Caring for your Disabled Dog

Sweet Pea and Daisy, paralyzed dogs

Sweet Pea, a paralyzed pitbull and Daisy, a paralyzed dachshund, the mascots of Eddie's Wheels for Pets

As caregivers for eight different disabled dogs over the past twenty years, we have come up with strategies and alterations to our lifestyle to accommodate the needs of our special needs pups.   We’ve learned alot from experience, and we’ve learned alot from our thousands of wonderful customers who have shared their experiences with us.  I’ll be blogging about different topics from time to time about what it’s like to live with a disabled paralyzed dog.

Everyone worries about toileting.  Even the dog worries – she doesn’t want a nasty bed any more than you do.  And she’s worried about trying to squat and landing in her own waste.  Some semi-mobile dogs, who are ataxic but managing to wobble around, just give up even trying to assume the squatting posture to defecate.  In a wheelchair, dogs can urinate and defecate without having to squat, and in our carts, waste generally does not land on the saddle.  If it does, the saddle is easily washed with household cleaner like Dawn or Fantastik.

Maintaining a healthy bladder is important for dogs with neurological deficits.  It’s hard for some dogs to maintain a constant urine stream.  Some dogs dribble, others retain their urine.  Your vet can show you how to manually express your dog’s bladder, by gently applying pressure on the bladder when the dog starts to urinate.  I used to express Daisy directly into the toilet bowl.  As long as I did this as a normal routine, 3-4 times a day, she rarely had UTI’s.   With Sweet Pea, the simple act of lifting her in front of her rear legs to put her in her cart will often cause her to urinate.  So we do this over a linoleum floor or outside, or over a pee pad.   Taking control over urination has the added benefit of acquainting you with the smell and color of healthy urine – if it stinks or is dark, call your vet right away and get your pet on antibiotics.

Poop happens.  And wherever it happens,  polite and responsible pet owners are obliged to pick it up.Watch this video – Poop Happens   Which brings me to the subject of diapers.  Doggie diapers are great when you’re out in public, at a friends house or traveling.    We like the pretty diapers made by Sam’s Dog Hut and we also like the washable ones made by Pooch Pads.

In the photo above, Sweet Pea and Daisy are on their Kuranda bed.  Lots of animals shelters and rescues use Kuranda beds because they are a cot, with a washable cover.  It stands a couple of inches off the floor, so it’s hard for a paralzyed dog to crawl on to, but the advantage is that all urine will seep through and your dog won’t be in a urine scalding nasty bed.  Put a shower curtain, plastic tray or pee pads beneath the bed.    We also like the bed that Pooch Pads makes – it’s cushy and the absorbent cover is washable and wicks urine away from your pet’s skin, while completely protecting the body of the bed.

To banish odors and sanitize your living space, we found Natural Touch All Purpose Cleaner to work the best.  It’s highly concentrated and can be for surfaces and laundry.

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12 Responses to Caring for your Disabled Dog

  1. Christy Ogan July 16, 2011 at 11:29 pm #

    Thank you for this blog! As an owner of a dog with beginning/moderate signs of DM, this information is and will be most helpful. I didn’t know about these beds, it sounds ideal & I look forward to purchasing one.

  2. MaryBeth July 17, 2011 at 4:09 am #

    Great blog, Leslie. I may add, that for bladder incontinent male dogs, belly bands are great if they are the right ones. Playa Pups belly bands are sooo much better than the generic ones you find in Petco type stores. They are made of neoprene, flat, cool looking, and you just stick a maxi pad in there so when your bladder incontinent male dog leaks the pee is wicked away from its skin.

  3. Jen Genovese July 18, 2011 at 4:14 am #

    What I missed most when my lil’ man Max lost control of his hind legs, bladder and bowel due to surgeries to remove a ruptured disc (two in one year)- was cuddling up in bed or on the couch together. My mom was kind enough to purchase 3×4′ fabric bed pads (like those found in nursing homes or hospitals) that I can place on top of a designated space on the bed, couch or even on the floor. I am diligent on expressing him 3-4x’s per day so he rarely has any “big” accidents, but occasional “dripping” is inevitable- so the pads are perfect and washable. It’s key to have a few in rotation. Max is a typical Frenchie and loves to always be by me, so this keeps us close and sanitary! Other waterproof/washable items such as a waterproof mattress protectors (cut off the sides that wrap around the mattress and lay it on the carpet, rug, couch or bed to keep your living space clean and your pet close to you) or for those who are handy with a sewing machine (or know somebody who is) go to your nearest fabric store and pick out a “blanket like” fabric of choice, line it with a waterproof material and sew the two together for your own homemade pads/blankets. I’d be lying if I said I did not do an extra load of laundry everyday- but if it means that I can keep my pet in a clean environment, my home stays clean and without odor, and we can live life like before he lost control of half of his body- then I am all about it!

    When we do leave home to visit a friend’s house: I am sure to bring Max’s Diaper bag complete with a pee pad, diaper, poop bags, baby wipes to clean his fur when necessary, John Paul’s Pet Tea Tree Conditioning spray to keep his skin healthy and smelling fresh, and waterproof fabric pad for him to lay on and keep our host’s home clean. And of course, treats and a collapsable water bowl.

    Hope this helps! We’ve been fine tuning our toiletry adaptions for a year and a half now. But now that I’ve got it down- everything is just fine. I just have to do a tad more laundry, but it’s worth it. Great to hear the other recommendations.. new ideas are always nice to hear.

    I hope that more people share their insights that help give our differently-abled pets all the unique care and love that they deserve! Thanks Eddie’s Wheels for taking time to start this blog:)

    Jen & Max

    • millie July 25, 2011 at 9:21 pm #


      Thank you so much for the info! My 3 1/2 yr old bichon was just diagnosed with FCE last MONDAY and I’ve been besides myself trying to figure out how to care for a dog paralyzed from the hind legs down. No bladder or bowel control. It’s been a week filed with tears and fears for her future. I can’t imagine a day without her. You’re right, the laundry is constant but worth it! I’m just going through a lot of trial and error trying to get a daily routine going. I especially miss sitting with her on the couch. What do you use for bowel movements (diapers?) I find sometimes the stool falls in but other times it falls out of the hole the tail goes through. I;ve been using kid diapers and make a slit for the tail to go through.

  4. Abby July 20, 2011 at 4:38 am #

    Great info, I really wish I had read this a week ago. I’ve been using Paw Tectors, which wear through after a while. I just bought two sets, and could have bought a durable set of Tammy’s for the same money. Indoors, my dog just needs better traction on the wood floors. The Paw Tectors are a huge help, but they don’t breathe, so they aren’t good to leave on all the time. I’m going to try coating one some baby socks with a liquid traction compound for indoor wear, like hospital socks. :-)

  5. Ed August 10, 2011 at 1:32 am #

    My 13 yr old German Shepard was recently diagnosed with DM. She knuckles and sometimes crosses her rear legs, and obviously stumbles. When she falls I am the only one who can pick her up, so she rarely moves around when I’m not home. I am wondering how long would be appropriate to leave my dog in a chair when I am not home, or if I have to leave her at my mom’s house. Can she stay in one of these for 4+ hours? Can she sleep/relax while in a chair?

    • leslie August 11, 2011 at 8:31 pm #

      It’s never a good idea to leave a dog in a cart unattended, especially a big dog. Most dogs are asleep when you’re not around to keep them entertained. When you have a disabled dog, you re-structure your routine so that the dog gets a couple of short walks a day, morning and evening. They can stand around the house for mealtimes and when there’s engaging activity for them……your dog’s body language will tell when they’ve had enough cart time. No, they cannot take a nap standing up in a cart.

  6. Jocelyn Poteet September 1, 2011 at 11:38 pm #

    we found out that our Jesse Boy has DM and I am still going between being strong and determined to crying out of fear of the unknown but it does help to read here and to know that these dogs can have a happy unique life. I Love my baby so much and don’t know what I would do without him by my feet and poking his nose into things =) I look forward to learning so much more.

  7. David December 2, 2012 at 11:25 am #

    We adopted a 1-2 yr old terrier (like toto on wizard of oz). Anyways she doesnt stop to go potty, shejust tinkles or poops as she walks almost like she doesnt know it is happening. Anyone know anything about this?? The vet is working on figureing it out too but so far nothing. Just long lines of pee down the hallway carpet etc…

    Thanks Dave

    • leslie December 3, 2012 at 4:21 pm #

      You would definitely want to have her checked by the vet. We see this in our clients who have neurologic deficits. Does she ever walk on her knuckles or cross her rear legs?

  8. Karyn January 29, 2013 at 3:45 am #

    I am wondering about care of a paralysed pet. What happens to the pet whilst you are at work or away from home. Is it possible to have a pet with special needs and still work etc. What do you do with them during work hours. I have a siberian husky who is in hospital recovering from spinal surgery which hasn’t been as succesful as we hoped as she has no deep pain sensation or movement in the rear legs. It has been 3 weeks since the surgery and we will be bringing her home to manage in the next few weeks, but i’m concerned about care when nobody is home, is this possible? She has a sibling who will be keeping her company and he is missing her greatly as i am.

    • leslie February 2, 2013 at 4:42 pm #

      Since most dogs are snoozing while you’re at work, what you need to do is make her a comfortable nest for her. If she’s incontinent, look into washable pee pads, like poochpads ( Get her a waffle foam bed to prevent bed sores. And get her some wheels, so when you are home, she can go for walks and play with her sibling.

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