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Animal Rehabilitation – Part 2: Sonny Joins CARE’s “WALK OF FAME!”

By Dr. Jessica H. Waldman, VMD, CVA, CCRT

Sonny is a happy, bouncy 8-year-old Yellow Lab who had not a care in the world (except for a few chronic orthopedic issues like ankle arthritis and a long-term ACL tear with arthritis in his knee). He also didn’t mind that he was a bit overweight; however the obesity issue was exacerbating his degenerative conditions. However, Sonny’s life changed on December 22, 2008, when he was unfortunately hit by a car. His many injuries included toe fractures, a left hip that went out of the socket, spine and rib fractures, and spinal cord trauma – which had left him paralyzed in his hind limbs.

The team at ASEC (Animal Surgical and Emergency Center) stabilized and treated Sonny for seven long days, at which time they referred his Mom to California Animal Rehabilitation (CARE) for therapy for his multiple injuries, and to learn to walk again.

The first time Mom brought him in, it was pretty safe to say that Sonny was a mess. Dr. Waldman conducted his initial evaluation and poor Sonny had cuts, wounds, abrasions, and swelling all over his body; he had a urinary catheter because he couldn’t go on his own; it was impossible for him to stand or walk; and he was having head tremors due to stress. Despite these ailments, Sonny was so sweet and affectionate, and even managed to wag his tail a few times. Dr. Waldman reassured Sonny’s mom –who had to leave town, and leave Sonny boarding — that he was going to be okay.

Sonny’s rehab started right away. The CARE team worked on neuro rehab techniques to help him with body awareness and sensory input; he began to learn again how to move his body from side-lying to lying straight; healing of his wounds was a priority using therapeutic laser and hydrotherapy; there was
lots of manual work by the PT’s, electro-acupuncture for pain and neurological stimulation, e-stim for pain management and muscle re-education, PST to heal his fractures faster, as well as a lot of TLC andattention to his prior arthritic issues.

Sonny’s tail never stopped wagging throughout his therapy, which was no easy task. Dr. Waldman also designed a new nutrition plan focused on higher protein for muscle building, and foods based in Chinese medicine food therapy for healing and, weight loss. He had a great appetite – and didn’t mind the new food – or was simply hungrier from working out so hard! And, boy was he working hard to get better.

After four short days, Sonny’s urinary catheter was pulled and his wounds were now closed, which meant he could begin underwater treadmill therapy for balance and gait training. His left hind leg was moving a little better than his right, which Dr. Amy Kramer noticed, and encouraged more use of the opposite leg to bring him back into alignment. Sonny was also starting to lose some weight with his new
healthy diet.

Sonny stayed at CARE for 10 days, and worked incredible hard each day. When Mom came to pick him up she was amazed at the results. After 10 days, both of Sonny’s hind legs were moving and working although he still needed a sling to walk. And, that tail of his was wagging so fast, it was dangerous! Mom was given lots of home exercises and Sonny was scheduled to continue as an outpatient three times a week. Sonny’s mom was so good with her exercise homework and his new diet that he dropped 9 pounds, to a trim 73 pounds!

On Jan. 18, 2009, just two weeks into his outpatient therapy and home exercises, Dr. Waldman received a video from Sonny’s mom showing him walking around, on his own, in a big field of grass! The CARE staff was so excited and looked forward to seeing him walk in person at his next appointment…they were not disappointed! Sonny arrived, walking on his own, as cheers from the CARE team and other clients echoed throughout the building… and if possible, his tail was wagging even more!

Sonny continues as a patient of CARE to help him better cope with his chronic problems. He is truly an inspiration to all pet owners, as well as to the field of pet rehabilitation and veterinary medicine. The staff at ASEC even keeps his success videos on their work computers as a reminder of why they do what they do. Sonny has truly demonstrated that hard work, a great attitude, and a lot of tail wagging really pays off! Thanks for the inspiration Sonny!

Dr. Jessica H WaldmanDr. Jessica H. Waldman, VMD, CVA, CCRT, is a founding partner, veterinarian, certified veterinary acupuncturist, certified canine rehabilitation expert, and medical director at California Animal Rehabilitation. Dr. Waldman is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Southern California Veterinary Medical Association. She is also a faculty member at the Canine Rehabilitation Institute and one of the founding members of the American Association of Rehabilitation Veterinarians.

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