THESE DOG DAYS
A resource for disabled dogs and their owners
Today we share the story of Barnaby the Frenchie from Queensland, Australia. Amelie tells us about their experience dealing with intervertebral disc disease (IVDD), some of the practical aspects of managing a paralyzed dog, and their recent success with acupuncture. Thanks Amelie!
In November 2018 we woke one morning to find Barnaby not wanting to move or use his back legs, but not showing any sign of pain. We took him to our local vet who didn't seem too concerned and sent us home with painkillers.
But 24 hours later there was no improvement, so back into the vet we went again and this time it was deemed dire. They diagnosed that he had a ruptured disc and a bruised spine and surgery was needed. Surgery went smoothly and Barnaby was recovering well. We were given an 8 week window for improvement... if Barnaby didn't show any sign of regaining movement in his hind legs in that time it was highly likely he would be permanently paralyzed.
In those 8 weeks we did physio, hydrotherapy and acupuncture. But sadly the 8 week mark came and went, and he remained what they called 'Deep pain negative'. Meaning his nerves were not getting the signal to his brain and back down to his bottom. We were extremely upset but Barnaby was his happy self and that spurred us on to research on how to adjust to this big change long term.
What is a regular day like with Barnaby?
Barnaby sleeps confined next to our bed and is a heavy sleeper. We wake at 6am and shake him awake, he usually tries to go back to sleep. He has no control over his bladder or bowel so I carry him outside and squeeze him to express his bladder, which took two weeks to master.
We all have breakfast and I assist him to make a bowel movement once he has finished eating. He gets psyllium husk in his breakfast which firms up his bowel movements, as his gut has been extra sensitive since his surgery. This makes cleaning up any accidents much easier too.
My partner is a FIFO workworker, so he is home every other week to keep Barnaby company during the day. The week he is away Barnaby stays home alone whilst I am at work. Some days my in-laws take him out to play in the yard during working hours.
Our biggest issue is when we come home after work he gets really excited and if he has even half a bladder going he'll jump around and some urine will come out and go all over him and the floor. That is the only hurdle we currently have, which isn't exactly a big sacrifice. We simply grab him quickly and go outside to clean him up and express what is left in his bladder after all the excitement. Then we're off for a spin in the near by park in his wheel chair.
We are generally homebodies, so a part from visiting friends and family on the weekend we mostly stay at home. Barnaby has always been a couch potato so that hasn't changed too much.
We have noticed Barnaby is more tense around dogs now, even dogs he has previously gotten along well with. Obviously, wheelchair or not, he feels vulnerable. But other than that, and helping him onto 'his' sofa, his life is very much the same as before.
Update from Amelie... Barnaby has since regained control of his bladder, which she attributes to their efforts with acupuncture!
Do you have any advice for others managing a paralyzed dog?
Expressing bowel movements has been a big change for us. By having a timed feeding routine combined with expressing the bowel at the same times each day helps eliminate accidents ten fold! A rubber glove, a little Vaseline and light touch on the area in question works a charm every time. Takes only takes around 30 seconds and we're done.
We only put a nappy on him at night in case of any surprise bowel movements. We also use one when travelling in the car as he tends to get very excited when we arrive at any destination he recognises. This sometimes results in a bit of an 'excitement wee'.
We use probiotics (such as Fil mjölk or similar) and psyllium husk to maintain gut health.
If the diagnose is severe, as it was for Barnaby, wait to make any big decisions. In the beginning we were very upset and seriously considering to re home him, and were being advised to simply put him down. But now, three months down the track, we are managing much better than we thought. It simply becomes part of our day to day routine.
Have you tried any physical therapy for Barnaby?
We do assisted swimming and we massage his muscles particularly around his torso and front legs. This was recommend by the physio as these areas can get overworked when he scoots around or when he is in the wheelchair. He thoroughly enjoys the massage and extra attention!
We have been advised anything for his hind legs would not really do much. And he is not in pain, otherwise we would have done it for pain relief.
A big thank you to Amelie for taking the time to share her story!
We have lots of other great examples of life with a paralyzed dog and a summary of the different products and advice that people have recommended. Please feel free to leave a comment below with any more helpful tips on managing paralyzed dogs.
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