If you care for an elderly, injured or special needs pet, you've come to the right place!
I'm writing for my sister (we live together), her little dog Sarah, who's 13, just became a paraplegic. Her back legs just don't seem to work! Sarah has been in and out of the emergency hospital and the vet and we're both a little overwhelmed with what happened. We opted not to have surgery for several reasons, age of the dog, and I hate to say this but the cost was too much for us to afford. So Sarah is on steroids, pain meds, etc..... Does anyone have any advice? I swear that my sister and this dog share the same circulatory system.
Dear Sarah's Aunt Carol,
I can give you a long answer tomorrow. For tonight the advice is keep her confined to a small area where she cannot move, either a crate or a playpen. The steroids are to make the swelling go down in her back. Her back can't heal if you let her drag herself around--be firm about this for her own good. Do not be distressed if she wets her bed repeatedly--steroids make this happen and she will stop wetting when the vet gets her off the steroids. Know that this paralysis may be only temporary. It can take days or weeks or months for function to return, but it can return. Steroids and crate rest are critical to help function return. Do not move her any more than necessary for changing her bed or helping her potty. I have a paralyzed 7 lb. dog who is doing very well. I hope to write a longer reply tomorrow. I hope you will get other responses, too. Best wishes to you.
Hi Carol, Do either of you know what happened to Sarah? It sounds like you think it's a disk problem, but I'm not sure? What did the vet think it was? My other question is, is she pottying OK? I will just touch on a bunch of things and not cover anything in detail, and then if you want to know more about something now or later, people here can fill you in with more details. (Apologies in advance if I jump around.) It sounds like you have her confined, and that's good. Did your vet give you a time frame to rest her? My dog was on crate rest for 4 weeks, but she had surgery for a fracture. While Sarah is on crate rest, if she wants to turn herself that's OK. In fact, it's healthy for her to change sides several times a day. If she can't change sides, you may have to do it for her *if* she will let you. If she has an extreme preference for one side because it's too uncomfortable the other way then it's better to let her stay on the one side or she'll just struggle and be miserable till she gets herself turned. My dog got bored while on crate rest and I gave her rawhide twists to chew which helped. Is she on a thick blanket or cushion? If you find she is wetting her bed because of the steroids, you can cut down on laundry by going to Wal-Mart or Walgreens and buying a package of incontinent pads for humans. They're a big help. If she wets herself a lot, it's good to swab her skin with a wet washcloth or something to keep her clean so the urine doesn't begin to irritate her skin. Have you seen her move her legs at all, and what about her little tail? If you haven't, don't give up. My dog's physical therapist says disk problems bounce back the quickest, but with back problems that can still be weeks or even months. If her back were horribly injured (which does not sound like the case here) there is still a type of reflex walking some dogs are able to learn. It is called spinal walking, and may be helped along with extensive training and physical therapy. You can also look ahead and think about how you want to do things if she does not get back on her feet. Being small, you are very fortunate. One thing you could do is buy Sarah a wheelchair. My dog has one but we don't use it much. You can also just let her scoot around the house on her two front feet and pull her back legs along behind. My dog does some of that, but I also keep her in a crate (up on a table where she can see out the window and watch what's going on in the house) so she doesn't skin her toes from too much scooting. When her back is fully healed, if she is still not walking you can walk her with a scarf for a sling. They make proper slings/harnesses for large dogs as you may have seen on the homepage of this website. They don't sell much for little ones. I walk my dog twice a day using a long winter neck scarf, which I tie around her waist and hold the two ends and carry her hindquarters along with her toes skimming the ground while she walks with her front feet. She can walk nearly everywhere this way, including up and down curbs. She really enjoys her walks. There are range of motion exercises you can do while she is recovering so her joints don't stiffen up. The exercises encourage healing by improving circulation. The main exercise is to bicycle her legs through their full range of motion. You might ask the vet when you can start doing this. Also, swimming is good therapy for back problems, so you might ask the vet about that. I am not sure what else to cover--I probably missed something. If you have any questions at all, just ask, because lots of people here have experience with this. I hope this helps a little bit. 13 is pretty good. I'm not sure how long poodles usually live? Best wishes to little Sarah and her family.
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