September 26, 2016
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Business offers animal massage therapy
By Justin R. Kalmes
Jonathan Rudinger's business offers many of the same features that any typical health and fitness center does - treadmills, trampolines, massage services and a swimming pool.
But to become a member at the club, one must possess four legs, or webbed feet, or a tail.
Rudinger and his wife Anastasia own and operate the PetMassage Health and Fitness Center, a facility that offers weight loss, rehabilitation, diabetes control and wellness maintenance services for dogs.
The 5,200 square-foot center, located at 3347 McGregor Lane, has an indoor workout area for pets that includes a 10,000-gallon swimming pool.
"We started out with just a concept and a dream," said Rudinger, a licensed massage therapist who founded PetMassage in 1997 after previously practicing equine massage for 15 years.
Rudinger said not only is the center ideal for dogs needing injury rehabilitation, but it is also the perfect spot for dog owners to provide their pets with needed exercise during winter months.
For a 15-minute session in the pool, which is set at 90 degrees - equivalent to the body temperature of dogs, Rudinger charges $30, or $60 for three sessions.
Nancy Poupard has brought her 8-year-old wire fox terrier Baxter to use Rudinger's pool five times for exercise and to strengthen a weak back. She said she has noticed a significant difference in him since he has worked in the pool.
"He's been moving a lot easier especially when we get out of the water," Poupard said.
In addition to running the health and fitness center, Rudinger also facilitates week-long canine massage workshops once a month most of the year. He said about 1,000 people have taken his workshops in house and about 400 people a year take a home-study course he offers.
The massage school was one of the first six such institutions of its kind in the country, Rudinger said. Only two other places in the United States teach canine massage in water, he said.
"Starting a business in this is tough because you have to create your market and people haven't heard of this," Rudinger said. "We're slowly becoming mainstream," he said.
Rudinger also founded a practitioner association, the International Association of Animal Massage & Bodywork, which now has 500 members.
Because animal massage is not licensed by the state, Rudinger must first receive a referral from a veterinarian before he can legally perform massages on an animal, he said. Though his goal of rehabbing dogs is similar to that of veterinarians, he said he isn't in business to discourage pet owners from using vet services.
"We just want to be a resource for them," Rudinger said. "We don't want to take their business away from them."
Added Anastasia Rudinger: "We want it to be complimentary with their practice."