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.
Dr. James. St. Clair is the director of TopDog Animal Health and Rehabilitation in Meriden, CT. He is also the producer of 66 educational videos about dogs with orthopedic and neurological conditions that affect their ability to walk. I’d like to share one of his videos about the SupportRX Total Body Harness System for paralyzed dogs and those recovering from orthopedic surgery.
While researching another topic for Lessons From A Paralyzed Dog, I came across Dr. St. Clair’s rehab video series that includes the benefits of hydro therapy, recognizing the early signs of canine arthritis and hip dysplasia and webinars for orthopedic surgeries and recovery.
I was very impressed with Dr. St. Clair’s knowledge and willingness to explain a condition and how he makes a diagnosis. He also explains the rehab options available to help dogs with orthopedic and neurological problems.
The Total Body Harness System made perfect sense to me. When Sophie’s condition advanced, it affected her ability to control her front legs in addition to the paralysis of her rear legs. Often her front legs didn’t have the strength to support her upper body and she would fall or trip when she walked. The added support that the Total Body Harness gives to a dog’s chest would have made life much easier.
I am not being compensated in anyway by TopDog, but when I saw the harness and educational videos I thought they were an important resource to share. I’d love to hear if you think a full body harness would improve the quality of life for your handicapped dog.
The North Texas Animal Rehabilitation Center provides physical therapy, acupuncture treatments and other hands-on services to dogs that are having trouble walking. Physical therapy clinics for special needs pets have become an accepted mainstream form of treatment over the past few years and are found in many cities.
Has your dog been helped by physical therapy, acupuncture or another hands-on treatment? If the answer is yes, I’d love to hear your story. Please share your experience on the Contact Us page.
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