Northwest Herald, March 1st, 1999
Vet provides unusual service, physical therapy
Dr. Laurie McCauley gently helps Lily up onto the table before the ultrasound session begins.
She asks whether the patient has started using her leg again and whether it seems to hurt her.
Lily responds only with a whimper, but that's fine with McCauley. All of her patients are of the canine and feline varieties. They come to her for animal physical therapy at the TOPS Veterinary Rehabilitation center in Grayslake.
Lily, a Bichon Frise owned by Sue Hawkins of Grayslake, is typical of many of McCauley's smaller patients -- she had surgery to repair a knee cap that was popping out of place. The pins that were surgically embedded in her leg started moving around and tore a muscle, causing extreme pain. Lily avoided using the leg and curled it under her body, walking on three legs. After a second surgery that corrected the pin problem, she continues to hold the withered leg up.
It's McCauley's goal to make the leg useful and strong again through physical therapy. She is one of just a handful of veterinarians nationwide specializing in therapy, and regular vets refer patients to her from throughout Illinois and Wisconsin.
She says it just makes sense to apply therapy to injured pets, especially since an increasing number of dog and cat owners view their animal as part of the family and want to do whatever it takes to make them feel better.
McCauley began offering the service last September and is treating more than 20 dogs and cats. The TOPS center, along Route 120, also provides training for police canine units from McHenry and Lake counties, as well as offering canine wellness and grooming center.
"I feel like I'm making a difference," McCauley said of the physical therapy. "I enjoyed my regular veterinary practice, but this is extremely fulfilling because a lot of the dogs I see, everyone else has given up on. It's a very special feeling."
McCauley graduated from veterinary school at Colorado State University in 1992 and practiced in the Chicago and Milwaukee areas before returning to Colorado to study physical therapy.
Her training included meeting with a physical therapist who works on humans to see what methods could be applied to dogs and cats.
She decided to switch her emphasis after becoming frustrated that there were many regular veterinary cases she could not resolve. The idea to apply physical therapy to patients came to her after she received physical therapy for an injury she suffered in a fall.
McCauley has seen remarkable progress in some of her patients, including a 10-year-old German Shepherd that was lame on all four legs. After therapy, the dog no longer cries when she walks.
"She has had five surgeries on her knees and the owner said if the physical therapy wouldn't have worked they would have put her to sleep," McCauley said. "Now the dog is walking up and down the steps and is off drugs."
Physical therapy is designed mainly for pets who have been injured, undergone surgery or have arthritis and cannot function to their maximum capability. Once a pet is referred to her, McCauley evaluates its condition, age and temperament to see what treatment would work best.
She only accepts patients who are sent to her by regular veterinarians.
Therapy methods include range of motion, land and water treadmill use, hydrotherapy, ultrasound, cryotherapy, heat, neuromuscular stimulation and massage. McCauley soon will offer acupuncture for pain reduction, epilepsy and diabetes.
With Lily, McCauley takes her time to extend the dog's legs muscles manually, commenting that she is seeing quite a difference in just one month.
"She can relax now," McCauley said. "Before, she'd scream because the muscle was so cramped."
Hawkins is thrilled with the progress of her precious pooch.
"This is great, especially since I didn't think we had any alternatives," Hawkins said. "She was very, very energetic before the first knee surgery -- she used to jump so high, like she was on a pogo stick. I want her to be able to do that again. She's only 7-1/2 years old, so she's got half her life to go."
Lily is especially dear to Hawkins, her third owner, because she was abused as a puppy.
"She's just a sweet, sweet little dog," Hawkins said.
"We take her everywhere with us. We couldn't imagine not having her around. I'm so happy because there has been a noticeable improvement. It took her a while to stop using (her leg), so it will take a while to start using it again."
Lily squeals as McCauley continues stretching her legs out.
"I'm sorry," the vet says, hugging Lily. "You did really good, though."
The next stop is the 1,800 gallon therapy pool, where an assistant holds the top of Lily's miniature life preserver and lets her swim in place for a few minutes. The dogs walks freely on all four legs on the pool's underwater treadmill.
As assistant lifts her out of the water, her legs continue to tread as if she is still submerged.
"She's so cute," Hawkins said, as Lily is bundled in a blue towel. "I don't just look at her as an animal, she's a part of our family and we'll do whatever we have to do to take care of her. I think she deserves a chance. God sent her to use because he knew we'd take care of her. I couldn't imagine not doing this."
Once Lily is placed on the pool deck, she takes a few four-legged steps toward Hawkins.
"Good girl, Lily!" Hawkins says, gleaming.
McCauley is elated at Lily's progress.
"We've just seen her take her first steps on that leg since November," McCauley said. "That's what it's all about."