Adopting a Disabled Pet

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Jack L. Stephens, DVM – Sep 25, 2009

Adopting a disabled pet is not for everyone, but can lead to great satisfaction and joy. If, however, you are not ready and willing to spend the additional time a disabled pet requires, it can lead to anxiety and frustration.

The most common disability causing pets to be placed for adoption is dogs with a paralysis of the rear legs. This paralysis is usually due to a “slipped disc” in the back causing pressure on the spinal cord, such that the cord can become permanently damaged, leading to paralysis of the rear legs and even loss of bowel and bladder control. If treatment (which often include very expensive invasive surgery) is implemented soon after symptoms develop, it can often be reversed.

As pictured, there are carts or doggy wheelchairs that allow a paralyzed dog to be ambulatory and get around surprisingly well. Schatzie was a dog my wife fostered for about a year after being abandoned. The owners could not afford the necessary surgery. We purchased a cart and cared for him for nearly a year, until we found a permanent home with a veterinary technician who also had her own grooming business. Today he runs around her business daily as she grooms dogs, bringing joy and hope to everyone who meets him.

In Schatzie’s case there were special requirements, such as manually expressing his bladder, otherwise he would build up urine until his bladder was so full he dribbled or leaked urine. Occasionally he acquired bladder infections. And of course, he had to be placed into his cart from a crate, otherwise he would drag himself around with his front legs and create sores.

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While all of this extra work is not for everyone, I can say we saw him as a blessing during the time he was in our lives. He taught us many valuable lessons, not the least of which is to be thankful for our health and the inner joy for helping pets live out their lives. We are the richer for it, and you could be, too.


Jack L. Stephens DVM

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