight off their joints for a little bit of time.

In our massage room, we offer massage, acupressure and reiki. We've seen a range of dogs who are diagnosed with similar issues as those who are swimming but also may be agility athletes looking for relieving muscle stress or a rescued dog who is nervous and could use the additional hands-on time with a gentle practitioner.

(Acupressure at The Rex Center is offered by Heather Sanders with Wags 'N Wellness.)

Question: What species do you treat?
Answer: Only dogs!

Question: What types of training have you had to do for this career?
Answer: I have graduated from Cindy Horsfall's La Paw Spa Heart of Canine Water therapy program (Levels 1 and 2) and from the Rocky Mountain School of Animal Acupressure & Massage Canine Therapeutic Massage and Sports Massage programs as well as attended multiple other classes including Reiki and Animal Aromatherapy.

Heather (who offers acupressure at The Rex Center) has over 500 hours of training in canine anatomy, physiology, and bodywork. She is certified by the Northwest School of Animal Massage as a Small Animal Massage Practitioner and by the Tallgrass Animal Acupressure Institute as a Small Animal Acupressure Practitioner.

Question: Do you work with veterinarians to devise a treatment plan?
Answer: I do request that all clients check with their vet if they have questions whether their dog should be swimming or not. However, I haven't yet had the opportunity to work directly with a vet for planning a dog's swim program.

Many of my clients come upon their vet's advice, and upon request, I will report back to the vet about the dog's progress over time. Our report is usually sent monthly with a short summary of each session. Then, the vet can know what kind of service the dog received and track how it affected the dog's recovery.

Question: Are there any professional organizations or certifications available?
Answer: Professional Organizations:
Association of Canine Water Therapy
International Association of Animal Massage & Bodywork

Certifications are offered by the various schools (RMSAAM calls the certification CTMT and the Northwest School of Animal Massage calls it SAMP). There is a national certification for acupressure and massage that is relatively new and not yet well adopted. (http://www.nbcaam.org). Some states require that animal massage therapists are also Licensed Massage Therapists (for people).

Thank you, Cathy Chen-Rennie, for participating in this interview and helping to educate people on various treatment modalities and options for pets.

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