Yesterday we posted a video on the Merry Misfits of Rolling Dog Ranch Sanctuary for disabled dogs, cats and horses. Today Dr. Susan Wright tells us about the extra work and extra rewards of living with a disabled pet.
Unfortunately dogs, like people, may need to learn to live with a disability. They may be born with the condition, such as those dogs with congenital blindness, or they may acquire it later in life. An example of this is when a dog develops hindquarter paralysis and needs a cart to get around.
Dogs who are disabled don't appear to feel at all sorry for themselves. In fact, we are often more distressed about a dogs disability than they are.
If you're going to adopt a dog with a disability, you need to have a little more patience than the owner of an able bodied animal. You'll also need to be prepared for a bit more cleaning, if they aren't able to make it to the right spot to go to the toilet. Depending on the disability, you may need to budget for more frequent veterinary visits, for example if your dog develops pressure sores.
Let's look at a few of the more common disabilities that occur in dogs, and the ways in which you can help make their lives easier.
It's not uncommon for a dog to lose a leg. Whether it be from a motor vehicle accident or other injury, you may often see a dog with three legs in your neighborhood. Fortunately, dogs adapt to this disability very quickly. They learn to run with three legs, and are often just as agile as they were before their surgery. They don't need any specific care, so you can basically treat them as you would a normal dog. They may have difficulty going up and down stairs, and do keep an eye on how far you walk them, as they may tire quickly.
Dogs often go blind with age, but some animals are born with this disability. If your dog has recently become blind, he will need a period of adaptation to get used to his condition. This may mean they may go to the toilet in the wrong spot, and may bump into things. Help him by not moving furniture around, and leaving his food and water bowls in a familiar, easily accessed position. Don't get upset if you have a bit more cleaning up to do; he's not doing it deliberately. Make sure that when you approach him, you speak his name and touch him so he's not taken by surprise.
Although deaf dogs can see just fine, they can still be taken by surprise if they're approached from behind. To avoid the possibility that your dog may be startled by you, do what you can to make him aware of you. This may mean moving to the front so you're in his line of vision, and gently touching him to let him know you're there. Because he's not likely to hear warning signs such as car horns, don't ever let him off leash when you're out for a walk.
Unfortunately, there are diseases that lead to hind leg paralysis in our dogs. Not only do they lose the use of their hind legs, but they can become incontinent, and may go to the toilet where they sleep. These dogs can become mobile if they have a little cart to carry the paralysed back legs, and this can allow them to enjoy regular activities such as going for a walk. If your dog is incontinent, provide absorbent bedding and watch closely for urine scald. This is painful and can become infected. If they do spend some time lying down, they may develop pressure sores which will need antibiotic treatment, and regular cleaning.
It's hard work taking care of a dog with a disability, but the rewards often outweigh the disadvantages. If you are able to give a good home to a disabled dog, and spend the extra time meeting his specific needs, do it. With your help and patience, he will enjoy an excellent quality of life, in spite of his limitations.
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