Did you know that only 5-10% of dogs infected with Lyme disease actually show symptoms? Or that some dogs diagnosed with arthritis or neurological disease are really suffering from Lyme disease instead? Join us tomorrow, Tuesday, July 13th, at our new time, 1:30pm Pacific, when Dr. Richard Goldstein of Cornell University explains the mysteries of Lyme disease–and what you can do if your dog has it. Only on Special Pets, Special Needs. http://www.specialpetsspecialneeds.com
Posts Tagged ‘disabled pet’
To kick off our new monthly specials program on our Scout’s House online store, we’re putting the best dog harness ever made for special needs dogs on sale! Check it out: https://www.scoutshouse.com/store
by Lisa Stahr
Something we hear regularly from our rehab clients at Scout’s House—especially the new ones—is, “My friends think I’m nuts for spending this kind of money on my dog, but I love her so much and I can’t stand to see her like this.”
Every time I hear that, I’m struck by how judgmental some people can be when a friend or family member spends money on a pet.
I know there are all sorts of arguments you can make about the ethics of spending money on animals, but to me it comes down to one thing: Love.
When someone you love is in trouble and needs help, you help, and most of the time you don’t think twice about doing it. And whether you realize it or not, your reasons for helping aren’t completely altruistic: You do it because it makes your life better too. And why is that? Because you love them. They bring something to your life that makes you feel good. They make you laugh, they keep you company, or maybe they just soothe your soul at the end of a day. For whatever reason, you love them and so when they hurt or suffer, you hurt and suffer too. And, heaven forbid, when they die, a part of you dies with them.
Love is important to us as human beings. It’s so integral to our happiness and well being that we seek it out and nurture it whenever and wherever we can. We look for love. We thrive with love. And if we don’t have love, we wither, just like plants that never see the sun. Love is so critical to our survival that we’ll go to great lengths to keep it. And often, especially for those of us who love our pets as family, that means we spend money on them. Sometimes, a lot of money.
People who don’t have pets, or who don’t relate to their pets in the same way, don’t understand why we do that. They criticize us for our choices or they tell us that what we’re doing is wrong, misguided, unethical, or wasteful. When our dog Scout was sick, my husband and I took a lot of heat from family and friends for spending money on her care. Thankfully, we didn’t listen to them. We recognized that it was our money and our choice and if other people, including our immediate family members, didn’t agree with our decision, that was their problem. We loved Scout and we didn’t want to lose her; losing her would mean losing love and that, in turn, would undermine our happiness. It would uproot our lives, impact our bodies and change the chemistry in our brains.
And it would break our hearts.
Looking deeper, though, the disapproval people felt obliged to share with us about Scout subtly conveyed the message that she wasn’t worth saving. Well, I have news for you, Scout was worth saving. Forget that she launched a business that has impacted the lives of thousands of animals and their owners, Scout was special to us. She made us happy. And she taught us that just because an animal is disabled doesn’t mean she’s disposable.
But that’s something I think I always knew. When I was just out of college, I adopted an 8-year-old Manx cat who everyone else passed over at the SPCA. And one day, I took her to the veterinarian because she leaked urine when she slept. At the time, I didn’t realize that Manx cats, like Bear, often had incontinence issues, but the vet I saw explained that to me, then in the next breath, he casually recommended that I put Bear to sleep and get another cat who didn’t leak.
“There are plenty of other cats out there who need homes,” he said. “Put this one to sleep and go get one that works for you.”
Oh. My. God.
I clutched Bear to my breast and ran out of there as fast as I could. Yes, he was right, there were plenty of other pets out there looking for homes. But that didn’t mean I wanted to get rid of the one I had and buy another. I loved that cat. That personality. To me, Bear was a sentient being, not a garage door opener. And emotionally, I understood then she was disabled, not disposable. Those are two very different things.
It’s no wonder I ended up starting a physical rehabilitation therapy center for special needs pets. And why we grew that business to encompass boarding and daycare so that the owners of special needs animals can go on vacation once in awhile and know that their family members will be cared for correctly and with compassion.
And it’s no wonder I never went back to that veterinarian. I’m sorry to say he’s still in practice in our area and who knows how many dogs and cats have been put to sleep because he couldn’t see beyond their disabilities. Today, I understand that his limited vision as a veterinarian (let alone as a compassionate person) has cost him much more dearly than he will ever know. Many of his clients have come to Scout’s House after seeing him and told us a similar tale. Thankfully, they didn’t listen to him either and we were able to help their pets recover—or sometimes even just maintain—a level of functionality that he couldn’t imagine.
But thanks to him and “well-meaning” family and friends, I’ve been forced over the years to really think about why I find their admonitions so offensive. And I’ve realized it’s because I cherish the animals I’ve had the honor to live with and I respect their right to live. And for the ones who have disabilities—as Bear and Scout did—I understand that just because they’re disabled doesn’t mean they’re disposable.
So text that 50 times to your friend next time she tells you you’re crazy to spend your money on your cat, or repeat it like a mantra to your family when they say you shouldn’t spend money on surgery or rehab therapy for your dog.
It’s all about love, people. And disabled pets are just as lovable as able-bodied ones.
by Lisa Stahr
Ok, I’ll be the first to admit, it isn’t all sunshine and bluebirds living with a special needs pet. Sometimes it’s frustrating, heartbreaking, maddening, or, like the other day, just plain gross.
It was late in the evening and I had gotten up from my reading to get a drink of water from the kitchen. As I walked through the dining room, Geronimo, our little champagne tabby with partially paralyzed back legs, went scooting by, darting under the table just in front of me. I didn’t think much of it—he flies around the house like that a lot of times, especially when he’s in one of his “Spawn of Satan” moods and is terrorizing the other cats. But mid-stride, I caught a whiff of something poopy and immediately started to look around. Although G usually poops when I express his bladder, sometimes he gets off schedule and goes whenever he has to—and wherever he has to, unfortunately. Sure enough, he’d had a bowel movement in the entry hall and had managed to drag himself through it. (Why that cat has to reverse over his own poops, I’ll never understand. Wouldn’t you think he’d want to get away from it?) Anyway, there was a “snail trail” of poop that started in the entry hall and went down the hallway, into the living room, and then the dining room. G was running away from me, it turned out, because he knew he’d pooped and he knew I’d soon be grabbing him to clean him up.
And he was right.
After calling to my husband to keep the dog in the library with him (all too often she “helps” by cleaning up the poop before I can get to it), I grabbed G and made a beeline for the kitchen sink. Pretty much the whole length of his tail was smeared with icky, gooey, watery poop. It was gross, but the rest of him was pretty clean, which was good news—usually he gets it all over his back legs, too.
“Hey, not too bad,” I thought as we headed for the sink. But G wasn’t happy with the prospect of even a quick “tail” bath and he started meowing and squirming in my hands. Because of his partial paralysis, he can’t move his tail very well, so it hung limply as he fussed.
“Shh, you’re ok,” I told him. “I’m just going to rinse you off.”
But G wanted no part of it. He squirmed. He mewed. And in a super-feline fit of pique, he flicked his icky, gooey, poopy tail straight up in the air and spattered my face and my hair with watery poop.
I was so grossed out, I wanted to scream, but I didn’t say a word (I had poop on my lips, I didn’t dare say anything!). I just grabbed a handful of paper towels and wiped myself off as quick as I could, then with my lips pursed so tight they looked like a cat’s butt, I washed that cat off and put him back down on the floor before you could say “OhmygodIhavecatshitallovermyface!”
It was truly one the most disgusting moments in my life. In fact, it still grosses me out to think about it. But that’s what happens when you live with a disabled cat. There are good times and there are bad times. And once in awhile, there are times that just make you want to throw up.
by Lisa Stahr
There are many considerations to be taken into account when living with a dog or cat who’s getting on in years, who’s recovering from injury or surgery, or who’s living with a chronic disease, such as arthritis, hip or elbow dysplasia, degenerative myelopathy, or worse. But the there are a number of things you can do to help your pet live more comfortably.
Get a Grip
Your first step should be to modify your home environment to make it easier for your pet to get around. If your dog has difficulty walking, particularly on hard surfaces such as tile or hardwood floors, put down area rugs in the places where he normally walks. Rubber-backed rugs are best for this, but you can use any rug—just make sure you tack it down with double-sided carpet tape or use rubber carpet mesh underneath to keep it from sliding when your pet walks on it. You might also consider using a non-slip spray on your dog’s paws (one such product, called Show Foot, was designed to keep show dogs from slipping in the ring). Or try rubber-soled dog booties for increased traction. Your pet make need some time to get used to wearing boots, but once he does, he’ll thank you for the extra grip.
If your dog or cat has decreased coordination, she may also have a hard time negotiating elevation changes, such as stairs, furniture, or uneven surfaces in the yard. Use a baby gate to block off access to these areas or only allow her into the areas when someone’s available to supervise her. You should also consider getting a small ramp or set of stairs to make it easier for her to get up on—and off—the furniture. (If your pet has a hard time negotiating stairs, you can put a ramp over the steps to make the climb easier.)
There are also larger ramps made to help dogs get in and out of cars more easily; some are folding, some telescoping—use whichever kind works best for you and your pet—but consider how high your car is when buying. Some ramps are short and meant to be used only in the front passenger side door (doors in the back don’t open far enough to accommodate it). These ramps are also good for use with furniture in the house. For most cars, though, a ramp 72” long when extended works best, but for a big SUV or for dogs who need a gentler incline, consider getting a ramp that’s 83” long. Please note: if your dog needs a ramp or stairs, we recommend that she wear a harness so that you can keep a hand on her while she’s walking the ramp or stair; a harness will give you a handle to hang onto and it’s much safer than holding onto her collar.
Give Him a Hand
In addition to using a harness with a handle, you might also consider a rear harness if your dog or cat needs help getting up from a sit or down position or is paralyzed in the rear legs. These rear harnesses fit your pet like pants and have two straps that you can use to pull your pet up with—or to hold onto to keep him stable when he walks. These specialized harnesses can be lifesavers for pets with weak or paralyzed rear legs—and back savers for their owners.
For older pets and for those with balance or neck issues, it can be difficult to bend down to the floor to eat or drink, so get a raised feeder to put the food and water bowls up at higher levels. And for pets who can no longer stand to eat, place non-skid rubber mesh under their food and water bowls on the floor so that they don’t skid around while your pet’s trying to eat. And remember, every extra pound of body weight can make it even more difficult for any pet—dog, cat, or otherwise—to move, so don’t overindulge your pet with cookies and treats; keeping him at his ideal body weight is a much greater kindness than any treat could ever be.
Dealing with Leaks
Incontinence can be a real problem for older pets or those with special needs, so if your dog or cat has incontinence issues, consider disposable or washable diapers or male diaper wraps to catch accidental drips and plops. Absorptive training pads, used for housebreaking puppies, can be real timesavers if your pet leaks urine when she sleeps or if you have to manually express her bladder. Just put one or two under her wherever she sleeps or when expressing to catch the urine. You might also want to have some waterless shampoo on hand to clean her up quickly if she gets urine on her skin or fur. And to avoid urine scald, a rash that occurs when urine stays on a pet’s skin too long, use an anti-infective, anti-bacterial moisture barrier like Barricare to add a protective layer between the urine and her skin.
There’s also a special bedding pad you can buy that will wick urine away from your pet’s skin if she’s incontinent. A spin-off of the hospital pads developed to eliminate bed sores, Palace Bedding has a thick, 1-1/4″ pile that pulls urine away from your pet’s body so that she won’t sleep in a puddle if she leaks. What’s more, if your dog or cat has arthritis or bony elbows or hips, Palace Bedding’s thick nap will cushion and protect her joints while she rests and help her to avoid pressure sores if she lies on one side for too long,
And So to Bed
Dogs and cats who have a hard time stepping up will find beds with raised edges difficult to use, so give them beds that have low edges or none at all. And if your pet has neck problems, be sure to use a bed with no edges—pets can exacerbate existing neck issues when they hang their heads over the sides of raised-edge beds. In the fall and winter, your arthritic dog or cat will appreciate a heated bed, but in fact, he may appreciate it all year round. And while there are a host of orthopedic beds available today, be careful you don’t by one that’s too soft or spongy if your pet has balance or coordination problems as he’ll find it difficult to get in or out of.
Living with a dog or cat who has special needs can be challenging, but there are a whole host of products available today for pets with limited mobility or functionality. At Scout’s House, we sell a wide range of products for special needs pets, and we make them available to pet lovers nationwide via our online store at www.scoutshouse.com. With a little help, you and your pet can live more comfortable and more functional lives—even in the face of special needs.