One would consider Daniela Mauler well educated. She has studied in Germany, Austria and Belgium. She is a board-certified specialist in veterinary neurology and an assistant teaching professor in the Veterinary Health Center at MU’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Yet, her passion for improving the outcomes of her patients led her back to school. She decided to earn a Canine Rehabilitation Certificate.
“I started doing rehabilitation services while I was a vet student in Germany,” Mauler says. “I always thought it was very valuable for neurology patients. Then, I became a neurologist and worked here with Stephanie Gilliam, our rehab practitioner, who had completed the rehab certificate. In working with her, I saw how my patients benefited from it, so I decided I wanted to learn more about it. That’s when I went back and did this certification process.”
“You should always be learning. If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong place.” — Erica Bearman
Until quite recently, the Canine Rehabilitation Certificate Program (CCRP) at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, was the only university-based credential program for canine rehabilitation accepted by the Registry of Approved Continuing Education for veterinarians, veterinary technicians, physical therapists and other related professions.
The curriculum consists of seven modules completed in order, including online curriculum, hands-on labs, elective courses, clinical practicum that includes an externship and case studies, and the certificate exam, which must be completed at the University of Tennessee.
“I did some of the curriculum online, then went back to the University of Tennessee in July for the one-week course, and then took my exam there in December,” Mauler says.
“Part of the certificate program was to be an extern; I got to be an extern with Stephanie Gilliam — she was my boss for all the practical part of the course,” Mauler recalls. “We both learned a lot because she took the certification program about 10 years ago, and there have been some changes in the meantime, and a couple of more advanced tools have come out, so I learned more about lasers than she had the opportunity to learn about 10 years ago. We feel we both learned a lot through that process.”
“Learning never exhausts the mind.” — Leonardo da Vinci
While the professionals benefit from the additional knowledge and an added credential, the ultimate beneficiaries are the end users — canine patients.
“Since I came here, and I have this interest, we are giving our patients more rehab than they used to get,” Mauler says. “There are numerous studies now showing that even a specific group of dogs who are unable to feel their legs after back surgery, for example, benefit from rehab. So now, we start them earlier. I am really pushing toward getting everyone on the neurology service to do rehab on their patients.
“On the neurologic side of things, most of the dogs we do rehab on are ‘spine dogs’ — dogs with infarctions in the spinal cord or slipped discs,” Mauler continues. “We have done some rehab on dogs with brain trauma, to get them up and walking faster, but that is out of the ordinary. On the orthopedic side of things, we do a lot of rehab on dogs with hip dysplasia and dogs with canine cruciate ligament disease. We are involving students on the neurology and orthopedic surgery rotation in the rehab of their patients, but we don’t have a rehab rotation yet. We’re working on that.”
“Always keep learning. The second you stop, you will be outdated.” — A.J. Kumar
Rehabilitation on orthopedic patients sometimes occurs both before and after surgery. Adrienne Siddens, rehabilitation technician and co-coordinator with Gilliam of rehabilitation services and another CCRP graduate, likes to call it “prehab” when dogs receive rehab prior to surgery.
The Neurology Service also works with the Nutrition Service on a program they call “Fat Camp,” where overweight dogs can get a good weight-loss diet and some good exercise.
“We would love to expand the rehab program here,” Mauler says. “Our goal is to have a program where we could offer a rotation for the students as well. We’re still a little short on people at the moment, so in the near term we probably don’t have the time, but maybe next year we’ll start expanding the program.“
Mauler is a native of Cologne, Germany, who received a doctor of veterinary medicine in the country of her birth. She worked in private practice as a visiting veterinarian in New York and Berlin, and then completed a small animal rotating internship at the University of Vienna. She passed the Educational Commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates program to become eligible for licensure in the United States, and then completed a neurology residency at Ghent University in Belgium.