Canine paralysis can be one of the most challenging disabilities for pet owners to deal with. However, according to the American Animal Hospital Association, animals are very adept at adjusting to and dealing with a disability. With the help and encouragement of their owners, disabled pets tend to get accustomed to life as it is and simply “go with the flow.”
Caring for a paralyzed dog requires changes in your pet’s living environment, as well as some good old-fashioned patience and tender loving care. Here are some tips:
Block the Stairs
For starters, stairs should be blocked off (child gates work well for this). You should confine your pet to an area where nothing is on the floor that can cause injury.
Protect the Legs
If the paralysis causes the dog to drag his hind legs, you may choose to cover your pet’s legs to prevent damage to his skin. There are also special harnesses and slings available to help safeguard your pet from irritations such as heat rashes and carpet burns.
Prevent Any Sores
Bed sores and other types of skin lesions often become a problem faced by paralyzed canines, because of their inability to move. These sores need immediate treatment, according to the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine. Consider buying an orthopedic dog bed, which cushions vulnerable pressure points by design.
Owners should provide some physical rehab for their pet on a daily basis, several times a day. Hydrotherapy, such as supervised “swimming” in the bathtub, if your dog is small is another good form of therapy. This therapy regimen will help with circulation and in maintaining joint flexibility.
Urination problems sometimes have to be dealt with in paralyzed dogs. Severe bladder infection (known as cystitis) is caused by being unable to empty the bladder entirely. It is much easier to prevent than to cure, according to Veterinary Specialists of the Valley, in Los Angeles. The best prevention is to manually empty the bladder three or four times each day.
If your dog is not doing this on his own, you can help by putting gentle pressure on his abdomen while he is standing. Use both hands to do this. Another solution might be doggie diapers, though they won’t work for every pet.
As urine can cause skin irritations, a giving your dog a bath every week is very important. If your dog experiences problematic dry skin because of the frequent baths, ask your veterinarian for a moisturizing rinse. Perhaps you will want to keep some baby wipes handy, as they will be helpful in keeping your “baby’s” rear end clean. Good grooming practices will ensure not only your pet’s cleanliness but that of your household as well.
On the bright side, urine control usually returns before the function of limbs.
Did you know that there are also wheelchairs available for our pets in need? Lightweight, with big, thick wheels, these chairs can move across bumps or shallow water with no problem. This invention has helped numerous handicapped dogs stay mobile and give them back the confidence they once had.
One piece of advice — and this goes even for adjustable wheelchairs, which adjust to fit almost any size or breed — always keep your pet on a leash.
Be Patient, Be Positive
While caring for a paralyzed dog may seem intimidating at first, together you and your pet can conquer the challenge. By modifying your lifestyles and making a few adjustments here and there, the two of you can live, love and laugh. Your dog doesn’t feel sorry for himself, and neither should you!
Along with his age and personality, your pet’s drive to live with his paralysis depends a lot on your ability to cope with his many needs and make the best of a less-than-ideal situation. You’ll probably end up being most moved not by what your dog can’t do, but what he can do.
This guest post was written by Gayle Hickman, who writes for the pet advice website PetsAdviser.com. She writes health and behavior articles about both dogs and cats.