Case Study

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Name

Haiko

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Breed

Belgian Shepherd Malinois

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Age

7 years old

Reasons for Hydrotherapy

Injury during Military Training

Background

Haiko was seven in December 2015 and for his age has already achieved so much.

Haiko is a Belgium Malinois and was born and breed over there. As soon as he was old enough to start his basic canine training he did. You see Haiko was going to be a super hero… Well the next best thing. He was destined to join the British Military Special Forces in Hereford.

At 12 months old Haiko was sent to Hereford where he started to engage in more specific training for his role in the military. He was trained in explosive detection, drugs and attack, even parachuting, and fast roping, not that he had much choice in the latter! The one he excelled in the most was soon to become his job; he graduated and became an official soldier of the SAS in 2010.

Haiko successfully completed tours in the Middle East and was commended for his excellence as part of the Canine Team. So much so he was always on rotation and stand by for up coming tours.

The Injury

Haiko was doing some routine agility training in the winter and was getting tired towards the end of the day. They put weight vests on the dog to build their muscles and keep them fit – they clearly didn’t know about the power of Hydrotherapy then because this would have had the same result but with less trauma to the dogs joints.

As it happens Haiko was finishing his circuit and was facing a 12ft fence, something he could clear with ease. To put this into perspective, they have small slits in them for the dogs to grip onto. On this occasion Haiko slipped and put his rear right leg through the fence, bent it backwards snapping his stifle joint and tearing the muscles and tendons surrounding it. It didn’t help he ran the length of the course in panic to his dog handler. His leg was in such a state they thought he would lose it.

You see the thing with military dogs is if they can’t work they are no use to the military so they get put to sleep. It’s sad but it’s true. Haiko was very lucky, he was an outstanding working dog and they wanted him back. Unfortunately it wasn’t that simple. Haiko was due to go on tour to Afghanistan two months after the accident; this was now not a possibility.

However, the good news was they decided they would invest the time and money to have his leg re-constructed and get him back into work. They gave him six months to be tour ready, if he wasn’t by then, he would be put to sleep.

The Surgery

Haiko’s damaged leg was pinned at the knee and he had metal rods up the length of his leg to support the structure. It was complicated surgery and came with a long recovery time. Something he didn’t have.

Unfortunately after a week or so his wounds became infected and some of the pins had to come out. His leg was re-opened and they re-considered the rods, leaving him only with pins to hold his knee together.

4½ Months and Counting

Haiko was recovering well although he had severe muscle wastage and needed to start physiotherapy immediately. They only waited so long to ensure there was no secondary infection.

He was on very strong pain killers and needed to be so they could start his physio exercises. Then he progressed onto Hydrotherapy using a water-treadmill because that’s what suited Hereford at the time. In fact they purchased it for Haiko!

Hydrotherapy is Magic

This was the turning point for Haiko, he was starting to weight bear again, and his confidence on using the leg was returning. You see when a dog damages a limb it’s the same as you or I hurting ourselves, we walk differently to prevent the pain.

With dogs it’s the same thing, although we can’t communicate to them in the same way that we’re going to ‘fix it’ and stop the pain so they lose confidence in that limb and create new behavior characteristics to make up for it.

In Haiko’s case he refused to put the leg down. The water in the treadmill supported his weight, therefore creating less concussion on the joints, making it less painful. But the magic didn’t stop there… the more he put his leg down in the water, the more he put his leg down on the ground which meant the other joints were under less stress because they didn’t have to take as much of the pressure off the damaged limb. More weight through the damaged leg meant more opportunity for the muscle to build.

Haiko had hydrotherapy sessions three times a week until his fitness test that decided his fate. He performed like a true star and once again was passed to rejoin the force. He was flown to Afghanistan immediately and after a week to settle in and get acclimatised was on active duty, successfully completing his 6-month tour.

Unfortunately when he returned back to the UK without the hydrotherapy and with long days in the desert his injury was more obvious than ever. He was pretty much on three legs.

He was immediately put back into hydrotherapy and had only just completed his second session when Hereford got a call they all dreaded. Doc, another one of the dogs, had just ben killed in Afghanistan and they needed a replacement quick. They had seven dogs in the kennels they could have deployed but Haiko was everyone’s first choice, he was experienced and knew his job, plus the dog handler had worked with him before so it was a natural fit.

Haiko had no more than 1 weeks rest before he was sent back out for another six months. This time he came home in agony, he was on so many meds to keep his pain at bay. The other soldiers can only do so much for dogs needing physio. If they’re off base they could be for days and Haiko wouldn’t of had any opportunity to rest or had his leg seen too. They all very proudly told everyone he never once quit, he was soldier to the end and kept going regardless, he loved his job and he loved to work.

The problem wasn’t just his leg, his stomach lining had been damaged from all the medication and he suffered with terrible diarrhea again from the meds. He also wasn’t weight baring on his leg. He saved his handlers life on that tour and was involved in some very dangerous jobs; he came back a hero.

The Retirement

The military made the instant decision to retire him after three years of active service. He served from 2010 – 2013. They couldn’t transfer him to another unit where he could be used to train new dog handlers because he couldn’t do the agility so his time was up. He was left in the kennel to recover, taken on short walks and just kept ticking over. The time needed to go on the active dogs.

Haiko was due to be destroyed, they never re-home military dogs from Hereford it’s too dangerous, but the Kennel Hand and several of the Soldiers plus the Managers of the Canine Training Team put a serous amount of pressure onto Hereford to make sure he was rehomed to a former dog handler, the latest one who he worked with in fact. You see Haiko has this amazing ability to love, he spreads it wherever he goes, he loves people and he loves to be with people. Yes he was trained to do a dangerous job and he needed to be rehomed with caution but he deserved a retirement… so that’s what he got. His former handler rescued him and as he was living with me, Haiko had a whole new family to get used to.

New Home

Haiko came into my life in April 2013 though he belonged to someone else at the time I fell in love with him. He was this greasy, skinny dog who had no muscle anywhere and bounded around on three legs. I got him cleaned up and welcomed him into my home with open arms. He loves to be close and we spent most evenings cuddled up on the floor.

His owner was away travelling a lot and in July he handed me the papers to Haiko. He was mine!

More Hydrotherapy Magic

The first thing I did was take him to the vets, see if we could get some advise about his medication, his food and get him registered. The second was book him into Hydrotherapy.

Within 6 weeks of weekly hydrotherapy sessions he seemed to be stretching his leg better, I thought I was imagining the difference, we kept going weekly and about 10 weeks later I could see that his muscles were building, he was using the leg more and he seemed happier.

After three months we went to the vets for a check up and they recommended reducing his meds and changing his food, they couldn’t believe the change in him. That’s what we did, he was still on daily medication but a lighter dose and he was spoilt on a combination of fresh red meat and chicken to help build the muscle.

It was working. I kept his sessions up weekly and as his time in the water increased so did his fitness and his overall strength.

I remember the day I took him for a walk and it was the first time I noticed he was walking at a good pace and he never limped once. I could have cried I was so happy!

A year into his weekly swimming session I took Haiko off all medication, he was on a natural anti-inflammatory (Turmeric) and he continued his swimming, it was risk but 2½ years on and we are still med free and swimming weekly!

Haiko is so happy, he can play with other dogs again, something I always worried about incase he got hurt. His tummy has settled down completely and he no longer has diarrhea, he bounces around like there is nothing wrong with him, he runs like he used to before the accident and he still takes part takes in low level agility.

His overall muscle has increased, his strength everywhere, his shoulders and chest muscles, his back muscles, his legs, even his organs are healthier. My vet frequently comments on how healthy and amazing Haiko looks, how his fitness is that of a younger dog. Hydrotherapy definitely has a part to play in that.

All of this I believe is because of his weekly hydrotherapy sessions. He does still limp on occasion and he always will, and in the future as he gets older he may need to go back on the meds but for now the hydrotherapy is keeping him strong and keeping him active. Plus he loves it, and he definitely loves Holly and Julie! I can’t thank them enough for there part to play in my Haiko’s health.

For us it’s a lifestyle choice, Haiko will swim every week for as long a he is able, and for the rest of his days. It helped save his life; I want to keep it that way!

Haiko really enjoys his weekly swim sessions. I have been able to gradually take him off all of his pain medications. He has a natural anti-inflammatory – turmeric. Haiko is so happy, he can play with other dogs again, something I always worried about in case he got hurt. His overall muscle has increased, his strength everywhere, his shoulders and chest muscles, his back muscles, his legs, even his organs are healthier. My vet frequently comments on how healthy and amazing Haiko looks, how his fitness is that of a younger dog. Hydrotherapy definitely has a part to play in that. All of this I believe is because of his weekly hydrotherapy sessions. He does still limp on occasion and he always will, and in the future as he gets older he may need to go back on the meds but for now the hydrotherapy is keeping him strong and keeping him active. Plus he loves it, and he definitely loves Holly and Julie! I can’t thank them enough for there part to play in my Haiko’s health. For us it’s a lifestyle choice, Haiko will swim every week for as long a he is able, and for the rest of his days. It helped save his life; I want to keep it that way! Read Haiko’s full story here.

Nicole - Stratford

Owner

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