Photo gallery: 3 remarkable stories of canine rehab recovery

What do a pit bull suffering from fibrocartilaginous embolism, a Labrador retriever with chronic severe elbow dysplasia, and a beagle with ventral slot decompression have in common? These precious pooches are rehabilitation success stories that teach us to never give up hope.
Apr 17, 2013
By dvm360.com staff

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Case No. 1: When Lola Warren first visited Atlanta Animal Rehabilitation and Fitness and Veterinary Referral Surgical Practice, she was just 10 days post ventral slot decompression and very unhappy. On the first day, Jodi Beetem, RVT, CCRP, started to teach Lola how to lie down while working on her core.

Photos courtesy of Jodi Beetem, RVT, CCRP

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Every day Beetem and her team worked with Lola on the exercise equipment and in the water. Here, Lola is keeping warm after spending time in the water.

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Team members propped Lola into more comfortable positions for her neck.

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At two weeks post-op, Lola still needed assistance in the water.

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By three weeks post-op, Lola was walking without a vest and without assistance.

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“Before we knew it, she didn’t even need the bumpers on the side to help keep her straight,” Beetem says. “And she even looked thinner.”

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Lola relaxes in her favorite spot—the couch! She is now living it up at home with zero pain. She’s a spunky beagle that likes to thrash her toys all around, slinging them from side to side. Neck surgery? What neck surgery?

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Case No. 2: Batista Hessman suffered from a fibrocartilaginous embolism (FCE). FCEs typically affect one side of the body, and, in Batista’s case, his entire left side was affected. While there are no surgical treatments for an FCE, ruling out a disk problem, tumor, infection, or another condition with an MRI and neurologic examination is always recommended. Once the diagnosis is confirmed, it’s on to medical management and a lot of physical rehabilitation. Here, Batista receives electrical stimulation to his triceps.

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To help with his recovery at home, Batista needed plenty of soft bedding, a belly sling, a life vest, and boots for his feet to protect them from dragging. Here, Batista wears his life jacket.

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Initially, Batista needed assistance in the underwater treadmill.

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Soon, Batista could stand on his own with no assistance in the treadmill.

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After one month in rehab, Batista still wore a life vest for support but didn’t need assistance in the underwater treadmill.

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Three months into rehab, Batista no longer needed a life jacket.

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Here, Batista receives laser therapy to his stifles.

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Batista continues to visit weekly with that big pit bull smile and stutter step. “Someday I hope Batista doesn’t always need my assistance as much as he does now, but given the nature of his diseases, I suspect he will always have a spot on my schedule,” Beetem says. “Without rehab there’s no telling where he might be in his recovery. He’s definitely one of my favorite success stories.”

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Case No. 3: Baxter Flynn Baxter, an 8-year-old, male castrated black Labrador retriever, had been slowly becoming less active over the last year, until he was struggling to stand up. His most current ailment related to his elbows. Baxter had been living with chronic severe elbow dysplasia that had become debilitating. In this picture, Baxter visits near Christmas wearing his Santa outfit.

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Just three sessions into his rehab program we were already seeing improvements. Baxter’s head bob was less pronounced and he was able to get around more easily at home. His home exercises were staying steady as he was still getting a little sore after his walks, but he soon passed that phase and started to be able to increase his land walking time as well. Here, Baxter enjoys some cold laser to his elbows.

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Baxter has always loved spending his Saturdays at the horse farm with his mom, but now he’s less painful and more able get around the terrain. “He’ll always have those up and down moments—I call it the osteoarthritis rollercoaster—but they aren’t as frequent and don’t last as long,” Beetem says.