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Karma - Using Water to Rehab Canine Injury
Karma at full throttle

When we first brought Karma to swim with Cindy after her awful accident, we (along with the vets, who said it would not happen) were dubious that she would ever again regain full function. After 16 months she was 99% healed and went on to achieve her ASFA field Championship, in huge part due to her visits to La Paw Spa and Cindy's gentle, healing ways.

Karma has gone on to have a litter of her own, to run for joy, and to live a very full life. We owe this to Cindy and La Paw Spa.

Karma (Wegner's Positive Energy, JC, CGC) had a lifetime of promise ahead of her in January of this year. She had obtained her JC down in Lompoc in July, and had started her ASFA lure-coursing career. She placed first in her stake at the Region 1 Invitational, over 13 other Open dogs. In her short lure-coursing career she had obtained 67 ASFA points and both of the first placements necessary toward her ASFA Field Championship. At the time of the injury we were training at the Utility level in obedience. We were coming close to being ready to start Karma's official obedience career. She showed great promise.

We conditioned her through the winter, looking forward to Spring coursing. At the end of January 2000, tragedy struck. Karma was free running in a large field reserved just for this purpose (an off lead dog training area). She was running full speed and ran into the stump of a recently cut tree, which was sticking about 10 inches out of the ground, but hidden in clumps of grass. She flew into the air and collapsed to the ground screaming. By the time I got to her (I was about 100 feet away) she was in severe shock and bleeding badly.

With the help of the few other wonderful people in the park at the time I was able to get her stabilized. I carry an extensive first aid kit in my car, specifically put together with the dogs in mind. A gentleman offered to bring my car to me. I handed him my keys, told him where my car was, and he ran to the parking lot and drove my car onto the field. He handed me the shirt off of his back first, though, to use as a pressure dressing, instead of just using my bare hand. Another gentleman helped me to call the closest vet (with his cell phone) and let them know that we were on our way with an emergency.

I needed to put a pressure dressing on Karma's open wound, but did not want to spend a great deal of time on the field because her gums were white and she was only semi-conscious. It was obvious that she was in shock, and I was worried that she may have a spinal injury, a head injury, or internal injuries from the force with which she hit the stump. Envision hurling your body at 35 miles an hour into a parked car. That is the amount of force with which Karma hit the stump. The bleeding was still quite bad, so I applied a pressure dressing. I wet the surface of a sanitary napkin with some sterile saline (contact lens saline) and applied it over the open wound (the saline would keep the sanitary napkin from sticking to the wound). I used an ace wrap to wrap her chest, shoulder and leg. This helped to immobilize the shoulder in case it was broken, and did double duty as a pressure dressing on the bleeding wound. Because I was afraid that she might have a spinal injury, I did not just want to pick her up and put her in my car. I carry a small, flat sheet in my first aid kit to use as a stretcher. We gently rolled her onto the sheet and lifted her into my car. A woman who I did not know offered to drive us, in my car, to the veterinarian. The other men said that they would come to the vet to pick her up and bring her back to her car. These were some wonderful people. I will never forget their kindness and caring, as long as I live. I almost lost my Karma on the field that day, but I rediscovered my faith in human-kind.

Karma

Karma was given blood and treated for shock and pain at the closest veterinary clinic. We then transferred her to our regular veterinarian. He sutured her wounds under anesthesia and took X-rays. Nothing was broken, but her shoulder had withstood a great deal of force. He thought that it may have dislocated and then popped back in on its own. We spent a day and night in ICU, and then came home. She was still not very alert, partially because of the pain medication, but also from the result of the shock of the force of the blow that she sustained.

With our veterinarian's permission, we started gentle range of motion exercises that day and over the next few weeks started massage. Her whole body was bruised and she had hematomas hanging off of her chest and sides (under the skin). We continued massage to keep her skin and muscles from scarring down. I also received invaluable information from friends/training partners who are physical therapists.

I searched high and low and found a La Paw Spa. Karma started swimming the day after her sutures were removed. We knew that non-weight bearing exercise was going to be very important if she was ever going to recover. This has turned out to be the most important modality in Karma's recovery. It helped to keep the rest of her fit while she was recovering. It served as an outlet for her energy. It kept all of her joints, muscles and skin mobile and free from scar tissue and calcification. We don't know how we would have come this far if we had not found La Paw Spa and Cindy.

Karma's wounds, bruises, and hematomas healed, but it became obvious that she had more going on than we initially thought. She was not able, even weeks after the initial injury, to use her front leg properly. The muscle had atrophied so badly that you could see every ridge of her scapula and humerus. Her shoulder and forearm were skin over bone. Karma was then diagnosed with damage to the nerves of her brachial plexus from the blunt trauma of the injury. In a horse, her injury would have been called a "Sweeny".

We were told by a number of veterinarians that we should never expect her to run or to have any type of working career again. We were devastated. Refusing to give up, though, we continued rehabilitation at La paw Spa. One of Karma's littermates has an owner who is a holistic veterinarian. She helped greatly in figuring out the best supplements for Karma to take. We started to see slow improvement and even return of some of the muscle. I did research and decided to stimulate the muscles electrically so that if the nerves ever did recover, the muscle cells would still be alive. We continued swimming. I did massage and range of motion and isometric work with her every day. I made her walk and found ways to make her bear weight on that leg. We started taking her for acupuncture.

We are now nine months out. Our miracle girl has a divot of the muscles in her shoulder (which is still improving as I write this). You can't tell that she has any lameness. She was always a bit loose in the front and that is slightly accentuated. She flips the pastern on that leg as well. She is still on the upswing and is improving monthly. She can run on the lure, and is able to free run and chase her sister Winnie. She still feels a bit insecure being chased. She has, of course, become a Royal Princess with all of the attention that the injury garnered. We're working on toning that down a bit!

She is sound enough that she will be able to compete at all levels of obedience (when we can tone down the Royal Princess attitude!). She is conditioning to start competitive running once again. We don't know yet if she will be competitive. She can free run to her heart's content. It is great to see that wild look on her face again. She is at her happiest when she is running. My heart skips a few beats, though, when she does her patented yell, dive, slide, and roll finish. Most important is that she is alive and well. This could have turned out much worse than it did. We could have lost her that day on the field.

Here are the lessons I learned:

  • Plan in your head for a disaster and what you would do. If you run in an area frequently, know who the closest veterinarian is. This saved Karma's life.
  • Ask for help when you need it. People may want to help, but may not want to intrude. They are very relieved to help when asked.
  • Carry a good first aid kit in your car. Karma is alive today because I had the means to stop the bleeding, immobilize her and stabilize her enough to move her to the vet. Familiarize yourself with at least basic first aid.
  • Start range of motion exercises as soon as your vet says it is safe. Get in the water as soon as the open wounds are closed, even if your dog isn't yet ready to swim. There are other benefits than just the exercise. Warm water is a powerful healing tool.
  • Use all of the therapies at your disposal traditional and non-traditional. The real therapy starts when the open wounds are closed (if not before).

The most important thing? Never give up hope. Believe in the possibilities, not the impossibilities.

Karma

ADDENDUM:

Karma did, indeed, recover enough to run competitively again. She is now:

Wegner's Positive Energy, SC, FCh, CGC

14 months after her accident she stepped onto the AKC coursing field and melted everyone's hearts by running her heart out for the last two legs of her Senior Courser title. Then in just a few weekends, never out of the placements, she showed her perseverance and finished her ASFA Field Championship in high style. We couldn't be prouder of our girl. They said she'd never run again. They didn't know what the fire in her belly and her sheer will could accomplish.

Oh, and though she will always be a Royal Princess in our hearts, she has returned to the Karma we all know and love, willing to do anything that we ask of her with a smile on her face. THIS is what makes her the most special dog I have ever known.

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