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Canine massage therapist offers relief for dogs

Deborah Hemstad does canine massage at Prairie Dog located at 5370 51st Ave. S. in Fargo. David Samson / The Forum2 / 2

Fargo - Deborah Hemstad kneads her massage client’s shoulders. She goes over each ligament to make sure they’re stretched out. She spends some extra time on the hips, an area of special concern after a soft tissue injury.

Daphne, a Great Pyrenees, responds with a pant and a wag.

Hemstad is a certified canine massage therapist. Through her business, Canine Care Center, she massages and does cold laser therapy on dogs that are experiencing physical ailments, are active hunters or sports competitors, or suffer “growing pains.”

Hemstad was working as a licensed veterinary technician in Minot when she pursued her certification. She wanted to offer something to dogs beyond surgery and pain medication to help make them more comfortable. She moved to Fargo last summer and offers her services out of Prairie Dog, a day care, grooming and boarding center in south Fargo. She also does home visits.

She charges $42 a session, with additional charges for the laser treatment. She recommends two or three weekly sessions to start followed by maintenance treatments, often monthly.

Hemstad stresses that canine massage doesn’t replace veterinary care but can complement it.

“More and more people are really starting to take better care of their animals,” Hemstad said. “They’re starting to have that feeling these guys are part of the family. I wouldn’t let my son or daughter go in pain.”

What is canine massage therapy?

Canine massage therapy is essentially the same as human massage therapy. It’s the same muscle groups, it’s the same bones, it’s just in a different structure. I will do it completely every single time from head to toe, no matter if they have hip issues or shoulder issues … because there could be some underlying spasms.

It will do the same thing it does in humans. It promotes healing, relieves muscle tension and spasms, promotes the circulation of blood.

It gets the toxins out of the muscles, keeps them stretched out, prevents injury in the future.

Why did you want to pursue certification?

It was a responsibility I felt I had as a technician. I had some interest in physical therapy in dogs. This was the start for me to learn more about it.

It just gives me more of a one-on-one chance to help these dogs and make them feel better and more comfortable. If they do require some sort of surgery, make them feel comfortable before their surgery happens. Make them recover a lot quicker after their surgery.

It makes me feel so much better. … I’ve had several people after the first time they’ve had it done on their dog, they say they go home and they’re like a puppy.

That’s what is the most rewarding for me, is to hear those people say “you’ve given my dog a life again.”

In what cases do you recommend massage?

Any dog can benefit from massage therapy. Healthy dogs that are active and hunting dogs … dogs that are in agility trials and flyball and different sporting dogs like that.

More importantly the dogs that come in that have hip dysplasia, arthritis, back issues where they have compressed discs.

Some dogs will come in that have what’s called a luxating patella. It’s where the knee cap doesn’t fit as tightly as it’s supposed to and slips out and causes a lot of pain. That does normally require surgery, but it’s one of those cases where a lot of people can’t afford that surgery right away, so at least I’m helping keep them comfortable.

Business profile

What: Canine Care Center

Ownership: Deborah Hemstad

Where: Operates out of Prairie Dog LLC, 5370 51st Ave. S., Fargo

Hours: By appointment

Contact: (701) 720-3753 or

Sherri Richards

Sherri Richards has worked for The Forum since 2002. She is the features and business editor, overseeing Variety, SheSays, Farmers' Forum, the daily Business pages and Saturday Business section.     Have a comment to share about a story? Letters to the editor should include author’s name, address and phone number. Generally, letters should be no longer than 250 words. All letters are subject to editing. Send to

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