Dog Therapy

Sep 222008
Authors: Jessica Cline

Dr. Narda Robinson said it was her college undergraduate advisors that dissuaded her from her dream of becoming a veterinarian and encouraged her to instead attend medical school to be an osteopathic physician at Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Twenty years later, she said she is glad she missed attending veterinarian school during a time when sexism was a prominent concern and surgeries were performed on live animals, and that she was instead given the opportunity to earn her doctorate degree in veterinary sciences from CSU later.

During her time spent as a student, Robinson began pursuing her interest in canine rehabilitation efforts and started providing acupuncture and massage therapy to dogs.

Prior to Robinson’s providing massage treatment to dogs, no such method existed. Because Robinson initiated this treatment, CSU was able to establish the first medical acupuncture for veterinarians, Robinson said.

This coming spring, she will begin offering students the option to learn the canine massage techniques she established during her own time at CSU.

The class will be offered to local veterinarians and massage therapists, as well as veterinary science students.

“I have wanted to start up a class about medical massage for years,” Robinson said, “and now it is finally happening.”

The massage class is Robinson’s creation. It will consist of teaching methods derived from osteopathy and structural integration to help canines recover from illness, injury, spinal pain and stress.

While there are many internet resources that claim to teach proper canine massage techniques, Robinson said that her goal is to educate students as to how using only these and not fully learning the practice can actually hurt an animal.

Robinson will teach students hands-on about the scientific basis of massage and help them to learn its proper usage, risks and benefits.

“I want to teach students a new approach to dealing with and identifying pain that is non-evasive to the dog and makes sure they are getting the best possible treatment,” Robinson said.

The class aims to set standards for canine medical massage and teach effective fact-based approaches to curing canines. The curriculum will include teaching the anatomy and physiology of canines, the canine muscular system, an array of massage techniques, abnormalities in posture and gait, how to evaluate pain accurately and clinical conditioning, according to Robinson.

Through this class Robinson intends to make her mark on the expansion of canine massage and make it useful in the healing of canine patients.

Colleagues say that Robinson is prepared for the task.

“Dr. Robinson is one of those hidden treasures,” Bonnie Wright, Robinson’s co-worker, said via e-mail. “As an anesthesiologist at CSU for the last seven years, I always appreciated her input on cases and in teaching pain evaluation to students.

“Slowly I came to realize that she was so much more than this, that I was in the presence of a healer.”

Wright, along with Dr. Tim Hackett, head of CSU’s small animal critical care unit, and clinical counselor Erin Allen will provide additional lectures within the class.

Each will add their own specialty and lectures will focus on heart rate, body temperature and breathing patterns of canines.

“Dr. Robinson is an excellent teacher, who leads by example and includes students in every step of the treatment process, third year veterinary student Stephanie Shaver said.

Her massage subjects seem to agree.

“(Pet) owners tell us that pets who used to be afraid to come to the vet start wagging their tails as soon as they realize they’re going to see Dr. (Robinson),” Shaver said.

Staff writer Jessica Cline can be reached at

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