How to Bathe a Paralyzed Dog

Medium
20 - 30 Minutes
3 Week

Introduction

Daisy is a Beagle that became paralyzed in an accident a few years ago. Her owners adore Daisy, and were willing to take on the challenges of caring for a paralyzed dog. To get around the house, Daisy drags her back legs behind her and when out on walks, she has a specialized wheelchair that attaches to her hind end that allows her to roll around and experience the great outdoors. 

A paralyzed dog can live for many years with their owners' assistance. This means needing everything that an able-bodied dog would need, including regular bathing. In fact, paralyzed dogs usually need much more frequent baths then their able-bodied counterparts, as they usually do not have control over their bodily functions and can get feces and urine on their fur. Also, because they drag their hind ends on the ground, they are more likely to pick up dirt and debris. 

Paralyzed pets are, unfortunately, not that uncommon, as spinal injuries to pets can occur in a number of ways, from household accidents to motor vehicle accidents or fights with other larger animals.  Bathing a paralyzed dog can be a frequent activity due to their propensity to end up soiling themselves and requires care and patience to support your pet and not cause stress to a dog with limited mobility.

Dog's Perspective

If your dog is paralyzed, he may also be incontinent, meaning he may not have control over urinating and bowel movements. Also, dogs with mobility issues like paralysis are liable to accidentally fall or roll into soiled areas. This means frequent baths are necessary, often daily or every other day. You will need to get your paralyzed dog comfortable with being bathed often and use soaps and conditioners that don't dry out or damage his skin due to frequent bathing. Keeping your paralyzed dog clean and odor-free so that he does not experience skin conditions and parasites will be especially important to keep him healthy--he has enough health challenges already!  Work on developing trust with your paralyzed dog so you can provide the daily care he needs, including cleaning and bathing.

The Support Method

Effective
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Shampoo
Dryer
Towel
Step
1
Provide padding
Ensure your tub has adequate rubber padding. This will provide traction for what mobility your paralyzed dog does have and cushion him from the hard tub bottom. Gently set your dog down in the tub with your hand under his bottom for support. A paralyzed dog's backend is dead weight, and he can not support it himself; a paralyzed dog can become injured by being set down hard on a hard surface.
Step
2
Position
Position your dog as appropriate to his condition. If he can sit, put him in a seated position or lay him down with his front legs out in front of him.
Step
3
Add minimal water
Add water to the tub to an appropriate level for your dog so that he is not in danger of being overwhelmed. Keep water tepid or just warm. A paralyzed dog will not feel temperature and cannot read if water is too hot or too cold. Only fill the tub to a level that does not put your paralyzed dog in danger of losing traction, you do not want him to float and lose contact with the bottom of the tub. Also, be sure you can support his head and face so that he is not in danger of drowning.
Step
4
Wet and shampoo
Use a facecloth to wet the face and wet your dog's body with a handheld shower, by pouring water over his body, or with a wet cloth. Shampoo your dog, and when you get to his hind end, gently elevate your dog and shampoo well. This area is likely to have become soiled and requires thorough cleaning.
Step
5
Rinse and dry
Rinse thoroughly to ensure residual shampoo does not remain. Frequent bathing means that skin can become dry and residual product contributes to skin irritation. Condition if necessary and rinse. Dry your paralyzed dog by putting him in a warm area to air dry, or blow dry on a low setting. Remember your dog will be unable to avoid heat and can burn if dried on a high setting.
Recommend grooming method?

The Special Considerations Method

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Shampoo
Dryer
Towel
Step
1
Provide support
Use a supportive baby ring or other device adapted for your paralyzed dog to provide support and cushion in the bath. Another option is to get in a large tub or shower stall with your paralyzed dog. Use a small step stool to sit on and support your dog as necessary.
Step
2
Wash thoroughly
Wet down your dog with a handheld shower or wet cloth. Dilute gentle shampoo and lather your dog, taking care to get at the underside and other areas that become soiled. Rinse well.
Step
3
Condition
Massage in a moisturizing conditioner. Dogs that are frequently bathed are subject to dry skin. Rinse off conditioner.
Step
4
Towel dry
Gently lift your dog out of the tub, or assist out of the shower stall, and place him on several fluffy towels. Wrap your dog in the towels and pat dry. Avoid rubbing, which can tangle or mat hair or provide too much friction on delicate skin.
Step
5
Dry thoroughly
Invest in a professional dog dryer or large fans. Put your dog in a wire create and use the stationary dog dryer or fans on a low setting to thoroughly dry your dog. A damp dog is susceptible to fungal skin infections. Due to their limited mobility, paralyzed dogs are especially susceptible. You may need to reposition your dog to ensure he gets completely dry or use a blow dryer on low setting on the underside of your dog.
Recommend grooming method?

Caution & Considerations

  • Remember, a paralyzed dog doesn't perceive temperature and cannot tell if water or a dryer is too hot. Check temperatures carefully.
  • A paralyzed dog can't support himself and can become injured when being set down on a hard surface. Use mats in the tub and when removing your dog from the tub, place him on soft towels.
  • Support your dog so that he is not in danger of having his face immersed in water, which could cause him to aspirate water and compromise his airway.
  • Frequent bathing can result in dry skin. Use special shampoos and conditioners to avoid over-drying skin with products.
  • Ensure your dog is well rinsed and dried off. A damp dog can get fungal infections and residual products can cause skin irritation, which can also result in skin sores and infections.

Conclusion

Your paralyzed dog can live many happy years with his family with the right support. It is a big commitment for pet owners, however, and you will need to be prepared to provide regular daily care, including cleaning and frequent bathing. You will need to take care not to injure your dog by supporting and gently placing him in and out of the bathing area, and supporting him physically while being bathed. Because paralyzed dogs have a tendency to soil themselves, you will need to elevate and clean your dog's back end to ensure that urine and feces are thoroughly cleaned off his coat. Thorough rinsing and drying to prevent skin irritations from reactions to bathing products or fungal infections will also be required.  

Think of bathing time as a bonding time with your paralyzed dog and make it a pleasant time together, providing affection and attention to your canine companion. Enjoy your time together!

Success Stories and Grooming Questions

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