Today we spend some time with the super cute Betsy and her owner Christi from Macungie, USA.
Betsy had a ruptured disc in 2011. She was a little "off" for 2 days, pacing around the house. Christie took her to the vet and they suspected a disc issue, but could not be sure. By Saturday she could not walk. We took her to the emergency vet and they did an MRI. The emergency vet told us that she had tumors on her spine and it would be best to euthanize her. Luckily they checked with their primary vet who referred them to a specialty hospital. This hospital performed surgery right away and found that it was a badly ruptured disc. They did a biopsy and no cancer was found.
Betsy was never able to regain full use of her legs, but she can pee and poop on her own now. She uses a cart to get around outside, but inside the house she scoots and gets around just fine.
Actually she is pretty fast in and out of her cart and sometimes it is hard for us to keep up with her!
Can you tell us what a regular day with Betsy is like?
Betsy and her canine brother sleep in our bedroom in their own beds. Betsy wakes me up early because she is always ready to start her day (no need for an alarm clock anymore). I carry her down the stairs and put her in her cart and let her outside in the yard while I prepare her breakfast (quality kibble, mixture of fruits and vegetables, Vetri-Disc, Vital Vities Vitamins, and GlycoFlex 3 - no need for pain meds) After breakfast I give her a massage making sure to massage her feet and back legs. She still has some feeling in them.
After that I go upstairs to take a shower. Betsy usually opts to stay downstairs so she can look out the windows. I use a baby gate to make sure she doesn't change her mind and try the stairs on her own. I learned pretty quickly to never underestimate her!
Afternoons and evenings are pretty normal. I work from home and my office is upstairs so if Betsy wants to come up, she will let me know, but she usually stays downstairs and goes from room to room, bed to bed (she has many beds!). The only issue is that if she barks really hard, some poop will come out. This started a few years after her surgery. Her muscles are just not strong enough to hold it in sometimes so I know if I hear her barking a lot, I should go down and clean it. Usually it is just a "nugget" or two and I pick it up and throw it in the toilet. Her beds are covered with towels, so if she soils them, I just throw them in the wash.
At night she will either lay on her bed on the floor or if she wants to sit on the couch with us, we will pick her up and put her on the couch.
Once a week she does a half hour "fun swim" at an Animal Therapy Center. This give her some good low impact exercise - plus she loves to go and see all of her friends.
In the evenings we will usually go for a walk around the neighborhood or to the park (weather permitting).
On the weekends Betsy loves to be out and about. She loves to meet new people and see old friends. I will either take her to the pet store or to the park or a few walks around the neighborhood. She also loves to hike. She can maneuver around rocks and branches and go up and down hills. She loves it and it is amazing to see her go.
Caring for a paralyzed pet is not as difficult as you may think once you and your pet establish a routine. Sticking to the routine as closely as possible will benefit you both.
What advice, tips or recommendations would you share with someone caring for a paralyzed dog?
If you have slippery floors (linoleum, tile, wood), purchase some area rugs. It will make it easier for your pet to get around. You can buy offcuts from a carpet store and they will bind the edges for you.
Foam mattress pads make great, inexpensive pet beds. Put one in each room so your pet has a comfortable place to lie down. Cover with an old sheet, blanket or towel. If you pet is incontinent, you can put a plastic garbage bag between the blanket and mattress pad. That way if they soil it, you only have to toss the blanket into the wash and the mattress pad stays dry. (Walmart has very inexpensive mattress pads. Depending on the size of your pet, you can cut up and make several beds from one pad)
Your pet may get sores on his/her feet from dragging them. You can buy booties from www.tammyandteddys.com. Carol makes them to order and they are very inexpensive compared to other boots that are not custom made. You can also purchase toddler socks and hold them up with a Velcro strip. For extra protection you can put a cotton pad on top of the paw and wrap it with vet-wrap (you can get the vet-wrap cheap at Tractor Supply - buy the ones for horses and cut to size - much cheaper than the vet wrap for dogs) and then put the sock over it. Make sure you do not wrap it too tight and cut off the circulation.
You can also coat the toes of baby socks with Plasti-Dip. Stuff the sock with some newspaper or stuffing (if you are like me you have plenty laying around from the toys your dog has ripped apart) to make the shape of the paw. It doesn’t have to be pretty, you just have to make enough room to get the paw into the sock. Dip the tips of the socks in the Plasti-Dip and let hang dry. Repeat one or two more times. Remove the stuffing. You can hold the socks up on your dog’s feet with the same Velcro strips. When the toes start to wear you can either re-dip or patch them with Re-Rack. This comes in a little bottle with a brush so you can just repair the tiny holds that will come with wear. You can wash the socks with the Plasti-Dip in cold water in the washing machine. Best to hang dry. (Note: do not dip the socks with your dog’s paw in it. The Plasti-Dip will soak through the sock and stick to your dog’s foot)
I use hair ties and tie them to the back of the cart and place my dogs foot in. This allows her to move her legs while providing some resistance and keeps her feet off the ground. I find they work better then just the "feet hangers" provided with the carts.
If you have stairs in your house and do not want your pet to navigate them without supervision, a baby gate is a must. Do not underestimate your pet’s ability to try to go up or down the stairs if they really want to. You can buy 2 inexpensive baby gates and leave one each at the top and bottom of the staircase. Baby gates are also helpful if you want to confine your pet to a certain room in your house. Even if you have a door on the room, some pets feel more comfortable if they can see out and just putting a baby gate across the threshold will help them to feel more at ease while still containing them. You can also get an inexpensive exercise pen to block off portions of a room. These are easy to move and manipulate into different shapes. Just make sure it is put in such a position that it will not fall if your pet bumps into it.
Baby Wipes are great to have around for quick clean ups. No need to purchase expensive “Pet Wipes”. There are many different types of Baby Wipes (ie, sensitive skin, fragrance free, etc) and they are a fraction of the cost of “Pet Wipes”.
Rice filled heating pads and massage can also be helpful to soothe sore muscles. Check with your vet or physical therapist on what to use and where.
When driving, if your dog will not go in a crate or wear a seatbelt, you can put a board across the back seat of your car to cover the entire back so they do not fall to the floor while you are driving. Wrap the board in foam padding and durable fabric. Place the board across the back seat so your dog does not fall to the floor while you are driving. You may need to place a few supports on the floor to hold up the board depending on your car. When passengers need to sit in the back, simply remove the entire board. (Note, it is safest for them to be in a crate or secured by a seatbelt)
What rehab have you tried with Betsy?
We have tried just about everything. In the beginning we did massage, physical therapy, acupuncture, cold laser, chiropractic. I think everything helped a little bit.
We took Betsy to a Physical Therapist, but also did a lot of physical therapy at home. She still goes to a chiropractor about once a month. She is very active and has a habit of throwing herself out of whack! I massage her every day which helps her sore muscles (plus she likes it).
What advice would you offer someone who has a dog in a similar situation?
I think the most important thing is getting into a routine and sticking to it as much as you can. Today, caring for her is just as normal as taking care of any other dog for me.
I will not lie. It is tough in the beginning. I twas a lot tougher on me though than my dog. However, I have never regretted on minute of it. To get to spend all of these years with her is the greatest gift. She is such an inspiration to me and everyone she meets and is so happy all the time.
Christie’s links for further resources:
www.forpawshospice.org (to get 2nd hand dog carts – Eddies Wheels also has 2nd hand and rental carts)
Follow Betsy’s adventures on Instagram.