I am thrilled to share this guest post from fellow blogger and animal lover Nikki Carvey. Trained as a journalist in the UK, Nikki now makes her home in Los Angeles where she says she “complains less about the weather.” Nikki has always had a passion for English Bulldogs and she writes about them often. Not long ago she met another family of Bulldogs that she feels has an important lesson for all pet parents.
The family calls themselves Mickey and The Padded Bum Crew because all of the pups are in diapers due to a birth defect that is commonly seen in English Bulldogs.
It is called Spina bifida and the condition happens when one or more of a dog’s vertebrae do not properly fuse together in the womb. While the problem isn’t well-understood, researchers believe there is a strong genetic component that is somehow linked to malnutrition or the ingestion of toxins by the mother during pregnancy. Dogs with Spina bifida have problems walking, controlling their muscles and are usually incontinent. They can also have a drainage from their spine. The good news is Spina bifida doesn’t get worse with time.
The Magic Of Mickey And The Padded Bum Crew by Nikki Carvey
It takes a special person to adopt a special needs pet. So you can imagine how special Selina and Sandi Kenitzer are to have three healthy English Bulldogs plus FIVE with Spina bifida. And, at the risk of obnoxiously over-using the word ‘special’, I have a special interest in them. One rescue was adopted from me! Known on Facebook as Mickey the Bulldog and the Padded Bum Crew, they are helping spread the message that dogs with spina bifida have quality of life and deserve to live. In the past it has been common practice for breeders and vets to automatically euthanize them, but thankfully that is changing.
The Kenitzers have owned bulldogs for 15 years. After losing their beloved bully Tubby in 2012, they were feeling the void when Selina came across puppy Mickey. There was just something about him – although she soon began to wonder what she’d got herself into. ‘The first week, I remember trying to change a diaper and I had to wrestle him like an alligator. It was tough, but then everything fell into place.’ She later found out that Mickey was born the same day Tubby died.
Mickey’s crew has now grown to also include Bessie, Minnie, Lilo and Stitch. According to Selina, the daily routine is pretty much the same as with any dog – only she changes diapers four times a day.
While most dogs with Spina bifida are generally not in pain, they are incontinent. Every day begins, after feeding, with a butt bath. ‘Then I put on a fresh diaper and they go and play or lay down. They’re changed again around noon, in the afternoon, and after dinner.’
Though cute, most diaper bulldogs are badly bred. Which means, they come with other medical issues. Mickey’s hind legs were fused, and he had to be hobbled for the first year. Bessie’s back leg issues put strain on her front end, causing arthritis. Stitch’s rear tendons are so poor he needs weekly therapy at UC Davis. Sadly too, some don’t survive. Jeyda, the Kenitzer’s beloved second spina bifida rescue, died a year later from surgical complications due to palate and trachea problems.
For many, the ups and downs of caring for these dogs would be overwhelming.
But Sandi and Selina’s passion is contagious. When their local vet was faced with euthanizing a spina bifida bulldog puppy, he called them instead. Pup Grady is now in a loving home. Even their specialist vet is now fostering a rescue bulldog puppy with spina bifida! ‘I believe this is our calling,’ concludes Selina, ‘There’s no guarantee that they’ll live a long life but look at how they live every day. They’re so in the moment. Especially when playing…..They’re my babies.’
Key points about Spina bifida
- The birth defect occurs when the vertebrae fail to grow completely around the spinal cord.
- Portions of the spinal cord are left exposed.
- Symptoms may not occur until a puppy tries to walk.
- Symptoms vary in severity and may include: hind leg weakness, an unsteady gait, incontinence.
- Sometimes surgery can make small repairs to the spine.
- The condition does not worsen with age.
- The English Bulldog is most commonly affected dog; Manx are most commonly affects cats.
- Other breeds affected are Boston terrier, Chihuahua, Dalmatian, Pug and Samoyed.
- Spina bifida is also known as Spinal dysraphism.
- The Canine Inherited Disorders Database run by the University of Prince Edward Island is collecting data on dogs with Spina bifida.
You’ll also enjoy: Hemivertebrae, The Spine Defect of Flat-Faced Dogs