Paralyzed dogs (and cats) might end up in that state due to many reasons, but in Greece, 99% of them were left paralyzed due to a human. Either victims of a hit and run, shot (it happens more often than you can imagine) or simply kicked and beaten, they are left paralyzed and rarely get adopted.
It is not the easiest thing in the world to care for a paralyzed animal, but it is not as hard as it actually seems. All you need is a schedule, consistency, and patience during the first few weeks. Once you get the hang of it, changing dippers and handling the wheelchairs etc is not that big a deal.
The biggest issue with most paralyzed animals is that they can’t control their bladder, so cleanliness is key to keeping the dog healthy. This mostly involves:
Bathing them every few days
Cleaning their fur regularly and keeping their skin moist (for long haired breeds you can shave the area around the genitals – it helps keep the animal cleaner)
Using baby dippers – mainly to avoid household messes, but it also helps keep the dogs bedding cleaner
Using bedding materials that are less likely to absorb moisture, and keeping the bedding as clean as possible
Keeping the dog’s bladder empty is very important. Paralyzed animals can suffer bladder infections and kidney failure, so emptying their bladder should be one of your daily chores. You can ask your vet to show you how to do it.
If the animal’s front legs are strong, a wheelchair will be a great help. It gives the animals more freedom to go around, and you can also walk them on a leash. Some wheelchairs come with pedals on the back, helping you dog’s brain remember again how to use his back legs. Many paralyzed animals have walked again after receiving regular physiotherapy, hydrotherapy etc.
A good enough wheelchair with big wheels can help a dog go almost anywhere
A paralyzed dog or cat needs to be introduced to the wheelchair slowly. It’s not that once they see the wheelchair, they will say “oh man! finally! now I can run again!”. No. They feel fine just dragging the hind part of their body, so they will not understand at first why they need to be attached to that weird piece of metal on wheels.
A good enough wheelchair with big wheels can help a dog go almost anywhere, from rough terrain, to the beach or even up and down the stairs.
Paralyzed animals spend less time on a wheelchair and more time dragging the hind part of their body. This makes their hind legs susceptible to pressure sores – since their limbs lose the ability to move, they lose muscle mass and bony areas of their body are more exposed.
To avoid that, have your dog sleep on a thick, soft bed, help them turn to a new position, by flipping them over every 2-3 hours, exercise the dog’s paralyzed legs daily and massage the hips and limbs to keep the blood flowing.
Physiotherapy, hydrotherapy and regular massages are part of a paralyzed dog’s routine, so you need to keep that in mind. Depending on the type of injury, all of the above, combined with a good wheelchair, can help your friend walk again.
Maintaining a paralyzed animal is costlier than having a “healthy” one. Apart from the weekly expenses for any dog, you also need to consider that you will be spending money on therapies, a wheelchair, dippers (that need to be changed several times per day), baby wipes, moisturizers. It is not a huge amount of money, but if you are not sure you can afford it, it’s better to go for a “healthier” one -cutting down the expenses for your paralyzed friend means endangering his health.
Until today, I knew absolutely nothing about paralyzed animals. But this afternoon, I met Melinos, a paralyzed cat, and Spok and Nicky, two paralyzed dogs. They all live in the same house and are being fostered by the amazing woman who also fosters Oliver, nad are available for adoption. In a couple of hours, Linda had convinced me that it’s not that big a deal to care for a paralyzed animal.
Just like blind, deaf, or three legged animals, they don’t realize that there’s anything wrong with them
As she said, there is absolutely no reason to feel sorry for them. Just like blind, deaf, or three legged animals, they don’t realize that there’s anything wrong with them. They are happy to “bounce” around, play, explore, and be as normal as any dog or cat can be. If you need to feel bad for something, feel bad for them being the less adoptable of all rescues.
(videos on both coming soon – and you WILL love all three of them)