When Sophie was born, the German Shepherd’s rear legs were not functioning. It seemed highly unlikely she would ever be able to walk. Flight attendants volunteered to transport the immobile puppy from New Jersey to the Healing HEART Sanctuary (HHS) in Utah, which rehabilitates disabled or injured domestic and farm animals.
Laura Bradshaw, a founder and the executive director of HHS, treated Sophie using a combination of traditional and alternative therapies. Soon Sophie’s back legs began to move. Bewildered veterinarians who examined the puppy’s x-rays could not understand how Sophie could possibly walk, since her hips were not in their sockets. Bradshaw told them, “But she does, look.”
As Sophie grew, so did her mobility. Now an adult, Sophie can hike up to 10 miles at a time. She was adopted by the flight attendants who brought her to HHS, and is leading a happy and active life.
Sophie’s success story is just one of hundreds at HHS, which was founded in 2003. During the aftermaths of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, HHS worked with the Best Friends Animal Society (BFAS) to reunite nearly 1,000 pets with their families across the country.
Since its inception, HHS has helped hundreds of injured or disabled animals get back on their feet using both traditional and alternative treatments, such as water therapy, a sound wave frequency machine and a machine that enhances the bio-energetic levels in water. The sanctuary uses treatments that have been proven to work for humans and adapts the treatments to the animals. In addition to dogs, HHS has helped rehabilitate cats, rabbits, sheep, goats, birds, tortoises, cows and horses.
According to Laurel Ley, chairman of the board at HHS, “So-called ‘alternative’ therapies are really those that are less popular than traditional therapies. For example, physical therapy and acupuncture were once considered alternative, but over the years they’ve become mainstream.”
In 1996 the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) revised its guidelines and recognized alternative remedies for pets. The guidelines currently state that “all veterinary medicine, including Complementary and Alternative Veterinary Medicine, should be held to the same standards. Claims for safety and effectiveness ultimately should be proven by the scientific method.”
One of the most popular rehabilitation tools at the sanctuary is water therapy, which is used more for dogs than other animals because “dogs genetically have a greater willingness to swim,” Bradshaw said. It is considered one of the best therapies for dogs, since they get the benefits of exercise while being weightless, thus easing stress on their bones.
Contrary to popular belief, not all dogs are natural swimmers. Bradshaw, a former children’s swim instructor, has had to teach some dogs how to swim in a relaxed manner. ”Not every dog loves the water,” she said. ”Some will start panic swimming, which will harm them if they’re injured. I have to hold them securely so they don’t panic.”
Bradshaw was one of the early practitioners of water therapy. Its popularity has since boomed, and water therapy centers have opened across the country. If you have a pool, you can perform this therapy at home. But the water needs to be warm – even up to 90 degrees – since cold water is counterproductive to the therapy. Bradshaw recommends getting your veterinarian’s approval before you start your dog on any therapy program. She also suggests using a life vest for older or injured dogs to lessen the exertion on their bodies.
Another therapy used by HHS is an Infratronic sound wave frequency machine, which Bradshaw describes as a tuning fork for the body. “When your body’s out of frequency because of sickness or injury, the Infratronic helps it remember its perfect condition,” she said. “It’s an amazing asset for a lot of different conditions.”
Unlike ultrasound machines, which Bradshaw said can be dangerous and require a license to use, the sound wave frequency machine uses infrasound, which is benign. Infrasound is sound that is lower in frequency than 20 Hz, the limit for human hearing. Animals may be able to predict earthquakes and other natural disasters because of their ability to hear this frequency.
“The machine works physiologically,” said Ley, who owns one of her own. “It rebuilds hyaluronic fluids in the joints.” Ley said she had a Dachshund with aggression issues who liked to sleep on the machine, which would calm him.
Bradshaw said the sound wave frequency machine has been successful at releasing scar tissue and reducing pain and swelling in dogs.
For example, a dog from BFAS had hip surgery on his left side, but because there was too much scar tissue on his right side, further surgery was postponed. The dog was brought to HHS three times a week for 30-minute sessions with the machine. He began to build muscle on his right side and stopped limping. BFAS canceled the second surgery since they felt it was no longer necessary. The dog was adopted, and his new family bought a sound wave frequency machine so they can continue giving him treatments.
Another treatment offered by HHS is cart/sling therapy, which allows dogs to strengthen their leg muscles. As Bradshaw describes it, it’s like water therapy but without the water. It is being successfully used with Bella, a young yellow Lab whose back legs were paralyzed in an accident. Bella was brought to the sanctuary when she was 16 weeks old because a vet didn’t have the heart to euthanize her at her owner’s request. Cart/sling therapy allows Bella to run, and has helped her build muscle.
HHS has also had success using a Q Energy Spa machine. According to the manufacturer’s website, the machine was created to “realign, balance and enhance the bio energetic levels in water that is then used by the cells of all living things.” The machine was used on Sport, a black Lab whose back legs had to be reconstructed after she was hit by a car.
Bradshaw said that putting Sport’s tail in the water during treatments “helped her calm down on an emotional level. Also, her hair grew back three times as fast on the surgical sites.” Sport recovered completely and was adopted.
The HHS also hosts children with physical, mental or emotional challenges, and allows them to interact with the animals. According to the HHS mission statement, “The gratitude, joy, and love that the animals express enhances the human-animal bond and helps the children learn, among other things, that happiness need not be dependent upon circumstances.”
Not all of the HHS animals are available for adoption. The sanctuary always keeps animals on site to interact with children and perform outreach work. And since some of the animals have gotten very attached to living at the sanctuary, it has become their forever home.
The Healing HEART Sanctuary needs your help to continue rehabilitating animals. To donate money (you can also “virtually adopt” one of the animals), services or wish list items, click here.
Find A Vet HOW TO articles are intended for informational purposes only. You should always consult with your veterinarian about any health issues affecting your dog.
Images from healingheartsanctuary.org
Have you ever tried an “alternative” treatment on your dog? Please tell us about it in the Comments area.