Pet parents of newly diagnosed paralyzed dogs worry a lot about how they will manage all of the daily needs of their fur kid. One of their biggest fears is how to take care of a paralyzed dog when you work away from home. Making arrangements for a pet who can’t walk on their own or relieve themselves without help, seems like an impossible task. And sadly, some dogs are euthanized because of it.
I have to confess it’s a question that’s weighed on me too. You see, I was lucky when Sophie became paralyzed because I worked from home. There are many times I’ve tried to picture how I would’ve handled her need to pee, poop or get a drink of water if she hadn’t been by my side all day.
So, when I decided to write about how pet families were tackling this problem, I went to my favorite source for answers. I asked readers on our Facebook page. An overwhelming 179 people were generous enough to share their daily routines.
If you’re struggling with this situation, I know you’re going to find their solutions interesting. And hopefully their answers will set your mind at ease. You’ll see there are many ways for you to take care of your paralyzed dog when you work. (You’ll also be relieved to know there aren’t 179 comments to read. I summarized them.) Thank you to everyone who shared their story.
The worries of one pet family
When I posted the question on the Lessons From A Paralyzed Dog Facebook page, it struck a chord with pet mom Carol C. Her dog has Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) and the condition is progressing. She commented how she was paying close attention to the answers pet owners shared.
“There is one day where my dog will be left alone for 8 hours. She has DM and just started not being able to walk. We have put her in diapers and she pees fine. I am worried because she doesn’t get up for anything including water. I work 10 minutes away and plan on coming home for lunch, but sometimes I get busy. Is she going to be okay?”
Carol’s question confirmed what so many owners fear. They worry if their dog stay home alone all day, their condition will get worse.
Here are some of the top concerns pet families have:
- Because paralyzed dogs are usually incontinent, you worry how to keep your pup dry.
- Because your dog can’t walk, you have concerns about them being able to get to their water bowl.
- Because of their mobility problems, you worry about pressure sores. Dogs that lay in one position too long are prone to sores and hygromas.
- Because of their disability you worry about your dog being lonely. An able-bodied dog can roam around the house or go outdoors. But it’s less likely to happen when your dog is paralyzed.
- And because of their incontinence you are concerned about the cleanliness of your home if they have repeated accidents.
If you worry about any of these problems, let me reassure you the solutions pet parents have come up with, will make you feel 100 percent better.
The 4 categories of working pet families
After reading all of the comments, I saw clear divisions in how people were tackling this situation. I divided them into 4 categories:
- Dogs who are home all day on their own
- Pet owners who come home for lunch
- People who found help to check-in on their paralyzed pups
- Owners who take their dog to work
The following are stories pet owners shared.
Dogs who are home on their own all day
This was the largest category of how pet parents take care of a paralyzed dog when they work away from home. Some have been handling life this way for many years. Here are excerpts and compilations of their daily routines.
The vast majority of pet owners use a similar system. They manually express their pet’s bladder when their dog wakes up and once again before they head out the door. Some put their dog in a diaper or belly band while they’re away, while others put pee pads on the floor. About half the dogs roam free in the house while the other half have access to only one or two rooms, a play pen or a doggie x-pen.
All of the dogs have water bowls within easy reach, toys to entertain them and many had the company of other dogs in the family.
Pet owners said when they come up at the end of the day, they immediately express their dog’s bladder. Then they clean up any urine or fecal messes and spend the rest of the evening enjoying family time.
The accounts people shared of their daily routines had very little drama.
Owners who express their dog’s bladder
Paula W has a paralyzed dog named Katy who was hit by a car 2 years ago. Paula works 45 hours a week so Katy has free run of the house along with her 8 dog housemates. Paula expresses Katy before she leaves for work, when she gets home and before bed. She looks at leaks or poops as a small price to pay for having Katy in her life.
Paula’s routine runs so smoothly there was even time for Katy to star in her first TV commercial. It highlights dogs in wheelchairs.
Joyce C has a boxer with DM. When her dog got sick, she worked full time, had one child in high school and another in college. She learned how to express her dog’s bladder and used a small glycerin suppository (recommended by her vet) to express his bowels before going to work. She also found that an inexpensive webcam relieved her anxiety about leaving her pup. It allowed her to watch him and talk to him. Later Joyce taught her kids how to express their dog so they could pitch in with his care.
Lauren L, Tracy P, Andrei S, Angelina M, Sam M, Brian B, are all pet parents who also subscribe to the “express before you leave” method.
Judy J from South Africa gives her dog Vesper free rein of the garden while she’s away. Vesper stays in her wheelchair during the day. She has a kennel she drives into and huge cushion where she can park and rest.
Pet parents who use diapers
Missy B puts her dog, Domino, in a diaper when she heads to her part time job. If there’s an accident, she cleans it up. She also adds big “bumper” pads all over the room to protect Domino.
Alyssa G likes cloth diapers for her paralyzed dog. She cuts a hole for the tail and her dog roams free in the house.
Liz O uses diapers and a crate for her dog Pudge. She spreads toys on his bed and keeps on eye on him with a camera.
Owners who use pads, towels and other barriers
Becky B has been using washable waterproof pads in her dog, Wheels, crate for the past 5 years. Wheels has access to water at all times to keep her kidneys flushed. Becky is proud to report her system has kept her dog free of urinary tract infections for the past 3 years.
Lauren L covers her tile floor with old towels for her French bulldog. Then she puts a trash bag under his bed for leakage and gives her dog access to the kitchen for the day.
Jessica L covers her bedroom floor with pee pads so her dog has room to play. Her dog doesn’t need to be expressed. She calls her bedroom a “giant dog kennel.”
Lisa B has a paralyzed dachshund. He stays in a crate during the day, diaper free, with a washable pad under him.
Chantal F has a dog who dribbles so she puts him in a tiled room and spay and wipes the floor clean when she returns home.
Tallya S uses has a unique routine while she’s gone. First, she lays down rubber mats to cover her small living room floor. Next, she covers them with a bedsheet, a flannel crib sheet and pee pads on top.
Angelina M’s dog has been paralyzed for 5 years. She expresses her before leaving and uses a twin-size egg crate mattress for her dog to rest. The egg crate prevents pressure sores. She also places several water bowls around her pup.
Erica G uses pee pads and baby wipes to keep their newly paralyzed dog dry.
Dog owners who pop home for lunch
Debra A is lucky to live about 20 minutes from work. She comes home every day to take care of her dog Shadow. She puts Shadow into her wheelchair for a water and pee break and then heads back to work.
Donna S, Shelley L and Morgan F all wrote to say they come home once during the workday. Donna takes her pup outside while she’s home, Shelley uses the time to change out pee pads because her foster dog leaks urine and Morgan takes her dog to an indoor potty she made out of a baby swimming pool.
Lori M’s dog Cassie has been paralyzed for 5 years. During the first few years, Lori would express Cassie before work and pop in at lunch to see how she was doing. She’d clean up any accidents, play with Cassie and head back to work. Today, Cassie’s body works better, so she’s expressed twice a day and is “happy as a clam.”
Pet parents who found help to come in
Mon’ Taj wrote about the caring vet techs in her community in Rockford, IL who are available to drop in on special needs pets. They take dogs out to relieve themselves, give medications and check on their welfare.
Tracey H said her dog Jake wore a diaper while she was away. Because he couldn’t control his bowels, he stayed in a gated mudroom with an industrial rug and washable pee pads. And twice a day an “amazing” dog walker took Jake and his brother Melvin on walks. Jake went in his stroller.
Carina T works full time, but her husband is able to work from home. He’s become the go to person in their house for expressing their dog Lola who’s been paralyzed since she was 4 months old.
Teresa P expresses her mini schnauzer Gino before she leaves for work and when she returns in the evening. The dog had an FCE stroke. A helper comes in at 11:30 each day to express Gino and give him playtime.
Owners who take their dog to work
Caryn Mc used a combination of taking her Chihuahua Caspian to work and enlisting the help of a veterinary daycare. Caspian had a birth defect that left him unable to use his front limbs.
He spent 4 days at daycare where he was loved and cuddled by the staff. And on Fridays, he went to work with mom where he stayed in Caryn’s office and enjoyed lunch with her coworkers at dog friendly restaurants.
Nicola P feels lucky to bring her dog to work. The pup stays in a crate in an area with a small garden. Nicola checks on her at 11am, 3pm and they do physical therapy together at lunchtime.
Doreen S brought her dog to work and during breaks the two went for walks with a wheelchair.
Sarah B takes her dog Gizmo to the office. He has a play pen and toys and goes outside to be expressed several times a day.
What I learned
I was very impressed with every story shared. I know these comments will be a lifesaver to the family of a newly diagnosed animal.
Each remark demonstrated an overwhelming love and devotion to a disabled dog. I loved how these pet parents didn’t sweat the small stuff. And how they went found practical solutions to their circumstances.
But the most important lesson I learned from pet owners who care for a paralyzed dog while they work, is how similar it is to leaving an able-bodied dog home for the day.
Each family takes precautions to ensure the safety, health and mental well-being of their fur kid. The two are Not That Different. It’s a concept worth remembering.