When Laura Van Haren was told her dog Harvey would never walk again due to an infection in his vertebrae, she decided it was not a prognosis she was willing to accept. She knew if anyone could help, it would be Kim Beach, CCRA CCFT, a certified rehabilitation and fitness assistant at VCA Woodland Animal Hospital in Kentwood, MI. Through the coordinated care provided at VCA Woodland, including rehabilitation with his favorite human Kim, Harvey defied all odds.
Harvey is a nine-year-old pit bull who, according to Laura, “steals the hearts of everyone who meets him.” Laura, a long-time volunteer for Hearts of Hope Dog Rescue, fostered Harvey for about a month before deciding he had found his forever home. She officially adopted him in October 2019.
Shortly after his adoption, Harvey was diagnosed with and treated for severe hip dysplasia. Over the next couple of months, Harvey's condition continued to decline. One day, Laura found him in his bed shaking uncontrollably and unable to move.
Laura rushed Harvey to the nearest emergency hospital where the diagnosis changed to severe pancreatitis and surgery was scheduled. While waiting for his surgery, Harvey lost all mobility in his hind end. Surgery was cancelled and an emergency MRI was performed. The MRI showed he had discospondylitis, a bacterial or fungal infection of the intervertebral discs and the adjacent vertebral bones. Laura was told Harvey would likely never regain the use of his back legs.
Although Laura was initially devastated by this life-changing diagnosis, she immediately thought of Kim, who she had worked with before to rehabilitate a three-legged pit bull she had previously fostered.
“Kim believed my foster was worth every moment of effort I put into her rehabilitation,” remembers Laura. “So I knew if anyone could help Harvey walk again, it would be her.”
Laura transferred Harvey’s care to Katie Martin, DVM, at VCA Woodland, who helped coordinate Harvey’s medical care with his rehabilitation with Kim.
After her first meeting with Harvey, Kim told Laura that she didn’t see any reason why he couldn’t walk again.
“I don’t like to put boundaries on a patient – instead, I let them direct me,” says Kim. “I just had a feeling that Harvey wanted to walk.”
Kim stresses the importance of working with owners to define goals for their pets. For Laura, “walking” was simply defined as Harvey being able to get around and be independent. Determined to do everything she could for Harvey, Kim developed a plan for him that included medical care from Dr. Martin, rehabilitation and acupuncture.
To ensure all pet patients get the best healing care, VCA Woodland was designed with rehabilitation in mind. The hospital boasts a beautiful, well-planned space that reflects the doctors’ belief in rehabilitation as an important part of integrative care. Harvey’s rehabilitation involved a combination of floor exercises, the underwater treadmill, and exercises that Laura and Harvey could do at home.
Kim partnered with an acupuncturist at another canine rehabilitation center to help stimulate Harvey’s nerves. Through the combination of western and eastern medicine and rehabilitation, Harvey began to make remarkable progress. He has regained the use of his rear legs and can now run, play, swim and walk like a normal dog – well, almost. Harvey still visits VCA Woodland for underwater treadmill treatments to keep his strength up, and Associates are always happy to see him waddle through the door.
Laura is grateful to Dr. Martin and all of the Associates at VCA Woodland for Harvey’s exceptional care, but she credits Kim’s exceptional care and Harvey’s “love affair” with her for his incredible recovery.
“Harvey is a sweet boy, but he is very particular about who he loves,” explains Laura. “He loves me, but it’s a whole other level with Kim! She is without a doubt the reason Harvey was able to walk again.”
Kim, on the other hand, credits Laura for following her gut and believing in Harvey.
“As a client, Laura has taught me to always have faith, believe in, and love your animals,” she says. “If Laura had given up on Harvey, he wouldn’t be where he is today.”
Many serious diseases like Discospondylitis are now possible to treat, resulting in pets living their best lives, longer. Our mission is to provide clients like you, and your pet, an experience that gets to the heart of the health matter and provides the best possible outcome. Locate a VCA Animal Hospital near you.
“Through the combination of western and eastern medicine and rehabilitation, Harvey made remarkable progress. He has regained the use of his rear legs and can now run, play, swim and walk.”