What You Need to Know About Intervertebral Disk Disease (IVDD)

Intervertebral disk disease or IVDD in dogs is a disease that occurs due to the hardening of the disks between the vertebrae of the spinal cord. These disks work as shock absorbers interlaced between each vertebra.

If they begin to harden, their shock absorbing function decreases causing pain, weakness or limit range of motion. Eventually, they may harden to a point where they will bulge and compress on the spinal cord, causing even more pain or disrupt nerve function to the bladder and bowel or worse cause paralysis. IVDD when it occurs happen slowly and may take a long time to become noticeable.

Symptoms

Symptoms of IVDD typically do not manifest immediately and may vary. This is why it is hard to check for symptoms of IVDD as they may occur intermittently, gradually, or just suddenly appear. Below are the most common symptoms.

  • Difficulty in moving head and neck due to pain or stiffness
  • Lowering head stance
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Pain during movement
  • Hunched or arched back
  • Problems urinating
  • Dragging of one or more limbs when walking
  • Knuckling of paws when walking
  • Overall weakness
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Lack of coordination
  • Impaired reflexes
  • Difficulty in standing
  • Collapsing
  • Paralysis

Causes

The most common cause of IVDD is age. Like most animals, a dog’s bones become less flexible and more susceptible to hardening of the disks as they grow older. Dogs that regularly perform highly strenuous and high impact activities could be at higher risk in manifesting the disease earlier. Constantly jumping from very high places could cause acute rupturing of disks.

Breeds at Higher Risk

There are breeds that are more susceptible to getting IVDD. This is mainly due to a cartilage formation disorder called Chondrodystrophy, common to some breeds. IVDD usually occurs in these breeds between the ages of 3 and 6 years old. The following are dog breeds most at risk for IVDD:

  • Bassett Hound
  • Beagle
  • Bulldog
  • Corgi
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Dachshund
  • Pekingese
  • Poodle
  • Shih Tzu

Although not common, other dog breeds may also get the IVDD. If they do, it usually occurs between the ages of 8 and 10. These nonchondrodystrophic breed most susceptible to IVDD include:

  • German Shepherd
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Doberman Pinscher

Diagnosis and Treatment

In order to check for IVDD, most veterinary examinations will order X-rays, neurological tests and special imaging tests such as a CT scan or MRI. For moderate cases of IVDD, treatment could include steroid treatment and anti-inflammatory medicines. Confined rest to up to six weeks may also be required.

Severe cases of IVDD may require surgery, but is sometimes not advisable for dogs that can no longer walk. In such cases, the use of a dog wheelchair is commonly recommended to give the dog a chance at a healthy and active life even with the disease.

Physical rehab is generally part of the treatment for both minor and severe cases.

Prevention

Here are some tips to help prevent or at the very least minimize the risk of dogs getting IVDD:

  • Maintain your dog’s weight. This can help reduce strain on their backs and necks.
  • Use harnesses instead of neck leashes when walking your dogs. This will also help relieve neck stress.
  • Avoid instances where your dog will need to jump down to a lower area such as ledges, tables or chairs.
  • With the help of your veterinarian, you may also consider having your dog use a back brace for added support.

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Understanding Hip Dysplasia

If you think your dog may have hip dysplasia, here are some basics you should know about the disease including the most common symptoms and treatment

What is Hip Dysplasia

It is the malformation of a dog’s hip joint. A dog’s hip joint is composed of a ball and socket joint. To give you a better idea, a human hip joint is also a ball and socket joint. As with our hip joint, range of movement can be done more or less in a circular motion.

The motion, under normal conditions, is smooth as if the ball and socket are sliding on each other. When hip dysplasia happens in dogs the ball and socket are not formed properly and because of this, instead of a sliding motion during movement, there is rubbing and grinding of the joint. This is very painful especially when moving the back legs. 

How Dogs Get Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is probably the most common skeletal problem that dogs get. Large and giant breeds are the most prone to it but it can also occur in small breed dogs. Gender is not a factor as both male and female dogs may be diagnosed with the disease. Genetics is considered a very big factor as it seems dogs with parents who have had the disease are more prone to also getting it. German Shepherds, Great Danes, and St. Bernard’s are some of the breeds prone to hip dysplasia.

Because genetics is a key factor in predisposition, hip dysplasia onset may occur early, even as young as four months old. Much older dogs may also get it as a result of other health problems such as osteoarthritis. Obesity and lack of exercise are also considered as risk factors.

Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia 

Check your dogs for the following behavior:

  • Less active then usual
  • Has difficulty
    • getting up
    • running
    • jumping
    • climbing stairs
  • Weakening of back limbs
  • Hopping or swaying gait when walking or running
  • Back legs unnaturally close together when standing
  • Pain in hip joints
  • Grating sound when moving back limbs
  • Decreased range of motion in the hip joints
  • Loss of muscle mass in thigh muscles
  • Enlargement of shoulder muscles due to front limbs compensating for weakness of back limbs

Risk Factors of Hip Dysplasia

As we have already stated earlier, genetics is one major factor as well as size. Obesity and rapid weight gain is also a factor as well as lack of exercise.

If you suspect your dog may be suffering from hip dysplasia bring them immediately to your veterinarian for a check-up. Be prepared to give them details that will help in diagnosis such as health history, recent injuries and their parent’s history.

Treatment of Hip Dysplasia

Treatment may include weight reduction, physical therapy, medications for pain relief, acupuncture, and the use of mobility aids. Treatment must be under the supervision or approval of your dog’s veterinarian.

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Do Disabled Dogs Need Dog Shoes?

Are dog shoes really necessary? Many pet owners are buying dog shoes for their pets, believing it essential as it gives their pet’s paws added protection. Others question the trend. There are those who feel that dog shoes are just fashion accessories imposed on dogs by their owners. For disabled dogs, this question becomes even more important.

For dogs that can stand and walk normally on all four legs, the need for dog shoes may depend on the environment they live in. The terrain and weather may make dog shoes necessary. With extreme temperatures, floor surfaces, as well as slippery and muddy ground, it may make some sense.

It may be even more necessary for disabled pets. Because of the challenges that disabled dogs have to live with on a daily basis, dog shoes may be a necessity for most of them. Dog shoes can:

  1. Help prevent slips and falls – Dog shoes are usually designed with non-slip soles. This gives disabled dogs added support and stability when standing, keeping their legs from slipping apart.
  2. Give better traction – The non-slip nature of dog shoes also helps give disabled dogs a better grip on the walking surface, especially while in a wheelchair. This is especially helpful when they are walking on smooth and slippery floors.
  3. Give added leg support – Many dog shoes are also designed to wrap around and support the paw joint area.
  4. Prevent scrapes and wounds – This is the most common advantage of dog shoes. Since most disabled dogs tend to drag their non-mobile limbs behind them, this can result in scrapes and cuts on the skin and damage to the nails. This is especially worse for active dogs that need to run around, with or without their wheelchair. Wearing dog shoes helps protect the paws as they drag them on the floor.
  5. Help in the healing process – For dogs recovering from surgery or undergoing physical therapy, using dog shoes helps in the recovery process. This is because the shoes give them added support during therapy.

Check out this dog boots review from Wirecutter

This article was updated on March 11, 2019

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A Guide to Bathing Your Disabled Pet

Most dogs and parents dread it, but it’s something that has to be done. We’re talking about giving our dogs a bath. It’s a very important routine, more so for disabled dogs than regularly mobile dogs because of the challenges the former faces on a daily basis. Giving them regular baths is not only good for their hygiene but also for their overall health and comfort. Here are some tips on how we can give our best friend a proper cleaning.

Make a Regular Schedule

For most dogs, regular bathing is generally once a month. For disabled dogs, it usually has to be more frequent, at least twice a month or even more. This is because disabled dogs get their coats and skin dirty faster. Most of them have partial or no control of their limbs. Many drag a part of their body, typically the hind legs, and doing so gets this area more prone to dirt. Also, because of their limited mobility, they often get dirty from their own pee or poop. In many cases, disabled dogs don’t even realize that they are wallowing in their own dirt. In some cases, dog owners are also unaware that their disabled pets soaked in their pee, especially when it has already dried off.

Add to that the unavoidable small accidents that occur due to a pet’s disability such as spills and falls.

How Often is Regular

You need to bathe your dog regularly. How often is regular? It greatly depends on your dog’s lifestyle. For example, if your dog likes to roam around all the time and gets their fur dirty often, then twice a month is not enough. Regularly check the condition of our dog’s skin and fur to find out how fast they get dirty after each bathing session in order to find the right interval.

In Case of Emergency

When you do find the right schedule, it does not mean you have to stick to it faithfully, especially if your dog gets into an accident. If our dog gets dirty in an isolated area, it may not be necessary to give them a full bath. In such cases, you can simply clean them off with baby wipes or a wet towel. For major pee and poop soiling, though, a full bath may be necessary.

The Right Shampoo

Because they need more frequent baths, the skin of your dog may be prone to problems such as dryness or rashes. This is why it’s important to find a product suited to your pet. Unless specifically instructed by your veterinarian, never use shampoos for humans to bathe your dog. Often, a no-tears shampoo is good for using on your dog’s head and face and a moisturizing dog shampoo for the entire body. Consult your vet before choosing a shampoo for your dog.

Water Temperature

When giving your dog a bath, the temperature of the water is also an important factor to keep them calm and comfortable. Too cold or too hot and it could upset them and cause them to associate bath time with discomfort. On the other hand, many disabled dogs also have partial or full loss of nerve function so they may not be able to tell if the water is too hot or too cold, which may also cause skin problems. As a rule of thumb, use warm or tepid water for your dog’s bath.

Positioning Them for the Bath

Bath position may seem like a weird concern, but remember you are bathing a disabled dog. Most of them are unable to place themselves in a comfortable position during the process. There is the possibility of getting their nose, eyes and ears wet, which may cause more discomfort or even drowning. The aim is to position your dog so that they are comfortable and ensure that their head is high enough to avoid accidentally dipping their nose, eyes, and ears in the water. If your dog cannot sit up at all, put it on its side and elevate the head using a waterproof non-slip pillow to keep it above the water. Check that your dog’s legs are straight and in a comfortable position, and that the tail can move freely.

Check the surface you bathe your pet on. Avoid anything that might cause an accidental slip or slide, that’ll make the bathing process harder than it needs to be.

Pick a tub that’s big enough to ensure the comfort of your dog. A non-slip mat goes a long way to keeping everyone safe. Depending on you dog’s size, bath time can be done in your own bath tub, in the sink, or a small wash tub or basin. Again, make sure to place your dog so that its head is higher than the rest of its body.

Giving Your Dog a Bath

When all is set, begin by getting your dog wet from the head to paws. If you are using a hose, make sure the water pressure is gentle enough to avoid hurting your dog. You should also direct the spray in an oblique angle to lessen the pressure.

Avoid getting the nose, eyes, and ear holes wet. After getting your dog’s entire body wet, start shampooing the head with a no-tears shampoo. Start on the face, behind the ears and head, avoiding the nose, ear holes and eyes. Rub and massage in the shampoo following the direction of the fur coat. Shampoo the rest of the body with the same motion using the moisturizing dog shampoo.

Rinse with water starting from the head to the limbs, again avoiding the nose, eyes and ear holes. Make sure to rinse off all the shampoo by rinsing twice. After rinsing, place your dog in a comfortable position on a thick dry towel and gently rub dry.

Now you have a clean, dry, happy dog!

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Canine Hydrotheraphy: The What and Why

We became a bit curious about hydrotherapy when we found an interesting article on it, so we decided to find out more about this method of therapy and rehab to see if it is a good option for our handicapped best friends. We’ve done some research and come up with this brief but hopefully informative article.

What’s It About

Hydrotherapy, as the term implies is a method of physical therapy or physical rehabilitation making use of water as a medium. It has been in use for quite a long time now for people and is slowly gaining popularity for animals such as horses and dogs. It takes advantage of the properties of water to help the patient to recovery muscle mass, blood circulation and joint movement. The most important advantage of making use of water for therapy is its buoyancy, which creates a low gravity environment, thereby helping the patient focus on the limbs that needs therapy. It also lessens the friction on the joints during sessions.

It has been proven to be effective in helping many dogs with various problems and complications. It is a beneficial form of treatment for dogs recovering from injuries and/or operations, those who have degenerative joint problems, and even paralyzed dogs. It is very beneficial for old dogs with arthritis and is has also been proven to be effective as a weight loss program for overweight dogs.

Types of Hydrotherapy for Dogs

There are mainly three types of hydrotherapy for dogs: whirlpools, dog pools and treadmills.

WHIRLPOOLS

This is mainly used to help dogs get accustomed to the water environment. The water temperature is regulated based on the nature of treatment. It is a safe and relaxing environment, but at the same time provide just the right kind of stress for effective rehabilitation. A trained medical professional assists the dog while in the whirlpool and performs the therapy.

DOG POOLS

This is similar to a swimming pool for people where dogs can learn to swim, do laps, and play catch. The dogs wear life vests and the therapy sessions are supervised by trained medical professionals.

TREADMILLS

This is usually a transparent glass tub with a treadmill inside. The dogs, with a life vest on, is placed inside the tub on the treadmill, and then water is allowed to pour in up to a height a little above the dog’s limbs, covering part of the body below the neck. The treadmill is then turned on to make the dog walk while supported by the water.

Benefits of Water Therapy

Based on our research, water therapy is a very effective method of physical therapy for various kinds of muscle and joint problems as well as for weight loss programs for dogs. It is very effective because it is an environment that effectively addresses the difficulties associated with physical therapy, such as the impact of gravity and increased friction on the joints during exercise. It also increases the efficacy of exercises due to the increased resistance water creates compared to air.

Is It Good for Your Best Friend?

Clearly, hydrotherapy is something worth exploring and considering to help your best friend get the exercise it needs when faced with physical limitations. The best first step is to consult your veterinarian and find out more about this type of therapy, as well as other options available in your area.

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Giving Your Disabled Pet a Normal Life

It may seem like bitter irony to be thinking of “normal” when your pet can’t walk or is otherwise disabled. Yet your pet may not even realize that they are disabled, and will usually adapt to their new restrictions quite easily. They take each day as it comes without much thought, and may be perfectly capable of leading a healthy and happy life despite their disabilities.

It’s true that they will need special care, with you as the service person. However, they are incapable of feeling sorry for themselves, unlike most humans. The best thing you can do for your pet is to give them a normal life and enjoy their company.

Blind pets

Dogs rely more on their sense of smell rather than their sight, so blindness may not affect them as much as you might think. In fact, it may be some time before you even realize they’re blind. The case is otherwise for cats, but you can help them adjust by making a few changes in the surroundings.

  • Encourage their sense of smell by hiding distinctively scented treats in toys, motivating them to “follow their nose”
  • Clear hallways and floors of clutter to give them passage with a minimum of bumps
  • Acclimatize your pet to the layout of the home by leading them around them several times
  • Continue to take your pet for walks, but make sure they stay close and on a leash to control encounters with aggressive animals
  • Talk to your pet to give them a sense of security
One heartwarming pair, Glenn and Buzz.

Deaf pets

Both dogs and cats have acute hearing, and unless they were born deaf, you will both need some retraining to cope with its loss.

  • You have to learn to use hand signals to take the place of spoken commands, so practice with your pet
  • Get their attention by touching them or making eye contact; try not to sneak up on them by taking firm steps they can feel
  • Keep one light on at all times where your pet stays to give them a sense of security

Mobility-impaired pets

Mobility impairment is actually a much bigger challenge for your pet than the loss of sight and hearing because it essentially makes your pet helpless. Whether the impairment is temporary or permanent, in order to give your mobility-impaired pet a normal life, you need to make some significant changes in their routines.

  • Consult a vet for a long-term prognosis of your pet’s condition to better understand how to give them a normal life
  • Establish a regular routine to give them a sense of structure and security, and keeping your pet from feeling anxious
  • Bathe them regularly, especially if they are unable to do their business on their own or incontinent
  • Learn to express their bowels and bladder to make your pet more comfortable
  • Check your pet’s hair and skin regularly for any signs of sores or wounds resulting from always lying down or dragging their paralyzed limbs around
  • Consider alternative therapies such as acupuncture and massage, especially if the impairment is a result of surgery and temporary to keep the muscles supple
  • Give them plenty of opportunities to go outdoors and socialize with other pets; you don’t have to worry about teasing
  • Regularly check forums for disabled pets for support, tips and suggestions from other pet owners

You should also consider mobility aids such as dog wheelchairs appropriate for your pet’s size. It may be a bit of an investment, but it will give them much more freedom and dignity than carrying them all the time. It will also make your pet healthier physically and psychologically, and save you back problems later on. You only have to check out the videos of dogs in wheelchairs and you will realize how much difference it can make to your pet’s life.

Conclusion

The most important thing you can do for your disabled pet is to be patient with them as they adjust to their impairments. It can require considerable commitment in money and time on your part, but it will all be worth it.

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Disabled Dogs and Potty Problems

One of the major issues you will probably have to deal with if you have a disabled dog is incontinence. Number two is especially an issue, as the mess can be considerable.  If you’re one of those people with a pathological fear of getting dirty, then you may find the following article hard to swallow. However, if you’re determined to keep your disabled dog, then you will just have to suck it up (thankfully, not literally!).

The best way to deal with your dog’s potty problems is to take control. Learn to express the bowel so that your dog will do its business under controlled conditions. It’s not as hard as it sounds. It’s actually quite similar to stimulating the poop reflex in babies, although babies don’t bite, so dogs can be a bit challenging. If you put forth the effort, however, it can pay dividends.

Stimulating the reflex

When you express the bowel, it’s tantamount to saying “It’s time to go.” There are several ways to do this, but it all involves some touching and squeezing of the dog’s anus, so you will need gloves (preferably the thin disposable latex ones used by vets). You may also need:

  • Squirt bottle
  • Baby wipes
  • Paper towels or old newspapers
  • Cool (not cold) water
  • Petroleum jelly

METHOD 1

If your dog is small, this is probably the easiest and neatest way to get it to give it up. Hold your dog over the toilet bowl with its butt in the clear over the water (make sure the tail doesn’t make splash down first!) in the crook of your arm so you have a clear field of view. Your dog may struggle at first, so make sure you have a firm grip or you might end up with it in the toilet

When you’re ready, find the anus opening and with your other hand (gloved), gently push down on the tissue around it. If you feel something solid, then your dog has something for you. Make a pincher of your fingers and squeeze the hole shut and release several times, pulling outward all the while. If your dog has anything to give, it should plop (or ooze) out at some point.

METHOD 2

If your dog is bigger, this may be a more practical method. Put some cool (not cold) water in a squirt bottle. Adjust the nozzle so it produces a stream rather than a spray. Place your pet on an old newspaper or several sheets of paper towel, and lift the tail to find the anus. Squirt the cool water in the opening, and you should see it pucker. Do this several times to get the anus going. You can also use baby wipes to add to the stimulus. Do it long enough (and presuming your dog has anything in there), you should get satisfaction soon enough. After the business is done, simply fold up the newspaper or paper towels and dispose.

METHOD 3

A simpler method, requiring less effort, is using an ice cube. Do the same as with Method 2, but instead of using a spray bottle, have an ice cube ready. Place it directly on the opening and keep it there. When you feel some pushing against the cube, then you have success. This is especially useful in large dogs, because their poop is going to be proportional to their size, so you don’t want your face anywhere too near the opening!

METHOD 4

This is the last resort when none of the above methods work for your pet. It involves direct stimulation of the sphincter (just the outer one, don’t worry), which means inserting your finger slightly into the anus. Do the same as for Methods 2 and 3, but instead of water or an ice cube, you will need lubricant. Rub the end of selected gloved finger with petroleum jelly and insert in the opening. Go in just a centimeter or two, don’t go prospecting! This is just to stimulate the reflex, you’re not trying to pull it out yourself! You may have to wait a while, but it will come.

Important tips

You should stick to a regular time and place for expressing the bowel to get your pet used to it. Pets can be stressed when they are presented with a situation they don’t understand. It will also make your pet more “regular.”

The best times to express the bowel are in the morning and just before bedtime. However, each pet’s system differs, so you may have to go through a bit of trial and error to find the optimal times to get it to do doodoo.

You may have to change your pet’s diet if the stool is too hard or too soft. In either case, it’s just more work you don’t need. Dried food may be your best option, but not all brands produce the ideal type of stool (solid, low odor). Some people swear by Science Diet w/d, while others recommend Bil-Jac. Again, trial and error is in the cards. 

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Caring for a Wheelchair-Bound Disabled Dog

Dogs are man’s best friend. They are, for the most part, fiercely loyal and engagingly affectionate. Their essential nature holds true even if they become physically disabled. However, just like humans, they can suffer from emotional problems if they do not get the care they need. This can lead to a change in behavior and an untimely death.

Caring for a disabled dog can be difficult, but pet owners may take comfort from a few home truths:

  • Disabled dogs don’t wallow in self-pity – dogs that become disabled do not indulge in self-pity. They have no problem dealing with their disability if you give them a little help. For them, disability is just a change in their dynamics, not the end of the world. The human owner has difficulty in coping with the pity fest. Get over it, and do something constructive for your stricken dog. A doggie wheelchair is just the beginning; you can help more by getting with the program.
  • Dogs don’t understand that they are disabled – There are dogs that walk and those that do not. Disabled dogs accept their lot with an admirable aplomb, and don’t waste energy on contemplating what they had lost. You should do the same thing.
  • Dogs are sensitive – Dogs take their cues from their humans. If you feel sorry for them, then they will feel sorry for themselves as well. They worry when you worry. Keep your happy face on and your dog will feel much better as well.
  • Dogs don’t let pride get in the way – So your dog needs help with the potty or getting on or off the wheelchair. Do you think they’ll refuse because of pride? Not at all. If you treat them with dignity, they will not feel that they are disabled at all.
  • Dogs make the most of their situation – You will be surprised at how resilient the dog spirit is. They can bounce back from situations that can flatten a human. They can even derive joy from simply being out in the sun or getting a good scratching despite their health or physical problems. Your disabled dog can serve as your inspiration when you are feeling down in the dumps.

Having said all that, you still have your work cut out for you in caring for your disabled dog. Here are some practical tips to lighten the load.

Establish a system

Your disabled dog has special needs, so you need to have a daily schedule to make sure that everything that needs to be done is done. If you have healthy dogs in the house, you should send them out first so you can concentrate on getting your disabled dog ready for the day. A routine will also help your disabled dog adjust more quickly to their new situation, especially if it includes getting them strapped to their wheelchair.

Be ready with the supplies

If your dog is incontinent, you will be facing some unique challenges for maintaining their cleanliness. Have the following at hand:

  • Machine washable orthopedic bed
  • underpads for sleeping
  • diapers
  • baby wipes for spot cleaning
  • dry shampoo
  • mild shampoo for regular baths
  • moisturizing rinse if the dog develops dry skin from frequent washing (ask your vet)
  • bandages to cushion pressure points and prevent bed sores

Be on the lookout for signs of bladder infection

A disabled dog typically has problems voiding their bladder completely. Just because you find urine does not mean the bladder is empty; it may simply be overflowing. Urine trapped in the bladder can lead to infection. You can usually tell if there is an infection by the way it smells and looks, but to be on the safe side have your dog’s urine checked regularly. Prevention is, of course, the better option. Your dog may need help, especially if your dog suffers from spinal problems. You can do this by regularly expressing it by squeezing. Ask your vet to teach you how to do it.

Find the right mobility gear

Some dogs can greatly benefit from a harness to help you carry and move your dog, Make sure that you know how to use it properly so that you do not injure yourself or your dog.

A disabled dog will also benefit greatly from the right wheelchair. Ensure that it is the right size and height for your dog to prevent exacerbating their condition. Educate yourself on how to put it on your dog, adjust it, and acclimatize your pet for its regular use. You can also ask your vet to help you. 

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Disabled Pet Care: How to Keep Costs Low

Taking care of a pet properly is almost like taking care of a child bar the college fund and the shouting. They require discipline, activities, nourishment, grooming, affection and health care. The costs can mount up especially when a pet has special needs.

By special needs, we are not talking about spas, hotels, designer clothes, and food that extreme pet lovers with money to burn lavish on their pets. We are talking about pets that are sick, old, or injured, which boils down to pretty much being disabled. When a pet like a dog acquires mobility problems, it can mean a significant added cost to the pet owner to provide it the care needs.

Why would a pet become disabled?

Our pets are subject to pretty much the same health concerns that people face, which include genetics, diet, exercise, and the environment. A pet can become mobility challenged when they get injured in an accident, get old, or acquire disorders that affect the spine, brain, joints, or muscles of the legs that affects one or more legs, leaving them weak or paralyzed. If the injury is irreparable and requires amputation, or the disease progresses, the pet will eventually lose the ability to move or experience too much pain to do so comfortably.

Costs of caring for a disabled pet

The highest costs associated with a disabled pet, like with people, are in health care. Depending on the condition of the pet, it may require extensive tests, doctor visits, surgery, rehabilitation, various therapies, medication, strict diet, and special aids.

In one case, the pet cat suffered from a neurological disorder that severely affected its coordination. The pet owner estimates that between therapy (including hydrotherapy and acupuncture) and consultation costs she had already spent close to $50,000, and likely to grow. Obviously, not everyone can afford to spend so much for the care of a cat, no matter how much they may want to.

There are many organizations and groups that are dedicated to helping pet owners who cannot afford the care their disabled pet needs. But it is possible to cut down costs considerably on your own if you follow these tips as far as you can.

Tips for cutting pet care costs

1. Make a budget. It’s easy to lose track of the money you spend on extras for your pet because they are not normally big expenses, but a bit here and there piles up to quite a bit over time, leaving you with nothing to cover emergencies. Knowing that your pet is disabled does not mean you throw up your hands and hope you get through it without getting too much into debt. Make a list of the necessary purchases and stock on those and putting aside some cash for emergencies before indulging in non-essentials.

2. Keep an eye out for bargains. In line with keeping a budget, buying in bulk for essential supplies often translates to huge savings, especially if you exercise a little couponing. This is where your savings come in; when a great deal comes along for your basic pet need like food you can buy a lot without killing your budget for the current month and make up for it in the following months. Make a point of regularly looking in warehouse clubs and wholesale outlets for sales and promos.

3. Consider second-hand aids. When your pet has mobility issues, the veterinarian may recommend getting them a wheelchair to allow them to move around. This can go a long way towards improving their physical health and quality of life, and saves you the necessity of carrying your pet around (presuming they’re small enough to be carried). It may even take the place of physical rehabilitation, so that’s another cost-saving technique.

However, wheelchairs and other mobility aids can be pricey if you buy them brand new. Look online for websites that offer refurbished pet wheelchairs; you will find that they can be as good as new but at half the price if you look hard enough.

4. Use an ounce of prevention. Your mobility-challenged pet can develop complications because of their condition and compromised immune system. Keep an eye on your pet to head off bed sores, infections, and parasites. It is also important to have your pet regularly checked by a vet, so avail of special prices and discounts for package deals at your local clinic to include check-ups, vaccinations, and other preventative services.

These tips are infinitely useful for cutting pet care costs whether your pet is disabled or not; it even applies to leading a practical life in general, actually! It just becomes more of a big deal when you have to make every penny count.

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Getting a Pet Wheelchair (What to do when it’s time)

There are many reasons why a dog may lose the use of its limbs. It could be due to an injury (car accident) or a disease (degenerative myelopathy or arthritis), or it could be simply from natural wear and tear (particularly the cranial cruciate ligament). There are certain breeds of dogs that appear to be prone to developing mobility problems, mainly German Shepherds and Irish setters, but mobility loss can happen to any dog under the right circumstances. In some cases such as in degenerative myelopathy, the cause is unknown and therefore difficult to prevent. It can be a depressing development for an otherwise healthy and active dog, and some owners are advised to euthanize the pet.

However, there is an option that an increasing number of pet owners are considering: getting a pet wheelchair.

Ask a vet

A pet wheelchair will be of infinite benefit when the dog suffers from mobility limitations due to degenerative myelopathy, arthritis, amputations, and idiopathic weakness in the limbs. The best judge of when a wheelchair will be needed is a qualified veterinarian, who will discuss with the pet owner the pros and cons of using a wheelchair, and what type would be most appropriate for a dog and its situation.

Pet wheelchairs are not advisable for all dogs, despite advances in technology that have reduced the pain factor in using them to practically none. This is mostly due to the dog’s temperament; not all dogs are able to adjust to being harnessed to a wheelchair, let alone to using it to help them move around. In some cases, the dog is in constant pain or discomfort which may be further exacerbated by the use of a wheelchair. Moreover, if the dog suffers from weakness in all limbs, a wheelchair will not be of any help, because it requires the dog to have relatively strong fore or rear legs to use it although there are wheelchairs built especially for quadriplegic dogs. There are also situations when a wheelchair can be an impediment to a dog’s health, such as when the affected limb/s needs to develop muscle mass and strength after surgery.

However, if the vet indicates that a wheelchair will help your pet live a longer, fuller, and happier life, you should read on to learn how to choose the right one and how to use it.

Choosing the right wheelchair

Gone are the days when the dog had to be measured and the wheelchair custom-built! It was slow and expensive, and in most cases had to be sent back for adjustments.

Pet wheelchairs now come in all sizes and configurations and are widely adjustable to fit a wide range of dogs. They come in standard sizes from extra, extra small to extra large.

It is easy to acquire one but you should choose those that are made of lightweight aluminum and stainless steel with sealed wheels appropriate for all terrains. It is easy to use, sturdy and corrosion free, and will last your pet for years. In fact, those with a big love of their dogs but a small budget can actually get perfectly serviceable refurbished wheelchairs at a significant discount, sometimes as much as half the price of a brand-new one.

To maximize your pet’s comfort, look around for a product that is designed ergonomically as determined by a K9 orthopedic surgeon and the harness is made of soft rubber such as neoprene. It is also important that you choose a wheelchair that is easy to assemble and balance properly, as this will determine the efficacy of the product.

Getting on it and training your dog to use it

Once you have acquired a wheelchair, you will have to train your dog to use it. The first thing is to get them on it. Dogs will struggle to get away from a contraption they don’t understand, so it may be necessary to distract their attention away from it at first. Once your dog is on it, then the real fun begins.

It can take time, especially if the dog is not used to leashes or harnesses, and would rather go along dragging their feet behind them if they can manage it. Many pet owners have found that the more seriously impaired dog is more motivated to learn to use a wheelchair than one that feels no pain and can still get around although they also double as a hairy mop. Dogs that feel much pain when putting weight on an affected limb or are truly unable to move are the most willing and fastest to learn.

Here are some tips to help you along:

1. If you have a fairly mobile dog, take it for a walk without strapping on the wheelchair. When your dog shows signs of tiredness or pain, try putting on the wheelchair then before starting back. The dog may be more open to having it strapped on if it will help it get home.

2. Start your dog with its paws on the ground if you see signs that it is trying to use its legs. This means that they retain some sense of weight in the legs even if they have difficulty in controlling it fully, and will feel hobbled if you cinch the wheelchair too high for them to touch the ground. This technique may also have the benefit of helping to keep some sort of muscle tone in the affected limbs when it is used for traction. Hitching the wheelchair too high will also put more pressure on the spine and the forelimbs than advisable.

3. When your dog is in the wheelchair, pay special attention to the back. When the back is curved upward (roached) it may mean that the chest strap is cinched too tightly to allow the pet to stretch its back while walking. If the back is curved inward, on the other hand, it may indicate the need for more support to the core muscles with the use of a belly strap.

4. If your pet appears to be falling on its forelimbs, the yoke may be improperly placed and is pushing down on the neck. It may also mean that the forelimbs are not strong enough to take on the job, which means you may need a load-neutral or counterbalanced wheelchair.

This article was originally published on April 21, 2015

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