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My mother lost her husband on the same day this thing happened to the dog. I knew how badly it would affect her to euthanize the pup also. The ER vet told us about the poor prognosis, all my friends told me to "just do it", but we chose to take the few little chances we had and carried on hoping the dog will recover. Kept our mind busy for the last two weeks and a little easier to process the rest. Like full-time busy. Never realized how much it takes to care for a disabled dog. My hat goes off to all the folks on this board who take care of their needy pets. But my mother and I both have professional careers and will need to return back to work next week. We may be able to make our schedules somewhat flexible for another few weeks and be home with the dog longer in the middle of the day.
I think few would argue that living without any use of rear legs and having no control over the bladder is not a way to live for a dog who is more used to chasing tennis balls and marking certain bushes on walks. I know that some people chose to dedicate their lives to caring for permanently disabled pets, but that is not an option in our case, for variety of reasons. Mainly, my mother is getting close to retirement and isn't able to do anything physical with the 100-lb dog, it's all been me up to this point and even I hurt already (in many ways). I am only maybe 50 lbs heavier that the dog, that's on a good day, but I still managed to lift the dog in and out of the truck bed a few times by myself. Then I started looking at hoists and wheelchair lifts online and stumbled across a "Hydraulic Table Cart" from Harbor Freight (item # 69148) which has been awesome help as it's exactly level with my truck's tailgate at full lift and is built very sturdy to support up to 1000 lbs. Highly recommended. Works better than getting a hernia. Still sucks for the dog who was used to jumping into the truck bed just like that. Anyway.
So we are taking it on a day-by-day evaluation basis to determine how long to allow the dog to suffer while hoping that he will recover most of his functions. It almost feels like a daydream. But all the videos on youtube that show dogs getting better after some time sure seem encouraging. Usually it's smaller dogs. And younger. And probably less affected. It's interesting how human hope works.
I've scanned the article on expressing bladder a few days ago, I think that's how I found this forum too, I may try a couple more hybrid ideas from there tomorrow. The dog was catheterized at 8 pm tonight and vet insisted on giving him some sort of a narcotic to make his pain go away till we do it again in the morning. He is still panting now and I know that he's in pain as I write this and he looks out of the glass window on the back deck he used to sit on.
I've been expressing him while he was laying on the side. It worked fine when it worked. I think he was thankful and didn't resist on purpose. Doing it while he is laying on the side was the only way and all vets did it the same. Harness clipped to an A-frame ladder may be an option. It's just he is very uncomfortable in that harness and it hurts him even when adjusted the best way. He is a big dog. It's like holding a 300-lb man up in the air just by his thong underwear. Mental image. Moving on.
The problem with expressing last 2 days has been that he squeals in pain as soon as his stomach is compressed. Even the vet quit trying pretty quickly. I believe the pain is due to UTI. Probably the same reason he's not been "leaking" for the last couple of days. Which means his bladder is just keeping it all. And the vet still says do not limit his water. So it's a bit painful to watch it all unfold.
I will look into the medication to improve tone of his bladder. I am surprised it has not been suggested by the vet yet. We have a pretty high end care team here.
He is emptying his bowels regularly and it looks fine. That's not the issue. He's also been ultrasound'ed every time we go to the vet. But I will look into the info about "pooping on demand" tomorrow just because that sounds interesting. I will also think about the idea of walking him and letting him sniff the grass. Problem is he gets tired to the point of laying down an closing eyes after walking more than 50-100 feet with the harness. Wouldn't want him to pass out while trying to pee.
Every vet at every clinic we've been to in the last 2 weeks has been strongly against home catheterization. Everyone claims it's too prone to infection, mishandling, and requires pretty much 24/7 oversight. It would take some strong insistence for them to let us do it. And I'm not sure it's a good idea. I am also not sure that I'm even up to the task of inserting the catheter myself either. Even expressing bladder was something that I had to overcome.
I appreciate the ideas and words of encouragement. Our goal is to quickly determine if he is able to regain enough of his function to not be a burden for my mother that she can't handle. Yes, he's made *some* progress, but minimal. The Neurologist stated that some neural pathways may never recover if the nerves were starved from blood for an hour or two. That could mean permanent damage. So what if that weak tail wag and occasional leg reflex is it? What if he never able to even bear weight on rear legs? Alternatively, what if he is just taking his time, and may still be able to jump around in a few months again? I know the chances are poor. But I need to figure it out soon. Feels like rambling at this point.
As far as catheterization. The Medical Director of our local clinic has lately been in support of home catheterization with 2-3 times per week sterile changes at the clinic. Which is better than catheterizing 2-3 times per day like it’s been a week ago. I’ve watched the process many times now and I’m ashamed to say that I don’t have the guts. I keep imagining that tube going up and it makes everything inside of me scream “Nooooooooo”…
I’ve also been advised by a vet that the “sphincter muscle relaxer” that the dog takes, Prazocin 1mg x4 TID now, is mainly prescribed to counteract side-effects of catheterization. Apparently, frequent catheterization makes the sphincter contract for a while, Prazocin relaxes that. Not clear on how helpful it is in general.
With all that said, I’ve been successfully emptying his bladder 4-5 times per day in the last few days, about 200-300 mL at a time. That was the same amount as all vets were able to express manually. Then they would get just as much more via catheter. But it has been confirmed that, while not the most ultimate, it is okay to partially empty his bladder several times a day and is better than catheterizing him frequently. Yes, there are concerns about UTI and urine scolding, but those concerns are minimized with regular manual expression. It’s the lesser of two evils. The dog seems to be going with the program. He does not like the rides to the vet. Although, to the vet clinic credit, they usually have a technician with a gurney waiting by the front door as soon as we arrive.
I think I am also starting to get a better handle on the technique of the manual bladder expression. It’s been difficult to do when the bladder gets overly full and spreads all over the place inside the tummy. I’ve learned to lightly “massage” the bladder into my lower “cupped” hand until it is clearly identifiable by touch and then apply slightly-pulsating steady pressure until that ball in my hand goes flat. The dog is on the side. I can not lift him up by rear hips without him (and me) whimpering. When he is full, it’s not even possible to lift his rear with the harness, he starts crying in pain. Thank god for that Lift Table from Harbor Freight that rolls around on the rear deck now.
I don’t want to jinx it… But we are going to give him more time… His tail is wagging a lot stronger this week and even lifted a blankie yesterday with just the wagging tail. Pain perception in rear legs is still very weak (if any). But the rear leg withdrawal has increased notably. His rear legs are starting to jerk here and there a lot more often than a week ago. And he moves all 4 limbs a little when he is dreaming. The Neurologist said that if those 4 limbs appear to be moving in unison, like he’s running, that would be a good sign. Hard to tell though.
By the way : ) CarolC, your assumption about my age or gender is incorrect, but that’s not here or there… I have been staying with my mother during these difficult times and thankfully she has a fairly large house that allows for the necessary space for all of us… So I am at the same address for now, not permanently, but as long as needed to get the dog and my mother back on track…
The dog was put on Tramadol a few days ago, 200 mg TID, which my mother is really not liking because it’s a “pain medication” and those can be addictive. The vet explained that in addition to controlling pain, Tramadol also releases Serotonin, making the dog happier and the dog is not likely to be able to score any opiates from street after he’s done with treatment. He has been tapering off Prednisone steroid and not taking it any more as of today. He has been put on Simplicef (Cefpodoxime) for the UTI and it seems to be going down.
Critters, I will look into spastic bladder and Phenoxybenzamine, if needed. I can relate to your comment about “not wanting to deal with handicappers” – it’s same as in human medicine – those who have a terminal illness are not considered a “good investment” and people in better health often take higher priority. Should not be like that if you ask me. But that’s been my observation. *EDIT - wanted to clarify that all vets we've been working with in the last couple of weeks have been extremely nice and supportive, we always receive quality care with minimal delays, they understand our position and have been providing excellent advices and suggestions to help us succeed. The Medical Director of the local clinic and one Neurologist in ICU have both taken a particular personal interest in this case and have been of much help.
It’s been an “adventure” for sure. I did not realize that caring for a paralyzed dog takes 2-3 times the effort of caring for a paralyzed person. A person can at least articulate (in most cases) what they need. The dog can only look at you and hope that you “get it”. The dog and I have developed a code for Water (lick lips and make lip sounds) and code for Pee (moving lips in a smiling manner), the rest is taking lower priority for now, but these help. Still waking up at night every couple of hours to address one need or another.
We are fully committed to continue providing the dog with the best care at home and at vets as long as he’s continuing to make progress. I know that some dogs take longer to recover. So we are hoping that he is taking his time due to the extent of the spinal cord inflammation or injury. Really hoping that he would be able to regain most function and that there is not much permanent damage. But, as of now, not a single person has the magic ball that I need and only time will show how he does.
BestFriendMobility Quad Support wheelchair arrived yesterday and I’ve assembled it in the evening. Seems, thus far, to be a pretty good quality and design. It still needs many final fine adjustments and I will need to wait for a friend to help me with the dog when I set those. Got a 12-foot aluminum UHaul truck ramp to get the wheelchair from the deck to the grass. Will post some progress notes and photos once it’s all adjusted and tested. Here’s a photo, for now, of how we’ve been getting in and out of the truck bed…
I came across a company called Harbor Freight Tools. They have stores throughout the western states. They specialize in shop tools and have things that could work for lifting, and moving at a fraction of handicap equipment prices. They have a shop crane, looks like it could work like the tylift- a 6 wheel creeper, for use under a car, it has foam padding and vinyl cover, on sale for 13.49. Perhaps this might help move a dog from room to room. What looks very interesting to me is the Hydraulic Table Cart!!!! 199.99 on sale!!!! I can think of several applications for this. One could bolt a larger platform on top ....and? It rises from about 6 inches off the ground to about 4 feet! I found it in the sculpture department and tried it out. It is very easy to use and will lift 1,100 lbs.