Activities For Paralyzed Dogs

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Introduction

When you have a special needs dog in your home, such as a paralyzed dog, you know that they are limited in the type of activities they can participate. It may be difficult to come up with a strategy to keep them engaged in life. But do not despair, there are several activities they can do to keep them happy, healthy and loving life. Even though their bodies do not work as well as they should, their mind is still sharp and they need to be able to participate in life.

Physical Therapy

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Any Day
Moderate
Normal
30 min
Items needed
Treats
Sling
Rubber Mat
Activity description

Paralyzed dogs will need physical therapy when they first become paralyzed as a part of their treatment plan. However, you should continue their physical therapy throughout their life as a way to create a strong bond and keep them engaged in their surroundings. Physical therapy should include massage because this will relax your dog. It will also help your dog’s muscles from atrophying too quickly. Learn from your veterinarian the various physical therapy techniques that you can do at home. It can be pricey when taking your dog to an animal physical therapist, so anything you can do at home will help cut some of the costs. Some exercises you can do at home with your dog include stimulating the feet, massage, and passive range of motion. However, do not perform any exercise without first consulting your veterinarian.

Step
1
Crate rest
When your dog first becomes paralyzed, your veterinarian will recommend crate rest no matter if surgery is involved or not. Crate rest allows your dog’s body a chance to try to heal and gives time for any inflammation in the body to subside. Physical therapy should not begin until the injury is beginning to heal. Start slow with their physical therapy.
Step
2
Start slow
Start slow with their physical therapy and only do exercises that your veterinarian has approved. Massage is a great way to start since this will help your dog relax and be more willing to work with you during the session. Once your dog is relaxed, add in passive range of motion exercises and keep it brief. Your goal is to work up to being able to exercise for 30 minutes each session.
Step
3
Continue daily
Although physical therapy might not help your paralyzed dog walk again, it will keep their muscles conditioned, their minds sharp and their bond with you strong. Having a special needs dog takes a lot of work and a paralyzed dog is not an exception. You will want to continue their physical therapy daily, although it is also alright to perform their physical therapy only five days each week.
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Hydrotherapy

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Any Day
Moderate
Normal
30 min
Items needed
Life vest
Collar
Treats
Activity description

The great thing about hydrotherapy is that it can be done almost anywhere there is a body of water. Small dogs can have their hydrotherapy sessions in a bathtub and larger dogs can be put in a hot tub, lake or pool. Hydrotherapy is a special form of physical therapy and allows a paralyzed dog to exercise all of their body even if they are paralyzed. Never leave your dog alone in the water. If they are in a larger body of water, fit them for a life vest to help them when swimming. There are specialized facilities for dogs to participate in hydrotherapy. You can ask your veterinarian for a referral to a pet rehabilitation facility. 

Step
1
Introduce life vest
Some dogs may not readily accept wearing a life vest. To keep your paralyzed dog from becoming overly stressed, introduce the life vest several days prior to introducing them to the water. Let them wear their new gear for about 15 minutes a day so they can feel comfortable moving in it. Have your dog fitted for a life vest so you know they cannot slip out of it while in the water. Small dogs doing their hydrotherapy in a bathtub will not need a life vest.
Step
2
Introduce the water
Once your dog has accepted their life vest, slowly introduce them to the water. Even if your dog was an excellent swimmer before they became paralyzed, you will still want to go slow with them. Make sure you stay in the water with them and help them swim. If your dog begins to panic while in the water, reassure them and then remove them from the water.
Step
3
Have fun
The water will help your dog’s joints and also give them the opportunity to be unhindered by their handicap. Do not leave them alone while in the water and do not let them overdo it by staying in the water too long. Be aware of your dog’s needs and only allow them to remain in the water no longer than 15 minutes to start. As they become more comfortable in the water, you can extend that to 30-40 minutes.
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Puzzle Toys

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Any Day
Moderate
Normal
15 min
Items needed
Puzzle Toys
Treats
Activity description

A dog that is paralyzed still has the mental abilities of a dog that is not paralyzed. They still need things that will keep their mind active or they will become extremely bored and can cause problems in the home. Your dog will love spending time with puzzle toys, searching for ways to get the treats hidden inside. Some puzzles are harder than others; therefore, start out with an easy puzzle so they can get the hang of the concept. A rubber Kong filled with treats is a great starter puzzle for your dog. The price for these puzzle toys will vary and some rather industrious DIYers can make their own puzzles for their dogs. Puzzle toys will help your dog feel like they have truly accomplished something great when they finally get the hidden treat.

Step
1
Introduce the treats
Puzzle toys are only as good as the treats that are hidden within. Therefore, find a treat that your dog finds simply irresistible. You may have to introduce a few different treats and give them a try before you find the one that they absolutely love. Do not give them so many treats that they become overweight or they begin depending on those rather than eating their regular food.
Step
2
Introduce the puzzle
After you have found their favorite treat, introduce an easy puzzle to start. Once they have figured out the easier puzzles, move them up to a more advanced puzzle that makes them really use their brain to find their treat. Eventually, you should be able to give them an advanced puzzle toy that will keep them busy for a while before they finally succeed and retrieve the coveted treat. Your dog may quickly become discouraged if you start them off with a difficult puzzle toy.
Step
3
Give praise
Just like people, dogs need encouragement when they are engaged in an activity, even puzzles. Take the time to sit with your dog while they are working their puzzle toy and give them praise throughout when they are learning how to work a puzzle. Then once they have gotten their reward, give them more praise and make the experience fun for them. This will help keep them engaged within the family and feeling like they have accomplished something great.
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More Fun Ideas...

Targeting

Targeting is simply teaching your dog to touch a designated target with their nose or foot to get a reward. This is another way to keep your paralyzed dog’s mental abilities sharp and keep them from becoming bored or destructive. It is easy to teach targeting to your dog and is relatively a cheap activity that can be done anywhere.

Walking With Wheels

Invest in wheels for your paralyzed dog and head out for a walk around the neighborhood. Trying to keep their routine as normal as possible is essential to keeping your paralyzed dog upbeat and ready to conquer the world. Wheels can be a bit pricey for your dog, but are well worth the investment to give them their independence.

Conclusion

Do not give up on your paralyzed dog. Their life has been dramatically changed, but if you remain upbeat and happy, they will follow your lead. Find activities that work their minds and make them feel like a normal dog. A permanently paralyzed dog should never be a hardship on their family, therefore, find ways that help them be mobile, happy and healthy including physical therapy, wheelchairs and mental stimulation.