Article written by certified animal chiropractor Dr. Alisha Barnes
Discovering that your pet is paralyzed can be a devastating situation. You immediately start to think about all the discomfort and hardship that is coming down the road. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. There are lots of things you can do both at home and with the help of your care team that can drastically improve the quality of your paralyzed dog or cat’s life for years to come. Believe me, I have seen lots of silly, wiggly, smiling, paralyzed pooches in my time who still have a twinkle in their eye and a spark for life. They are comfortable, happy, and free even though their body doesn’t quite work the same as it used to.
Here are 5 ways you can help your paralyzed pet to be as comfortable as possible:
1. Effleurage Massage
This massage technique is a great way to improve circulation and lymphatic drainage. When the muscles are no longer contracting, the body has a harder time moving the fluid in the affected limb. This can lead to discomfort, sores and potentially infection. But don’t fret, with this effleurage technique in your back pocket, you will be able to help your sweet pet to get that blood and lymph moving. Effleurage is a French word for light touch. This technique focuses on very gentle sweeping motions, almost like you are petting your dog. It is best to use a full, open hand and start at the paws and sweep up, always moving towards the heart. Doing this 1-3 times a day can really help circulation throughout the body but especially in the affected limb(s).
2. Body Work for your paralyzed dog or cat
Your furry friend is going to be moving their body in different ways than what was originally intended. This can lead to a lot of wear and tear on the joints and muscles that are trying to pick up the slack from the paralyzed limb(s). Not only can your pet have pain and discomfort in these areas, but they can also have accelerated arthritic progression. This is something we certainly don’t want for them, after all, they have been through.
Regular bodywork can be a wonderful way to stave off these issues and greatly reduce pain and soreness. Some great options would be massage, chiropractic care, acupuncture, and laser therapies. Look in your area for a provider who is licensed in these fields and has a great reputation. You only want the best for your pet!
3. Quality Harness and/or Cart
4. Nerve Stimulation for paralyzed dog or cat
Even though the nerves are no longer firing, it is still important to do some daily stimulation to help support the nervous system. This is best done by gently tickling and squeezing your pet’s feet. By sending signals of light touch and deep pressure, you can try and give some feedback to the brain that the limb is still there. Now don’t get me wrong, it is highly unlikely that the nerves will heal once they have been permanently damaged but call me an eternal optimist. If there is a way to still support the nerves then why not give it a shot?
The nervous system is highly adaptable and thrives off information (i.e., stimulation). The best way to give it a boost is to give it that information through touch, so tickle away.
5. A Comfy Orthopedic Bed
Your paralyzed dog or cat is going to be working hard getting themselves around now, so they deserve a nice place to rest their tired body. However, in their new condition, they are kind of like Goldilocks, they need a bed that is not too hard and not too soft. They need something that is just right.
What’s the best fit? A memory foam, orthopedic bed. This allows a stable enough surface that your pet can still get up while also providing enough padding and support to cradle their tender joints. If you can find one that is heated, that is a double plus. The heat will help to reduce stiffness and improve circulation. Just be sure to look for one that is designed for pets and won’t get too warm when they are lying on it.
None of us would ever want to see our pet paralyzed but rest assured that even if they suffer this fate, they can still have a beautiful quality of life. It can also lead to a deeper bond than you have ever had before. The tender, loving care you give them is so appreciated and the joy they still possess is a great reminder to us two-leggeds that even in adversity, there still is so much hope and possibility for your paralyzed dog or cat.
Dr. Alisha Barnes
Dr. Alisha Barnes of Tails Chiro Care is a dog lover and pet chiropractor with years of experience helping dogs regain their mobility, improve their overall health, and help alleviate their pain.
To learn more about Dr. Barnes, visit her website at https://tailschirocare.com/