When I adopted Charlie a few years ago, I honestly had no idea what to expect. Though I was a fairly experienced dog owner at that point, I had never taken on a pup with so many needs. How expensive would it be to care for him? Who would watch him when I needed to go out of town? What kind of adaptive equipment would he require? Would he need continued physical therapy? There were a myriad of things to consider; however, I fell in love with this little guy the second I laid eyes on him and knew that no matter the challenges ahead of us, Charlie was going to be a “fur-ever” part of our family. I’ll go into the details surrounding his adoption in a later post. On this page, I am hoping to provide an on-going collection of resources for fellow “pawrents” of senior and special needs pets.
Let’s talk money…
I have good news and bad news. The bad news is, you will likely spend more money on your specially-abled super pet than you would on a pet without special needs. The good news is, it’s not nearly as bad as you would think. Charlie has the most “needs” of my entire bunch, yet he was the only one of the four that didn’t require a trip to an after-hours (read: EXPENSIVE) vet last year.
One thing to keep in mind is that items like medication and medical equipment are usually more expensive the more a dog weighs. For example, a wheelchair for a pug will not cost as much as one made for a doberman.
If you need financial assistance obtaining a wheelchair for your pet, there are a few programs available that may be helpful. The first is the Red Flyer Program, a dog wheelchair loaner program started right here in the Tampa Bay area. To learn more about the program, or to request a cart for a dog in need, visit Red Flyer’s Facebook page.
K9 Karts offers a rent-to-own program that allows customers to pay in installments. Per their website, you “do not have to rent for the entire term and you can return the cart if needed at anytime.” Learn more about the program here.
Let’s talk health…
One thing to be especially cautious about with a paralyzed pet is a urinary tract infection (UTI). Many pets with neurological issues have difficulty emptying their bladder, and urine backing up or sitting in a bladder for a prolonged period of time is a recipe for problems. Be especially vigilant with your pet’s incontinence care, and you will not only improve the quality of life for your pet, but you will avoid expensive vet trips as well. Expressing the bladder is a common part of routine care for many paralyzed animals. My rule of thumb is to always express Charlie’s bladder when I take the other guys out to do their business. If the other guys gotta go, then chances are, ‘ol Charlie’s bladder is full too. To date, Charlie has never had a UTI (thank you sweet baby Jesus). Ask your vet to demonstrate how to properly “express” urine from your pet’s bladder in order to ensure it is fully emptied. The links below provide more information on UTIs and bladder expression, but be sure to enlist the help of your veterinarian.
- How to Express Your Dog’s Bladder. “Walkin’ Pets” is a well-known provider of products, services and support for disabled, injured, and aging pets. They have a number of other excellent resources on their site.
- “Lessons From a Paralyzed Dog” is a blog that is an absolute wealth of information. In my opinion, it is a must-read site for anyone who owns or is thinking of owning a special needs dog. You can read their article on preventing urinary tract infections here.
Let’s talk time…
As a crazy dog lady, my life basically revolved around my pets anyway, so adding a paralyzed pup to the mix didn’t really create too much of a scheduling issue for me. However, you should keep in mind that, due to the reasons mentioned above, it’s not a good idea to let your paralyzed pooch go long periods of time without emptying his bladder. This means, no staying out until 4 a.m., no working over time without someone to “cover” for you at home, and no spur of the moment get-aways without planning a trustworthy dog-sitter. Sounds kinda like having a baby, eh?
One area where I have been especially fortunate is in the “dog nanny” department. As luck would have it, I am surrounded by other like-minded, crazy dog people, who love and adore my fur babies as much as I do. As a result, I am never at a loss for volunteers to watch Charlie should I need to make a quick trip out of town. Remember all that reference to human infants in the paragraph above? Well, let’s re-visit that, shall we? My (very unscientific) method of measuring someone’s ability to effectively care for Charlie is this: Would I trust this person with the needs of an actual human baby? For several days? Without access to internet? If the answer is yes on all counts, then that person is granted the privilege of picking up Charlie’s poop and applying coconut oil to his butt in my absence. On the flip side, if your friends can’t be trusted to care for a pet rock, then my advice is to become very good friends with the staff at your vet’s office and find out about their boarding policies and procedures. Bonus points if your vet’s office or boarding facility provides staff onsite overnight to keep an eye on your pup.