Even a cat who’s partially paralyzed still likes to play:
Even a cat who’s partially paralyzed still likes to play:
Scout’s House’s “bigger and better” website (https://www.scoutshouse.com) is up and running with a lot of great information and products for people with “special needs” pets, including informational and how-to videos, research papers, helpful links to veterinary medical websites with reliable information about conditions and diseases affecting dogs and cats, and podcasts. We’ll be adding a lot more info–including information specifically for veterinary professionals and a community forum–in the coming weeks, so be sure to check back.
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
Ok, the economy stinks and we’re all watching our spending. We know, we get it. But our dogs and cats shouldn’t pay the price for our economic sins.
So we’re doing our part at Scout’s House by launching a new monthly specials program that’ll offer great discounts and free shipping on our best-selling products for special needs pets, including dog boots, harnesses, pet beds, elevated bowls, and arthritis supplements, just to name a few.
To find out what’s on sale, follow us on Twitter (@scoutshouse) where we’ll post monthly specials, as well as late-breaking announcements on one-day sales, contests with prizes (hey, who doesn’t love winning a prize?!), and really cool specials created just for our Rehab and Boarding clients and online store customers.
Of course, you can always find the monthly specials at our online store, too: https://www.scoutshouse.com/store.
Get on Twitter and follow us now–the savings start next week! And please feel free to share this with friends and family. We need to get the word out that there’s help out there for dogs and cats who are old, ill, injured, or disabled.
by Krista Niebaum, MPT, CCRT, Director of Rehab Therapy at Scout’s House
Coonhound paralysis is an acute polyradiculoneuritis that was first recognized in the Coonhound breed and appeared to be associated with exposure to raccoon saliva (via a scratch or bite). However, it is now known that it can affect any breed and also occur without any apparent raccoon exposure. Current thought is that Coonhound paralysis is an immune-mediated disease with onset of signs occurring 1-2 weeks after exposure to the trigger. Typical signs include a stiff-limbed gait that progresses to weakness or paralysis of all limbs (LMN tetraparesis or tetraplegia). Weakness usually begins in the hind limbs, then progresses forward to involve the forelimbs. Muscle atrophy rapidly occurs. Spinal reflexes are lost but pain perception remains intact. In many affected dogs, the ability to vocalize is compromised. Respiratory paralysis may also develop, necessitating mechanical ventilator support. Signs can continue to progress for up to 10 days, then may last for up to 4 months. Pain sensation remains intact and bowel/ bladder continence is maintained.
Treatment options for Coonhound paralysis are limited, but the prognosis for full recovery is good. Glucocorticosteroids have not been found to be effective. High dose IV immune globulin therapy can be used but is expensive. Time for the damaged axons to remyelinate is required. Ensuring that good nursing care and nutrition is provided at home is key. Physical rehabilitation is also believed to maximize functional recovery.
Halley, a female Brittany Spaniel, was estimated to be 4 ½ years old when she was left in a shelter drop box in northern California. At the time of her intake examination, she was only able to wag her tail. She was also able to breathe without difficulty. Otherwise, Halley was paralyzed. As she arrived at the shelter without any history, several diagnoses were considered to explain Halley’s tetraparesis, including spinal trauma, tick paralysis, botulism, myasthenia gravis, and rabies. After thorough examination at the veterinary emergency clinic, Halley was given the diagnosis of Coonhound paralysis. Halley was a very lucky girl as she was rescued and then fostered by a member of the American Brittany Rescue group one week later. When Halley was discharged to her foster owner’s care, instructions were given for passive range of motion activities and an appropriate repositioning schedule to avoid skin breakdown. She was also referred to Scout’s House for physical rehabilitation.
Halley arrived at Scout’s House for her rehabilitation evaluation four weeks after she was initially left at the shelter. By that time, she had regained the ability to actively move her head and neck against gravity through small ranges of motion, but she remained dependent with all functional mobility. She lacked voluntary movement of her trunk and limbs, but she was still able to wag her tail. Spinal reflexes were absent (except perineal reflex, which was normal). She presented in lateral recumbency and required complete assistance to move to and maintain sternal position. When moved into a supported sitting or standing position, Halley required complete assistance and was unable to accept weight through any of her limbs. Muscle atrophy was observed throughout all four limbs and trunk, and the abdomen appeared distended due to lack of abdominal tone. Pain perception was present, but she still lacked withdrawal. Halley was continent of bowel and bladder; her owner carried her outside several times each day for eliminations (performed in lateral recumbency). Despite her debilitated status, Halley appeared in good spirits and wagged her tail whenever someone interacted with her.
Halley was initially seen at Scout’s House at a treatment frequency of one session every 1-2 weeks. These early sessions included neuromuscular electrical stimulation use, Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation techniques to begin addressing trunk stability, and stretching/soft splinting of bilateral carpi due to mild flexion contracture development. Focus was also placed on owner education and instruction in an appropriate home exercise program. Halley’s foster owner was instructed in positioning methods for joint protection and postural re-education, passive range of motion and stretching techniques, and her own proper body mechanics to avoid injuring herself when transporting Halley around her home and yard.
At approximately two months after onset, Halley was able to maintain a sternal position without support (once positioned) even while eating her meals. She also began showing voluntary movement of proximal musculature of all four limbs (forelimbs greater than hind limbs) and increased trunk control. Given this improved strength and motor control, facilitated rolling activities were initiated to promote independence when transitioning between lateral recumbency and sternal. Balance activities, such as small-range reaches for treats while positioned in sternal, were included in her program. Two weeks later, Halley’s foster owner reported observing Halley moving herself into sternal. She was also starting to scoot/commando crawl short distances in the home.
At three months post-onset, Halley’s treatment frequency was increased to two sessions per week as her strength and endurance gains allowed for a more intense rehab program. Neuro-Developmental Treatment techniques were utilized to assist and facilitate transition from sternal into supported sit. A physioroll was used to support Halley in a standing position while gentle weight shifting and manual contacts encouraged activation of anti-gravity musculature.
At four months, Halley’s foster owner reported that Halley was able to stand without assistance for two minutes (once assisted into stand). She continued to require facilitation during transitions from sternal into sit (minimal assistance) and sit into stand (moderate assistance). One week later, Halley was able to independently move herself from sternal into sit. Therapy sessions continued to include facilitated sit to stands and progressed to include pre-gait activities such as standing weight shifting in water and use of an overhead lift with sling support “on land.”
When the five month mark was reached, Halley and her owner (who had now formally “adopted” Halley) surprised the rehab staff by walking into the clinic. Halley’s gait was slow and stilted, she demonstrated a wide base of support with her hind limbs, and she lack tarsal flexion bilaterally during swing phase, but she was able to ambulate on level surfaces without assistance. Although a front harness was still used for safety, Halley was also able to perform all transitional movements independently at this time.
Halley continued her therapy intermittently over the following three months to address coordination, gait quality, and mobility over varied surfaces, including stairs. Underwater treadmill walking, Cavaletti rails, wobble boards, and weaves were added to her program. Today, she is able to negotiate stairs, trot over uneven ground, jump up onto the owner’s bed, and has even participated in mock field work with other dogs in the local Brittany club. Although Halley’s prior level of function is unknown, her current mobility suggests that she has experienced a full recovery.
As demonstrated by Halley’s case, Coonhound paralysis can be a debilitating disease with a prolonged recovery time. However, with time and consistent care from a dedicated owner and rehabilitation team, the functional outcome for these patients can be excellent. Watching a previously paralyzed dog running and playing in a field is certainly a wonderful reward for everyone’s hard work.
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
When I adopted Bear, my Manx cat, I learned very quickly about the challenges of living with an incontinent pet.
Bear was the cutest little black-and-white, tailless Manx you’d ever want to see. But she leaked urine all the time: when she slept, when she walked, when she ran around the house. Most people thought I was crazy to “put up” with that, but I loved Bear and wasn’t about to give her up. Besides, if I—someone who professed to love animals more than anything—wouldn’t keep her, who would? It’s not like shelters see a big demand for cats who leak.
So I just learned to deal with it. Not that it wouldn’t have been nice to have had some help, but that was back in the early 80s, long before products for disabled pets existed. So, instead, I relied on my washing machine and a mountain of old towels to cope.
Today, there are all sorts of products out there for special needs pets like Bear, but unless you’ve lived for awhile with a pet who has those kinds of unique requirements, it’s unlikely you’d know about them. At Scout’s House, our rehabilitation therapy, boarding, and daycare center for special needs animals, new clients often arrive for their first visit feeling overwhelmed about how to care for their pet, particularly when the dog or cat has recently suffered some sort of medical emergency that’s affected its mobility or function. Disk ruptures, FCEs, car accidents, these are just a few of the more common events that can change a pet’s life—and the owner’s—in an instant. As someone who’s had many special needs pets, including Bear and Scout, the dog I named our facility after, I understand how they feel. It’s like you’ve been thrown down the rabbit hole and you suddenly find yourself in a strange, new world, not knowing what to do or where to turn.
That’s why we carry so many products for special needs pets at Scout’s House. We understand what a difference disposable diapers or a good harness with a handle can make in the life of a disabled pet—and in the life of the person who loves him. We’ve seen how the right booties can keep a dog who drags her back feet from scraping her knuckles raw and how a simple thing like a rear harness can save an owner’s back. We’ve learned about these products any number of ways: through continuing education, veterinarians, surgeons, Internet searches, catalogues, sales reps, online discussion groups for animal rehab professionals, and talks with clients. And we’ve tried these products out ourselves, evaluating how well they fit, protect, clean, absorb, or last.
We consider it our responsibility to learn as much as we can about these products—and to find out about all the new ones coming on the market everyday: things that help disabled pets be more mobile or that make incontinence easier to deal with, or products that help animals get better traction as they walk or just be more comfortable.
So if you have a pet whose rear legs don’t work like they used to or who’s incontinent like Bear was or who has any other issue that compromises his or her functionality, don’t despair. There are many wonderful products out there that can help you—and your pet—live more comfortable and more functional lives. And everyday there are more and more places like Scout’s House that are dedicated to helping you find them.