This was a big week for a paralyzed dog named Caesar. He flew on his first airplane ride from Ohio to Colorado and he met the man who adopted him. [Read more…]
When I started Lessons From A Paralyzed Dog one of my goals was to build an online community of support for pets with special needs. Little by little I’ve been hearing from pet parents and organizations who want to share their story about a specially-abled dog or cat. Last week Katherine Head, one of the founders of Unchained Activism For Animals, contacted me about how the animal rescue group, which is run entirely by teenagers, is trying to save the life of a one-eyed cat named Trooper.
Pet Insurance has become popular over the past few years. A study done by Embrace Pet Insurance found that out of the 165 million owned pets in the U.S. slightly more than 1 million are covered by one of the leading insurance companies.
I’m bringing up this subject because I recently found out that some of the top pet insurance plans do NOT cover our dogs and cats for rehabilitation therapies or alternative care. Coverage for treatments like hydrotherapy, acupuncture and physical therapy are extremely important for the recovery and well-being of paraplegic dogs and other pets with special needs. It took a long time for these services to become mainstreamed into veterinary medicine and it’s disappointing to see them excluded or limited from some policies.
What would you do if your dog couldn’t walk because of an accident?
Since starting Lessons From A Paralyzed Dog, I’ve tried to cover a wide range of medical conditions that cause dogs to have mobility issues, but I’ve never discussed how accidents can play a role in turning a healthy dog into one that is unable to walk.
It’s kind of ironic that I haven’t covered this topic because one of the first dogs my rescue group, Heaven Can Wait Animal Society, took in was a big black lab named Chooka who broke his two front legs jumping from a second story balcony at an apartment complex. The two young men who owned Chooka couldn’t afford the many surgeries the dog needed so they surrendered him to my organization. Chooka had three or four very costly surgeries that nearly sent my group into bankruptcy. Thankfully he recovered enough to be able to walk with assistance. He was adopted into a wonderful home where he lived a long and happy life.
I’m bringing all of this up because the pet parent of another black lab named Grace contacted me to see if there might be any readers who are going through the daily challenges she and her dog are facing after an accident.
Kerry is a pet mom with the utmost devotion after her dog fell 30 feet. Here is a glimpse into their amazing life.
“I deal with a very different type of challenge with Grace. When she was 11 weeks old, Grace fell about 30 feet from of a second story and broke both of her front legs. After a panicked horrible drive to the emergency room, lots and lots of tests the vets were amazed to find she had broken most of the bones in her front legs and somehow hadn’t suffered any other injuries.
Still in critical condition, I was told Grace would be lucky to live and that they would have to take out most of the bones in her legs and replace them with metal because there were so many fragments of bone ‘floating’ around.
I’ll be honest if I didn’t have insurance I may not have been able to go through with the surgeries at the time and the upkeep I still deal with today. Three surgeries later and around $12,000 CAD she was a little ball of love with two big casts on her front arms.
Dr. Audrey Remedios is the brilliant veterinarian who did Gracie’s surgeries. She is one of the best in her field and I’ve since gotten to know her as a gift to the veterinary orthopedic world; all of the credit goes to her every day that I still have Grace!
A normal day for us is putting on Grace’s special harness which is thicker under the tummy than a normal one and heading out for our morning break. Grace’s left front leg doesn’t work at all although she can lift it for balance. Her right leg works to an extent that she can bend her toes enough to put pressure on it if needed, but usually when her balance starts to go.
Grace has a full time dog sitter ($25 a day) who treats her fantastically like any other dog. She only plays with big dogs and her best friends are a mix of Burmese, Newfies and a Pitbull.
We found that due to the lack of control of her legs she kicks little dogs and sometimes ends up scratching them so the sitter and I do our best to keep her away from anyone she could accidentally kick in the face.
Grace goes to physical therapy 2-3 times a week ($60 an hour) where we actually do more work on her back legs than front to keep her mobile. Her therapist and doctors joke and say she’s an opposite body builder strong legs but nothing in the arms! In addition to therapy she also gets shots for arthritis ($75 once a week) and takes pain killers and pills to keep her going ($85-90 per month).
Grace walks on her back legs probably 60-70% of the time and only comes down when her balance goes; imagine a dog walking heel to toe almost so when she walks on the hardwood you can almost hear the thump of her heel then her toe. I’m not quite 5 feet tall and at full stance Grace and I stand about the same height.
I imagine her movement may be something similar to a person who doesn’t have use of their legs because she kind of throws her front legs out in font then flops down on her side or back with her legs hanging to the side.
Grace can even do stairs if she’s up for it!
Everything in our house is low to the floor, beds and couches included. We also have lots of blankets and beds all around the house in case Grace gets tired and needs to lie down. I treat her disability the same as I imagine I would if she was a human child.
Grace eats a huge protein diet and her only treats are a special homemade cheese and carrots. I’m lucky because carrots are her favorite food on earth and she’d eat them before a nice steak.
Grace is not one of those little dogs that people carry in their purses. She’s a 50 lb. black lab with the vocal cords of a husky so it’s difficult to lift her and move her around.
I have never met another dog parent with the same issues and I would really like to talk with someone, especially for the future. As Grace gets older and completely loses the use of her legs, they may have to be amputated. It’s been tough not having anyone else, but we are making the best of it. Grace gives the best hugs in the entire world with her arms wrapped around your waist and wet puppy kisses. She loves people but is always wary of new ones. She is as protective over me as I am for her.”
Please leave a comment below if you would like to reach out to Kerry and Grace.
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.