Some of you may or may not know this but I had a patient that turned into my furson. Cosmo, a handsome long-haired dachshund, presented to me at the age of 2 for paralysis of his back legs after jumping off a deck and chasing after a squirrel. He was down for the count for several days prior to presenting to me as my patient. Upon physical exam, Cosmo lacked proprioception (the ability to know his limbs in space), superficial pain (the inability to know his toes were being touched) and deep pain (the inability to know his toes were being squeezed). MRI confirmed two herniated discs (T11-T12 and T12-T13). Surgery was discussed but the outcome may not have changed it because of the severity of Cosmo’s condition. Time is of the essence in situations like this. The “long back dogs” such as dachshunds, basset hounds and corgi’s are prone to this condition known as Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD). Cosmo’s owners never returned for him after his surgery was done. They left him and never returned. We even had a community donation of $10,000 raised to have his surgery done. And yet, his owners never returned. I knew right then and there that I was ready to welcome Cosmo into our heart and our home.

Cosmo became permanently paralyzed in his hindquarters and lived an additional TWELVE YEARS! I’ll write that one more time. . TWELVE YEARS! He lived an incredible life full of love, compassion, kindness and inspired paralyzed children and people in hospitals the fortitude of movement and living life to its fullest!

Caring for a “down dog” can be challenging. A down dog can be a dog recovering from knee surgery, other orthopedic surgeries, neurologic conditions, osteoarthritis, cancerous processes, trauma and others. Some conditions are degenerative conditions such as degenerative myelopathy for example. And while some may be permanently paralyzed such as “Cosmo”, they all require the basic wants and needs. I have 3 simple needs for my patients–Bedding, Movement and Cheerleading.

  1. Bedding. Make sure to have plenty of comfortable memory foam style bedding (unless your dog chews them). My personal favorite dog bed is the one from Big Barker. With a strong scientific study, these beds are proven to extend the quality of life for any down dog. Making sure these dogs have clean bedding is equally important. Some may need to have their urinary bladder expressed or squeezed. This is why I co-authored a book, “Honey, Have You Squeezed the Dachshund?” . This book highlights the care of the down dog and how to express a dog’s bladder. Get my book! I’ll be happy to sign it if you ever see me!
  2. Movement. Doing physical therapy and other integrative modalities such as acupuncture, laser therapy, shockwave therapy and more really help get the down dog back to moving better. Again, this all a matter of the diagnosis of the dog. Hydrotherapy is another great tool to have a noninvasive approach to movement. I strongly advocate for the boarded veterinary rehabilitation specialists around the country. They are remarkable and truly help get these dogs comfortable and mobile. Have your veterinarian recommend one.
  3. Cheerleading. Be your dog’s best cheerleader! They need you and need your encouragement, love and compassion to be by their side. Just like it is in human medicine, our dogs need us to help them get through some of the tough days ahead. Giving them extra TLC goes a long, long way! You are their whole world.

You probably have seen videos of disabled pets on social media living a wonderful life. And guess what? It’s true! Whether they are missing a leg, an eye, their hearing or anything else, they learn to adapt, be resilient and be your best friend along the way! Be their best advocate!

Adam Christman, DVM, MBA

Chief Veterinary Officer
MJH Life Sciences