The Plain Dealer
November 11, 2004
Advances in physical therapy helping
Emma get back on her feet
Emma's cousin, Josh, is the Newfoundland who won best in show at the Westminster Kennel Club this year.
Emma, 7, however, is a winner in a crucial life situation.
With the devotion of her owners and expertise at an animal rehabilitation clinic near Chicago, Emma is learning to walk again.
Most of the time Emma wobbles, and she needs a bit of assistance. Laurie McCauley, the veterinarian who treated Emma at TOPS Veterinary Rehabilitation Center in Grayslake, ILl., believes the dog will make a full recovery.
Last Saturday, Emma got up, walked through the house, into the yard, took care of business, came back into the kitchen by herself with no help, said her elated owner Dr. Sara Stein of Beachwood. "She rested twice, crashed into a few things and knocked over the biggest plant in the house, but she did it."
On Oct. 3, Emma acted perfectly normal. She played with her Frisbee, took a long walk and ate every morsel at dinnertime.
The next morning, Stein noticed that her pet pushed her food bowl away. It was, however, no cause for alarm.
That night when Stein got home from work, she took one look at Emma and knew she was seriously ill. She wasn't moving and her temperature was 106 degrees. A dog's normal temperature is 101.2 to 101.8 degrees.
Stein, with the help of her husband, Don Robinson, and a neighbor promptly loaded the 165-pound Emma into the car and headed toward Metropolitan Veterinary Hospital in Akron.
Emma was diagnosed with a total body infection. She was given antibiotics and the fever broke. But a few days into her stay at the hospital, Emma's back legs became paralyzed.
She was supposed to continue treatment on an outpatient basis, but there was no way Stein and Robinson could handle such a large dog at home, much less transport her for treatment.
Stein started searching the Internet for some appliance, such as a sling, to help Emma walk. That's when she stumbled onto the rehab clinic.
Within hours, Emma was in the car again, and Stein was headed toward Chicago.
"Emma doesn't have a good immune system," McCauley said. the problem might have stemmed from a bladder infection. Emma also has arthritis and could not support her weight.
"I thought there was definitely a chance to get her waling again," McCauley said, "but we have to deal with the emotional issues as well as the physical. If the dog gives up, it is more difficult to get them back."
Emma didn't give up. She stayed at the clinic two weeks with Stein visiting her on the weekend.
Emma's room at the clinic was great, Stein said. She had a mat for sleeping, a French door with a view of the outdoors and she could watch Animal Planet on television. The scent of lavender wafted throughout the clinic, and soothing flute music was piped into the rooms.
The clinic specializes in difficult cases. Stein saw a 12-year-old Akita, once paralyzed, walking with assistance; a dachshund with slipped discs learning to negotiate steps; and a 12-year-old arthritic St. Bernard, who was an outpatient.
The average life span for giant breeds of dogs has increased with advanced medical technology. Seven or eight years was the average, but McCauley said she has treated two 12-year-old St. Bernards and Irish wolfhounds that were 10 and 11. "Age is not a disease." she said.
Emma had acupuncture to relieve pain and stimulate the nervous and immune system. "When I walked in," Stein said, "she had about 50 acupuncture needles everywhere, and they didn't seem to bother her."
Emma underwent pulsed signal therapy, an electromagnetic treatment to relieve the pain of arthritis and promote growth of cartilage. Neuromuscular electrical stimulation sent a slight current through Emma's muscles to cause contractions.
A physical therapist created molds in the shape of Emma's legs in a normal position so she could practice standing.
Emma worked on an underwater treadmill with two therapists in the tank with her to assist. An underwater video camera monitored every foot stride.
She had massages and range-of-motion exercises.
Stein brought Emma home Oct. 24. She will continue to exercise Emma on a standard treadmill. Emma wears a garment that resembles a girdle with handles to assist her in walking.
"It was expensive, about $1,500 a week," Stein said. But "I'd rather have my dog than a vacation, and I wasn't going to put her down."