Some things always seem to go together: peanut butter and jelly, salt and pepper, dogs and walks.
While these combinations are better in pairs, we occasionally need to make do with only one or the other. Such is the case for a paralyzed dog who has lost its ability to move independently.
How do you care for a dog with paralysis when walking is so closely linked with the experience of pet ownership? If your dog can’t get up and greet you when you come home, are they even a dog?
Caring for a paralyzed pet involves relearning the definition of care. If your pet is living with paralysis, don’t give up hope. Many innovative dog owners have developed tips and tricks to make life easy, pleasant, and fun with their immobile pal.
We’ve created this guide to teach you a few essential dog care tips to use if your dog can’t walk. Read on to learn the basics of canine rehabilitation following paralysis.
About Paralysis in Dogs
Sometimes, a dog may be born with paralysis due to a spinal deformity or congenital disability. These dogs tend to be resilient. Since they live with limited mobility from birth, they quickly find ways to compensate and live full, active lives.
More commonly, dogs are born with full mobility and become paralyzed later in life.
Tick bites are the most common cause of paralysis in dogs. When a tick bites, it injects a neurotoxin into your dog’s bloodstream, which impairs movement. This paralysis is occasionally reversible when caught early.
Other times, dogs become permanently paralyzed as a result of congenital conditions. Contemporary breeding standards have increased the prevalence of these conditions in certain breeds. Dachshunds and corgis are particularly susceptible to Intervertebral Disc Disease, for example.
The third most common cause of paralysis in dogs is trauma from car accidents.
Walking a Paralyzed Dog
Even if your dog can’t move independently, it’s important to encourage movement manually. Ensure you’re helping your dog change positions at least every four to six hours. This can help prevent circulation issues and tissue damage.
Movement can also help prevent your furry friend from losing muscle tone. It has positive health benefits, such as encouraging good organ health. Most importantly, understimulated dogs can experience depression or other mood disorders, so it’s good to get them moving for their mental health.
Some dogs with partial paralysis can benefit from mobility aids like carts. These small contraptions are essentially “doggy wheelchairs” and help dogs with rear-leg paralysis enjoy the walks they love. Larger or fully paralyzed dogs may benefit from carts or trailers.
If your small dog is fully paralyzed, your best investment is a sling or dog backpack carrier. With this tool, you can bring your dog out and about, allowing them to take in the scents and sights they need to remain happy and alert.
Eating and Toileting
Paralysis makes all aspects of caring for your dog more challenging, including eating and toileting. You will need a lot of guidance from your veterinarian. There is often a learning curve, but these new aspects of care quickly become routine with practice.
If your pet cannot use the bathroom independently, your vet will teach you to use a urine catheter. Keeping this equipment as clean as possible is essential to prevent infection. Your dog may not be able to feel heat and inflammation, so you’ll need to monitor them carefully for signs of any medical issues.
You might also need to engage in the manual expression of the bladder. Your vet will help you understand your dog’s unique anatomy. Usually, applying gentle pressure to your dog’s tummy area is enough to stimulate urination.
Most dogs do not need assistance with defecation. If they struggle, ask your vet for laxative medication. A change in diet might also be appropriate.
Feeding Paralyzed Dogs
Some paralyzed dogs are capable of eating entirely on their own, while others need you to feed them manually. Either way, continuously monitor your paralyzed dog while they eat.
You must ensure your dog is upright during all mealtimes. You might need to prop them up to make this possible. If food goes down “the wrong pipe,” your dog can aspirate and choke, leading to pneumonia and other health complications.
Your dog should also remain upright while you administer medications.
Enrichment Tips for Paralyzed Dogs
All dogs, including senior dogs, need regular enrichment to maintain positive mental health. This can be a bit challenging for dogs with special mobility needs. The benefits are worth the effort and will improve your quality of life, too!
Ideal enrichment will stimulate at least one of your dog’s five senses. This can be as simple as putting on DogTV or setting up a bubble machine where your pup can see it. Consider playing nature sounds, cooking up a few interesting treats, and providing snuffle mats, too.
Every dog has unique interests, so choose enrichment activities that they respond to. The goal is to expose them to novelty and bring out their excitement and personality.
A Paralyzed Dog Is Still a Dog
While a paralyzed dog may not be able to walk, chase cars, or greet you at the door, they remain a dog on the inside. As their owner and best friend, you owe it to your pal to provide enrichment and opportunities to explore the world. The above tips can help make life better for paralyzed dogs and their owners.
There is no shortage of ways to improve your life, no matter what struggles you may be facing. Check out the rest of the blog for more lifestyle tips, lifehacks, and other tips to make each day a little brighter.