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As devoted pet owners, we often find ourselves facing uncharted territories when our best friend encounters life-altering circumstances. When your first bring home a pet with mobility issues, there are a lot of unknowns and unforeseen challenges. In this article, we will explore the essential aspects of caring for a paralyzed pet, and highlight a few unexpected things, that you may feel unprepared for. Including, making necessary home adjustments to understanding the unique bathroom needs of a paralyzed dog. Through expert insights and real-life experiences, we aim to empower you with the knowledge and compassion required to provide your paralyzed pet with the best possible quality of life while ensuring that you, too, receive the self-care and support you need on this remarkable journey.
Expect to Make Changes Around the House
When you first bring a paralyzed pet home, you need to look at your house with a fresh set of eyes. You need to ask yourself two things: is my pet safe, and do they have easy access to everything they need? Here are a few things to be aware of:
Crate rest – Often the first thing your vet will recommend. Crate rest is especially important during the healing process or before/after surgery. It’s crucial that you follow your veterinarian’s instructions and limit your dog’s mobility until given the go-ahead to move around freely.
Pet gates – Just because you know your dog can’t manage the stairs safely, doesn’t mean your dog knows it’s unsafe. You may need to restrict your dog’s access to certain areas of the house, including stairs. A pet gate is a great way to contain your dog’s movements and keep them close to you where you can keep an eye on them.
Padded bedding – Many paralyzed dogs will spend a lot more downtime on the floor. A padded surface acts as a protective barrier between your dog’s joints and the hard floor. Many paralyzed pets may not be able to shift themselves easily to find a more comfortable position, which means spending extended time on their side. They may need your help to reposition them every few hours to help prevent pressure sores from forming.
Access to food and water – Make sure your dog always has access to water bowls. They may no longer be able to get up and walk across the room to get a drink. Also, keeping your dog hydrated can make it less likely for them to develop urinary tract infections, which means your dog will need their water refilled regularly. More hydration also means more frequent potty trips are needed!
What They May Not Tell You About Bathroom Breaks
Caring for a newly paralyzed pet also means paying a lot of attention to their bathroom needs. Many paralyzed dogs are incontinent, this may mean that your dog needs to wear a diaper or even need your help to manually express their bladder or bowel. Here are a few things to be aware of about your paralyzed dog’s bathroom needs:
How many times a day does a paralyzed dog need to go outside?
There isn’t a single correct answer to this question. Every dog’s potty needs are different. Many experts say that most paralyzed dogs will need to go outside at least three times a day. But it’s quite common for a dog to need to relieve themselves as many as four or five times a day. More frequent bathroom breaks will help to avoid accidents.
Getting your dog outside quickly can be a challenge too! Check with your vet first, but using a dog wheelchair or simple lifting harness are great ways to get your dog up and outside when it’s time for them go.
Hygiene is important
When caring for a paralyzed dog, there will be extra cleanup. Accidents do happen, which means lots of baths! For dogs wearing a diaper, hygiene is incredibly important. Diaper changes need to happen frequently; your pet’s skin can be incredibly sensitive. Regular diaper changes help to keep your dog comfortable and dry. While also helping them to avoid painful urine burns.
Dogs that drag themselves on the floor can scrape themselves pretty easily. A drag bag is a great way to protect your dog’s sensitive skin and create a safe way for them to scoot around without hurting themselves. For incontinent pets, the drag bag is made of water resistant material and can be worn with a diaper.
You Need to Take Care of Yourself Too!
As rewarding as it can be to care for a paralyzed pet, at times, it can also be overwhelming and exhausting for their primary caregiver. It’s easy to burn out, so remember to care for yourself too. Take time to recharge yourself. Even five minutes of quiet meditation or fresh air can go a long way. There’s truth to what they say on airplanes, “put on your own oxygen mask before you help others around you.”
This includes getting a good night’s sleep. When dog mom, Tyme Powell’s pup Gravy was first paralyzed, sleep was the first thing she and her partner sacrificed. Tyme says, “In the beginning, we slept on the floor or couch with him in the living room for a couple of months so he wouldn’t fall off the bed, and we were barely sleeping at all. Finally, our physical therapist told us, ‘Oh, no, you are totally fine to sleep through the night. He’ll be fine,’ so that was when we started trying other things. It’s just so unclear in the beginning what can and can’t be done.”
You can’t fully be there for your dog if you’re not rested and taking care of yourself. There’s nothing selfish about giving yourself permission to have a good night’s rest.
Caring for a paralyzed pet is undeniably demanding, but it is also a truly rewarding experience. By providing unwavering love and support, you can make a profound difference in your pet’s life. Remember that seeking guidance from veterinarians and learning from the experiences of fellow pet owners can be invaluable. Furthermore, don’t overlook the importance of self-care. Just as you provide comfort and care for your pet, taking care of your own well-being is essential. By navigating this path with empathy, patience, and dedication, you can ensure that your paralyzed pet enjoys a fulfilling life, and together, you will create enduring memories of resilience, love, and triumph.