Do you know how to diaper your dog? It’s not as easy as you think, especially if your dog is paralyzed or has trouble standing. My dog Sophie wore a diaper at night when she first became paralyzed. It was a real challenge to put it on and have it stay in place all night. Like most pets that become paralyzed Sophie was incontinent and while I could help her go potty during the day by expressing her bladder, staying dry the whole night was a different story. [Read more…]
I recently had the great pleasure of interviewing Laurie Edge-Hughes, BScPT, MAnimSt(Animal Physio), CAFCI, CCRT. If you aren’t familiar with her name, the long list of credentials that follow it should give you a hint that Laurie Edge-Hughes is one of the leaders in her field of canine physical therapy.
After earning a degree in human physical therapy in 1993, Laurie realized she had a special interest in working with animals. She completed courses offered by the Canadian Horse and Animal Physical Therapists Association, which was the only type of animal PT education available at the time and then opened Four Leg Rehabilitation Therapy in Calgary, AB, Canada. Laurie realized there was a gap between the level of care given to large animals and the type of treatment available for small companion animals so she created and taught the first course in canine physical therapy in North America. She is still at the forefront of the field today teaching new canine physical therapists and speaking at symposiums around the world.
Here is my interview with Laurie:
Many of the dogs I write about are incontinent because of their spinal or neurological conditions. My own dog, Sophie was incontinent during most of the five years she was paralyzed. My husband (Ken) and I tried our best to keep Sophie on a strict bathroom schedule, but inevitably accidents happened.
One of the early lessons Ken and I learned was to play games with Sophie. The inspiration came from our youngest dog, Cody. He loved to roughhouse with Sophie before she became paralyzed and he didn’t see any reason why the games had to stop just because she couldn’t walk. Here are Sophie’s favorite games.
I am proud to say that Sophie had only two major Urinary Tract Infections during the 5 years she was paralyzed. UTI’s are very common in disabled pets, but they can be kept to a minimum if you as their caregiver learn some key points.
The first time Sophie had a UTI I missed ALL of the warning signs and she ended up suffering a severe infection. The first sign I missed happened when I tried to express her bladder. I found the process more difficult than usual, as if her body was fighting me. It also seemed like the urine was more concentrated in both color and smell, but I chalked it up to her deteriorating condition. Finally one day when I took her to the lawn to express her bladder, a mixture of urine and blood came pouring out and I knew we were in big trouble.
Sophie had to go on some pretty potent antibiotics for a month to clear up the infection. The veterinarian gave me these warning signs to prevent another episode:
- Keep your dog on a strict bathroom schedule. Our schedule was to take Sophie out three to four times a day: before breakfast, midday, after dinner and before bed.
- Learn how to express your dog’s bladder. Some paralyzed dogs leak urine or dribble and others, like Sophie, are unable to urinate altogether. Expressing their bladder will help in all cases.
- Make sure your dog’s bladder is completely EMPTY. This is one of the major causes of infections because small quantities of urine collect in the bladder and bacteria forms.
- Watch for a change in the smell of the urine. A strong ammonia smell could spell trouble.
- Watch for a change in the color of the urine. Bright yellow points to a dehydrated dog and dark urine could indicate an infection or blood in the urine.
- Be on the lookout for any discomfort your dog shows while being expressed. While Sophie didn’t have any sensation of pain, her body certainly sensed the infection and was protecting itself by resisting me when I pressed on her belly.
Paralyzed pets are also prone to urine scald on their skin. This happens when urine hits the sensitive skin on their lower bellies due to a bladder that overflowed or because of constant dribbling. Keeping that skin clean and dry with a soft towel will prevent the condition.
Learning how to express a dog’s bladder can be tricky, but it is a necessary skill. The basic tip is to find a bump that feels a lot like a furry tennis ball and then press on the sides of that bulge. Sophie and I used a standing up method, but there are many types of techniques available. Don’t give up hope if it takes a while to master and please enlist the help of your veterinarian.