Pet Care

How to care for your paralyzed dog

November 4, 2011

Paralyzed Dog

Damage in the spinal cord results in the paralysis of the back legs in pets. It is rather a common problem where the upper part of the body of the animal will be normal but the lower part remains paralyzed from the injury point.

These paralyzed animals have particular needs and are known as downer animals. Management of these animals is not an easy task and requires full commitment. Following are some tips of how to take care of your paralyzed dog.

1. Regular grooming

It is not easy to groom a downer animal as they also suffer from urinary and fecal incontinence. For the sake of cleanliness, it is important to bathe the animal regularly so that the surroundings also stay clean. Frequent bathes also prevents odor and blisters on the skin from urine.

2. Cleaner area

It becomes necessary to place a protector under the area where a downer dog is placed. All the requirements of the dog like his bed, blankets and food must be placed on the protector as the area needs to stay tidy and it becomes easy to clean up the area.

3. Outdoor hygienic care

The pet when kept outdoors will likely attract flies with the odors of its urine and fecal or by the damaged skin. Due to the paralyzed state, the pets may not be able to get rid of those flies. These flies can lay eggs on the damaged wounds of the animal resulting in myiasis which may also cause death too.

When is it time to see the vet?

Dragging or changing positions in a paralyzed pet can develop sores or damaged skin on the pressure points such as the areas of elbows, ankles, and hips. You should consult your veterinary doctor, if sores develop. The effected areas may need to get bandages or padding.

The paralyzed pet may also have a potential to move himself around by dragging the rear legs but this can lead to scraped skin. As their rear legs are paralyzed, they cannot feel any sensation but dragging may worsen the situation resulting in unbearable pain. It is advised to keep the wounded areas bandaged or padded and get the vet’s help immediately. You can also provide your dog with a harness which supports the rear limbs, making the dog able to walk around with the front legs. A downer pet should be provided with an orthopedic bed which is specially designed to protect the pet from bedsores. For much information, you must always routine check up your dog with the vet.


The downer pet can easily develop bladder infection as they are not efficient at keeping their bladder empty which can later spread to the kidney and cause much serious problems. For monitoring the infection, your pet may require to go for urine cultures occasionally. A mere antibiotic can eliminate the bladder infections easily. If your pet has an infection, you can tell by observing a change in the color and smell of their urine. It is best to inform your veterinarian if these problem persists.

Animals having spinal lesions higher than the waist will experience excessive bladder tone which means that their bladder needs to be pressed or squeezed for manual expression. Their bladder should be emptied daily for minimum three times. The bladder will stretch out and become flabby if it remains filled up. After carrying out this process for some weeks, the bladder would be able to empty on its own by developing into an automatic bladder.

To prevent bladder infection, emptying of the bladder is to be done regularly. Some pets suffering from spinal injuries on the lower back leaks by themselves as their bladder gets filled up to the full capacity. If you find urine on your pet’s bed, do not assume that the animal can empty their bladder by themselves. It is only because their bladder is overflowing due to its totally full.

Frequently asked questions

1. Where can we get a harness for my paralyzed pet dog?
You have to either consult a vet for the harness or you can buy it online or from some specific pet store.

2. How can we be sure of our dog’s bladder infection?
Your dog needs to go for urine culture to be sure of any bladder infection.

3. What should I do to prevent odors and smells from my dog?
Bathe your dog regularly to prevent odors and also keep your surroundings clean.

Things to watch out for

In downer animals, the muscles should be kept flexible for more comfort. For paralyzed limbs, light massages can be useful as there are no injuries or fractures in the limbs. You can also help your pets in moving the joints of their leg fully in the natural tone and then relax. Repeat the exercise daily for two to three times for about 10 minutes.

To keep the muscles of a downer animal strong and flexible, you can practice towel walking which is a useful physical therapy. For towel walking, a towel with an appropriate size is used as a sling by slipping it under the belly. As a support, the dog is lifted from the back so that they can walk normally using the front legs without difficulty. The responsibility of a downer dog means lots of care, dedication and commitment. Paralysis in dogs should not affect the bond with their owners.

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