Kelly Serfas, a Certified Veterinary Technician in Bethlehem, PA, contributed to this article. Most paralyzed dogs (a.k.a. “down dogs”) have a condition affecting the spine. Others with decreased mobility include dogs who were hit by a car or with metabolic disturbances, brain conditions and severe diseases. Being unable to move or reposition can affect multiple organs. Here are some tips to help paralyzed dogs stay more comfortable: 1. Set up a small area with plenty of comfortable, clean, dry and thick padding Not only do you want your pet to be comfortable, but also protected from damage to the skin or “bed sores.” Change the bedding when necessary to keep it dry and clean. Ideally, the area you choose would be close to where you spend most of your time. This can be a crate, a play pen or a blocked off area. You will be able to keep a close eye on your dog, and your dog will feel included in the “pack.” 2. Change your dog’s position every 4 to 6 hours, if he is unable to move spontaneously After lying on one side for an extended period of time, damage from pressure or poor circulation can happen to the skin, tissues, the lungs and many other organs.
3. Carry or sling your dog to go outside Encouraging controlled movement is good for circulation, muscle tone and doggy psychology. Massage and simple physical therapy exercises also help with circulation. In some specific cases, dogs can be equipped with a cart to help with their mobility and spirits. This is an important discussion you need to have with your veterinarian.
4. Help your dog with healthy bathroom habits If your dog is unable to urinate on his own, your vet will either send him home with a urinary catheter, or show you how to manually “express” (empty) the bladder. A catheter should have a sterile collection system which typically consists of an IV line and a fluid bag where the urine collects. Keep the bag and the line as clean as possible by wiping them daily with a mild cleaner to keep infection from entering the body. Monitor the entrance site of the urinary catheter.
If you notice redness, discharge or swelling, please call your family veterinarian or your surgeon right away. During manual expression, you need to apply gentle, steady pressure on the lower belly until the bladder is empty. Always keep your pet clean and dry. Urine and stool are irritating to the skin, and can cause skin irritation or infection. Defecation typically happens spontaneously, as long as your dog eats enough. Otherwise, ask your vet for a safe laxative.
5. Whether your dog can eat on his own or you need to help, make sure he is sitting upright at all times Otherwise, there is a risk of “aspirating,” which means that food goes down the “wrong pipe.” Food may then enter the lungs and cause pneumonia (aspiration pneumonia). Giving oral medications also requires your pet to be sitting up. 6. Last, but not least, provide plenty of TLC Being paralyzed is stressful to your pet. Spend as much time together as possible. Watch TV, read a book or type emails next to your dog; he will be happy to be close to you.Having a paralyzed dog is a tough situation and a big commitment. By following these tips, you should be able to avoid most of the common complications from prolonged paralysis and help your dog be comfortable and happy.
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian — they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets. Related symptoms:
Help Your Dog to Poop on Demand
This may be a subject that makes some people squeamish. If so, do NOT read on…
There are techniques to help your constipated dog poop through manual expression of the bowel. Expressing the bowel is form of conditioning your dog’s body to evacuate itself on command in a controlled way and allow your pup to “poop on demand”. There are a few different methods to successfully express the bowel and make your dog poop. Regardless of the method you choose, always wear disposable gloves that are thrown away after each use.
Hold your dog tightly in the crook over your arm over the open lidded toilet with his backside facing the wall behind the toilet. If your pet has a long tail, make sure to move it out of the way to avoid an unwanted mess. With your gloved hand feel around the anus, if there is nothing there the skin should be soft, if you feel a solid mass it’s time to express.
Using your dominant hand, form your fingers as if picking up a penny. Grasping the anus, pull in an outward motion to stimulate the appearance of feces/aka “poop”. Within 3 -5 grasping motions, he will present feces and they plop into the toilet. Neat, clean, no messy hands, and NO more unwanted messes!
With a light spray bottle, mix chlorhexidine solution (disinfectant) with water, and spray the butt with it. For best results, the water should be cool. Your pet will begin to repeatedly pucker up the anus, and repeat. Spraying, along with some very gentle stroking of the area with a moist soft baby wipe, will encourage your pet to poop. Make sure to lay out a clean newspaper or paper towel out for easy clean up. It’s not fun, but a lot better than picking up after an accident.
With this method, the stimulation technique involves squirting cool water directly on the anus, you may need to spray several times to get the poop to pop out. As the cool water sprays it will stimulate the anus to contract encouraging the bowel movement. The water in the squirt bottle should be cold (not out of the fridge, but not warmed) so it shocks the tush enough to make it pucker. Only use this technique when you know the pet is “full”.
The ice cube method is the simplest option to encourage your dog to “go”. Lift your pet’s tail up and place an ice cube directly on the sphincter and hold it there.
When the ice cube gets pushed out of the way, he’s going.
As far as the bowel movements, a bit of Vaseline on the tip of a cotton swab and inserted just a little in the anus will stimulate your dog to have a bowel movement if it is needed. Choose a time that is similar to when they would have done this like after a meal or in the morning etc., so you can partially control when it happens and start to take care of accidents.
Another way to stimulate a bowel movement is to gently rub around the anus in small circular motion with a baby wipe, which will encourage your pet to poop “on demand”. Gently rubbing their anus in a circular pattern you stimulate the bowel movement to help your dog to poop.
A tried and true method to express the bowel is to stimulate the bowel movement by hand. Wearing a glove on your dominant hand, put lotion on your fingers to be used for lubricant. Place your dog over a paper or bring them outside and begin stimulating the anus. With your gloved hand rub around the butt hole and pull at it gently. It usually takes less than 2-3 minutes for your dog to finish eliminating. Once you’re finished. you can wrap up the poop and throw it away.
Still unable to elicit stool through the lotion and glove method? You may want to try this technique. Apply additional lubricant to your gloved pinky finger and very gently insert it into the rectum. Even in completely paralyzed animals, this should stimulate a bowel movement.
If your baby is very impacted with stool, you may have to “dig” some if out at first, but then it will come out on its own.
You can also encourage pooping by rubbing your dog’s abdomen.
Start by placing your dog in an upright position and rub behind the back leg. Your dog may begin to kick the rear leg, continue to rub until the tail begins to rise. Then, place your dog on their back and rub their left side vigorously for several minutes. As your rub the vent begins to open so your dog can poop. Once you see this encouraging sign, vigorously rub the abdomen in a downward motion. If your pet seems particularly constipated, move the back legs as you stimulate the belly. When done correctly, your dog should experience a healthy bowel movement.
Use your fingertips to gently press and feel the soft tissue in a circular area around the anus. By pressing on the soft tissue, you may feel something firm inside the rectum. Spread your thumb and forefinger about 1 1/2″ apart, lay them on either side of the rectum, press inward on the soft tissue a little, and grip the stool right through the skin. Now you’ve got a good amount of skin and soft tissue pinched between your fingers and in the center of it is a piece of stool. If you pinch harder, the stool will break off within the rectum and the anus will open at the same time, and it naturally begins to come out.
The beauty of this is that usually the remaining stool moves forward into position and you can repeat the procedure. Repeat until there is nothing inside and the tissue is soft to touch. Be careful not to pinch too hard, as this could lead to damaging the mucosa lining the colon or prolapsing the rectum.
Keep a box of tissues on the expressing station, and each time a piece of stool drops, drop a tissue over it to reduce the odor. You may go through a lot of tissues this way, but it makes for a more pleasant experience.
Caring for incontinent cat or kitten can come with its own set of challenges. Keeping your cat hydrated and scheduled meals is important. Feeding your cat twice a day, will help you to monitor the frequency and quality of their feces. Allowing you to know when there is a problem and if further, manual, assistance is needed.
You can learn to feel the stool in the colon by feeling her lower abdomen, it takes some practice, but it works. The last piece of colon is the easiest to feel when it is full of stool. Gently press on it to help push the stool out. Repeat twice a day, trying to keep it at the same time every day. This will empty her colon and reduce the amount of landmines she leaves for you. You will likely need the assistance of another person to hold your cat still during this process. Remaining calm and talking softly to your cat through the process will help to keep your cat as relaxed as possible.
Afterwards, wipe the anal area with a moist wipe or damp cloth to keep the area clean. Giving your cat a treat as a reward afterwards may help to make your cat happy and more cooperative next time.
If your cat will allow you, a warm bath might also help move things along. Running warm water on your cat’s belly can stimulate the muscles that move the bowels. Allowing them to relieve themselves without further assistance.
Managing the Diet for Healthy Bowel Movements
A healthy poop comes from a healthy diet. For a successful elimination you want to avoid poop that is too hard or too soft. Adjusting your dog’s diet may be necessary, too much fiber may lead to further constipation. Make sure your dog stays hydrated and drinks enough water. Water will help to keep your dog’s food easily move through their body. If your pet is long haired, shaving the hair around the bottom down will help keep your dog’s rear clean and sanitary.
Improving the ease of bowel movement is simple, improve the quality of the stools. You want to your dog to produce firm, well-formed, inoffensive, non-sticky, low odor stools. To improve your dog’s stool, use only high-quality foods, you may need to experiment with what works best with your dog’s digestive system and ask your Vet for suggestions. Helping you to avoid coming home to a smelly house.
Clean-up of a healthy stool is as simple as picking it up with a tissue and popping it into the trash can or picking it up with toilet paper to flushing it. Carpet cleaner not needed! A healthy, firm poop will less likely not get gummed up in their fur. Clean house, fewer baths, happy family.
Also, it is extremely useful to feed on a schedule. If you follow the same feeding schedule every day, and avoid switching foods, your dog should develop sort of a schedule.
You will know when he is “due” to go to the bathroom. A more “formed” bowel movement is an easier to clean up mess. A typical food schedule for most dogs is feeding twice a day with a possible snack/ lunch in between.
Meal feeding and using a low residue food will help with poop control. Feeding during scheduled meal times will allow for more regular or timed bowel movements. Low residue diets produce less poop to contend with.
For greatest success, you need to keep your pet to a schedule and routine. Keep to the same area for expressing, allowing your dog to get comfortable with their environment. This will also help to condition the body to respond. Minimally you should express the bowel twice a day, one in the morning and one right before bedtime. Every dog’s “cycle” and needs are different, pay attention to your dog’s cues and ask your Veterinarian what will work best for your pet. Combining your dog’s bowel movements with exercise and rubbing your dog’s belly can encourage them to go as well.
To know how long it takes for your dog to process food, feed a few small pieces of raw carrot or kernels of frozen corn. Veggies don’t digest– after feeding the veggies watch your dog’s bowel movements. When the veggies appear, you’ll know your pup’s processing time. Typically, it takes about 12 hours for your dog’s food to process. Often you will be able to park your pup’s butt over the toilet and then flush away…. How easy is that!!
“Frequent cleaning of the pet is super important to avoid fecal scalding. Some animals may need their tail wrapped if they have long hair and others may need hair clipped or a “potty patch” for that area,” says Dr. Pagett, “There may be some surgical options for some incontinent dogs but those would most certainly be done by a Board Certified Surgeon.”
Senior or disabled pets require a little extra love and care, but it’s worth it.
Skin Care and Cleanliness
Cleanliness is perhaps one of the most important parts of caring for paralyzed dogs. Because many dogs with paralysis or paresis cannot fully control urination and defecation, messes can happen frequently. Its important to keep urine from soaking the coat and staying on the skin. The compounds in urine can be very irritating to the skin. Urine that remains on the skin can cause a very uncomfortable rash and even lead to a skin infection. Feces can cause irritation and sores around the anus and even attract insects.
Be sure to keep incontinent dogs on an absorbent pad or in a diaper when not being directly supervised. Use dog diapers for dogs in carts or those with some mobility. Periodically removing diapers for periods of time so that air can get to their skin can be helpful as well. Replace diapers and underpads frequently and keep the dogs skin clean and dry. Bathe the dog as needed and use baby wipes between baths. Do not use zinc oxide diaper rash cream as this can be toxic if ingested.
Dogs with limited mobility can easily develop pressure sores from lying in the same place for too long. Be sure to get your dog up and moving as much as possible. when lying down, ensure the dog has ample padding and is turned to a new position regularly. Also bear in mind that a dog may get sores or become dirty from dragging himself along.
Your paralyzed dog may have trouble grooming himself, so be sure to brush his coat frequently in addition to other basic grooming.
Be sure to check your dog several times a day for sores, dirt, urine, or feces. Keeping our dog clean and dry can help prevent skin problems and infections.
Many paralyzed dogs can benefit from the use of a special cart, specifically those with rear limb paralysis. Many companies can make a custom-sized mobility cart that can enable a dog to get around on his own. These carts are ideal for dogs that have rear limb paralysis and normal function in the front limbs.
Many owners like to use a type of sling to help their dogs walk. Body harnesses and slings are best for dogs with some motor function. By holding the sling or harness, you can reduce the dogs weight and help him move weakened limbs.
Of course, its essential to keep carts and slings clean and dry. In addition, dogs should not remain in carts or slings all the time. These devices can rub on the skin and cause pressure sores.
All dogs with paralysis or paresis need some form of physical therapy. If the dog is expected to recover partial or full function, then an aggressive physical therapy routine is important. Dogs with permanent paralysis or paresis will still benefit from daily physical therapy as it helps reduce muscle atrophy and stiffness and may help improve range of motion.
Ask your vet for a referral to a canine rehabilitation professional for the best results. You may choose to keep your dog under a professionals care long-term. Or, you may wish to learn exercises, stretches, and massages you can work on at home. A veterinarian, vet tech, or physical therapist can show you how to begin a home physical therapy routine for your dog.
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