Caring for dogs with disabilities

A dog’s disability may occur from an illness, injury or physical handicap. The degree of disability may be slight or may be incapacitating. Whatever reason for your dogs suffering will have a great effect on you as your pet’s guardian.

If you adopt a pure breed dog from a reputable breeder, you will most likely have some type of health guarantee. If you adopt from an animal shelter, find a stray or take one of your neighbor’s puppies you won’t get a health guarantee or probably any information regarding the health of your new family member. Either way, there are no guarantees that your puppy will grow up without medical problems. Even with the purebred, it would be unlikely that you give your furry family member back to the breeder if he came down with a disease or disability after he’s lived with you for a year or two. Most likely you would seek the best vet care you could afford and keep your puppy with you. Anyone who has raised a puppy or had a dog for any length of time knows the bonding and commitment between human and canine.

Having annual visits to your vet (and the blood tests performed) will help screen for many medical conditions that affect dogs. There are a few diseases that are more common in older dogs such as cancer, arthritis, heart and kidney disease. Younger dogs or puppies are not free from these conditions but they are less likely to suffer from these diseases at an earlier age. If the dog is diagnosed and treatment started at the onset of a disability, the prognosis will be more favorable.

Some breeds of dogs are predisposed to certain health problems. Degenerative Myelopathy appears to afflict German Shepherds more than any other breed even though it has been diagnosed in a few other large dog breeds. Arthritis is very common in Golden Retrievers and Doberman Pinschers, Boxers are prone to a common heart disease called dilated cardiomyopathy.

Regardless of the disease or disability your dog may have, there are certain things you can do to relieve the pain and suffering.

* Control your dog’s weight. Giving your dog the proper amount of a good nutritious pet food will aid in weight control.

* Getting daily exercise for your dog.

* Making sure your dog gets quality vet care.

* Administer medicine or pain medication when appropriate.

* Talk to your dog as you gently rub his fur or massage him. Sometimes the human touch is more relaxing than sleep medication

If your dog suffers from arthritis, you will notice the difficulty they have in getting up from a lying position or walking up stairs. They also won’t be able to jump up in the car or truck without some assistance. To assist your dog, you can get a ramp to assist them in getting in or out of a truck or SUV and there are dog stairs to assist them in getting on the bed or couch. There are vitamins or supplements that can be given to your dog to aid in their health. All medicines, vitamins and supplements should be approved by the vet before administering to your dog. Water therapy is great for dogs with arthritis or hip dysplasia and sleeping on an orthopedic foam mattress also helps. Moist warm heat and massage are beneficial also.

Any dog that suffers from a lack of mobility due to hip dysplasia, spinal disorders, myelopathy or any medical problem that effects the hind quarters may be a candidate for a wheelchair for dogs. There has been vast improvement over the years in the design and structure of the wheelchairs and most dogs adjust quickly to pulling the rolling chair behind them. The chairs are made to your dog’s specifications and will provide them with a sense of freedom. If your dog is unable to walk by himself, check out these chairs for your peace of mind and your dog’s future happiness.

Training your hearing impaired dog with hand signals is very important for their well being and your sanity. It is much easier for the dog if you start the training before they become completely deaf. This way you can associate a hand signal with the verbal command which they may already know. If the dog is losing their hearing due to a disease or old age, you will have time to work with the dog before all hearing is lost. If the puppy is born deaf, he can still be trained but it will take longer and require more patience. Never allow a hearing impaired animal to roam freely or leave the house without his collar and tag. If a hearing impaired dog is sleeping, never touch the dog to wake him up as this could frighten him and cause him to nip or bite. Either stomp real hard or bounce a ball to cause vibrations which may rouse the dog.

Impaired vision may be caused by disease, injury or cataracts. Taking the dog on a lead through the house will help him become accustomed as to the placement of furniture and their smells. For the dog’s benefit, don’t move furniture or leave any items on the floor as this will confuse the dog. You will have to lead him around the yard also until he becomes comfortable with his outing. If you are patient and encouraging, the dog will eventually settle in a routine and his sense of smell and hearing will compensate for his lack of sight. As with the deaf dog, do not let him outside the house or fenced in yard without supervision.

Living with a disabled dog is trying and at times you may feel frustration. Seek out help from your vet, trainers or groups that work with disabled dogs. They will gladly assist you in your task of making a difference in one special dog’s life.