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?
Could you tell us a bit about Eddie and how he came into your life?
In September 2018 Eddie got loose from his yard. While I was walking our own dogs Eddie saw us and ran across the street. To my horror Eddie was hit by two separate vehicles. We rushed into our vet where they realized his back has been broken. They were able to locate his owners and unbelievably they refused to have any involvement. We refused to let him be abandoned and instead decided to take over his care. We transported him to a surgical center and I learned to that his injury was a fracture and dislocation of his spine.
Fortunately, there were no other significant injuries however they told us that it was unlikely that Eddie would ever be able to walk again. We decided to pursue surgery to stabilize his spine to give him a second chance at happiness rather than euthanize him. Eddie is paralyzed from his mid-back down and has no control of bowel or bladder function. He is incontinent of stool, and generally in urinary retention. He has retained some spinal reflexes but is unable to spinal walk. He pulls himself with his front legs while in the house and has a set of rear support wheels to use outdoors.
What is a regular day like with Eddie?
Every morning we wake up and come downstairs to let Eddie out of his pen. Eddie sleeps in a pen to make sure he doesn't move around the house unsupervised overnight. It also ensures he sleeps on an orthopedic mattress to help prevent pressure sores. Before we let him out we also express his bladder and stimulate defecation. We then feed him his breakfast and give him his medication (he's on PPA to help prevent urinary incontinence). Then we complete his home physiotherapy routine.
Later in the mornings when we're not both away at work, we take him for a walk in his wheels. He can currently compete about 4 city blocks before tiring.
We try to let Eddie play and relax most afternoons. If he wasn't able to go got a walk in the morning, we try to take him later in the day. We also time bladder expression through the afternoon to help prevent any accidents and reduce risk of bladder infections. We have dinner time around 5:30 pm and then watch TV together. He prefers animal shows about dogs.
Near to 10 pm we get him ready for bed by expressing his bladder, stimulating a bowel movement, and giving him his medication. We tuck him in his bed before going upstairs ourselves.
What has your experience taught you about caring for a paralyzed dog?
When we first brought Eddie home we quickly got very overwhelmed even though he had to be confined for 6 weeks on crate rest.
We had no idea how to schedule urination because he was unexpectedly incontinent of urine. His skin began to breakdown because of the constant leakage, even though we changed his bedding every few hours. We tried belly bands and diapers but, even with pee pads lining them, they would get thoroughly soaked within an hour or two. We eventually were given PPA (phenyl-propanolamine) by our vet to increase bladder sphincter tone and make the situation more manageable. The trade off is a higher risk of bladder infections because of incomplete emptying, but our vet felt the risk from skin infections was equal or worse.
We also didn't know about the bedding and how to choose something to prevent pressure sores. Finding an orthopedic mattress suitable for his size was very helpful.
Stool was another factor that overwhelmed us. Initially we kept checking on him and hoping we found it before he had a chance to smear it all over his back end (no sensation) and had a number of tear inducing clean ups that made us wonder if we were in over our heads.
Eventually we were shown, a month later, that by applying pressure at the anus with a qtip, or by performing a rectal exam with a gloved finger, we could stimulate him to defecate, catch the stool and dispose of it, thus preventing any messes. (For more information see our bowel management guide)
Are there any products that have made life easier with a paralyzed dog?
Here are a few items we find VERY helpful:
Have you tried any physical therapy?
We did trial a water treadmill to see if spinal walking was a possibility. Unfortunately, the rehab specialists felt it unlikely to be in Eddie's future. They did teach us physio exercises to perform and suggested the use of a peanut exercise ball. This has let us continue trying to strengthen his reflexes and retrain any sensation he may be recovering. We will likely try with the treadmill again in the future as part of his reassessments.
What advice would you offer to others facing a similar situation?
Stay positive. You might feel overwhelmed at first and have lots of doubts about how you will be able to manage, but it definitely gets easier with time and routine.
It takes a lot of trial and error to discover what works for both you and your dog. Don't give up! In the beginning, we wondered if we made the right choice in pursuing surgery for Eddie and if he would ever be happy and enjoy life again. Now we see a dog enthusiastic about life and who loves to play and be outdoors in or out of his cart.
We know we made the right choice.
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