Paralyzed Dog Care — Lessons I’ve Learned

dog blogParalyzed Dog Care — Lessons I’ve Learned

—written by guest blogger Sharon Seltzer

 As Thanksgiving approaches, I’m taking time to remember the special gifts in my life.  While that sounds like a cliché, the most cherished time in my life was pretty unique because it was the five precious years I spent taking care of Sophie, my paralyzed dog.

Being the caretaker of a paraplegic dog was a demanding job that included hand feeding Sophie, constantly lifting her from one room to another and making sure she had four potty breaks every day. The experience was exhausting and rewarding and it taught me important life lessons that I wouldn’t have learned any other way.

Here is a glimpse of our life, what I learned from it and why I savor the memory.

The scariest day in my life was when my veterinarian told me that my 10 year-old dog was slowing becoming paralyzed in her hind legs. After months of tests and treatments I was left with the one diagnosis I didn’t want to hear. I went home feeling alone and wondering how I was going to take care of a paraplegic dog.

Like other pet owners in my situation I poured over every piece of information I could find on the Internet. All of them gave me little snips of information, but none gave me a complete look at what life would be like as the caretaker of a paralyzed dog. It took weeks for me to find all of the products I needed like a lifting harness, doggie diapers, sturdy boots and a pressurized bed. It took even more time to learn the techniques I needed to keep Sophie healthy. I taught myself how to express her bladder, prevent urinary tract infections and stop painful pressure sores. 

All of this research went on while I was trying my best to take care of my sick dog.

After six months, Sophie’s paralysis was complete. She didn’t have any feeling or movement from her waist to the bottom of her paws. She wasn’t going to get better, but she wasn’t getting any worse. The two of us were rooted in a new routine and life was good again. It was at that point that I started to see Sophie’s condition as a gift. Sophie and I had done a good job creating a “new normal” way of life.

During the five years I learned lots of life lessons from my paralyzed dog, but these are my two  favorites:

—Life will change.

—Don’t let that change keep you from recognizing a new opportunity. 

I learned these lessons by taking a fresh look at Sophie’s favorite activity. Before her illness Sophie loved to walk the 3-mile loop around our neighborhood. Every afternoon she and her two housemates, Shadow and Cody would run in circles until I put on their leashes and we headed out the door.  All three dogs would run with me until their pent up energy was gone and then they would spend the rest of the walk enjoying the scents left behind from other dogs.

When Sophie couldn’t walk anymore, I didn’t have the heart to take away one of her greatest joys. Instead, I rounded up Shadow and Cody every afternoon, put on their leashes and walked the loop with Sophie safely tucked inside a large doggie stroller. She still felt the wind in her face and all the glorious smells around her. She even made some new friends because so many neighbors stopped to talk to her.

The ultimate lesson I learned from my dog was to make sure that other pet parents never had the lonely and isolated feeling I experienced when Sophie was diagnosed. I started a website called Lessons From A Paralyzed Dog in Sophie’s memory. It’s a place that answers all of the questions pet owners have when they are facing the challenges of taking care of a dog or cat with neurological, orthopedic or spinal problems.

  This Thanksgiving I am grateful for the time I shared with my paralyzed dog. What are you thankful for?

—Sharon Seltzer is an animal writer and the CEO of “Lessons From A Paralyzed Dog.”  She is also the pet parent to pup Cody and two semi-feral cats; Spike and Tiger.  She was the proud mom to Sophie and Shadow and Sport who died in 2013 and 2014.

dog blog

Sophie 1

Sharon Seltzer  

Lessons From A Paralyzed Dog


Contributing Writer: American Animal Hospital Association Pets Matter


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  1. Anastacia
    Posted October 22, 2016 at 4:44 am | Permalink

    My frenchie Tyson just went into the emergency room on Sunday and its now Friday. They wanted him to have surgery but I didn’t have $5-10,000 at the moment for the surgery. They sent him home with meds and told me to watch him. He had 3 meds. Tramadol for pain, prednisone for an antiinflammatory, and another for his tummy upset. They recommend cage rest and telling me that I’ll be giving him the same meds they would if he stayed overnight or a few days with them. He isn’t using his back half and cannot control his urine or feces. Its a terrible and helpless feeling to see my Lil guy like this. Only a week ago he was darting through the house like a demon playing with me and chasing his toys. I squeezed his back paws and he didn’t even know I did it. I’m just a normal person with an average 9-5 job and now I have my cuddle buddy completely hindered and looking at me for an explanation. If anyone can give me advice on how to make him enjoy his life and make the most of it please let me know. He is only 3.5 years old and still a puppy in my eyes. I have contacted charities, rescues, and fundraisers. I just need to do what is best for him and give him the best life possible. Please contact me if you have some advice

    • Posted November 4, 2016 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

      So very sorry to hear about this. Check out … it’s an important educational site for dogs with back and spinal issues. It’s no fun at all to witness our beloved pets in suffering in any way.

  2. Posted September 26, 2016 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    My puppy got to be paraplegic January 2 last year after a horrendous mishap (he fell and endured a harm to the spinal line) in the house while my better half and I were grinding away. After surgery, master visit, submerged treadmill sessions and 21 sets of laser and needle therapy medications – his loss of motion is changeless. I have to concede that it hasn’t been simple – it has been for four months – it is difficult to take in another routine – yet other than the way that he is deadened, he is still the delight and light of our lives and he is still our best pup!

    • Posted September 26, 2016 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

      You are a wonderful doggie mom. Sounds like you are both very lucky indeed! Thank you!

  3. louis santanelli
    Posted February 7, 2016 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    So i just found out my dog was paralyzed. And am debating on putting her down.shes a 6 yr old Shih Tzu. Im a dog lover and never had bad experiences with animals my whole life. Me and my wife work. She is over weight as it is 28 lbs. How does she crap? Urinate? What about leaving her alone? I dont know if we r even capable of doing this….what a blow….im sick… is my email…..ty

    • Posted February 7, 2016 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

      Hi Louis,

      So very sorry to hear about the challenges your pup is having. Being under the care of a vet to give you all your options is so important. There are wheels for dogs, and other things you may offer. Check out and and get as much information as you can. The health and well being, care and compassion for your pup is important. Seek out the best advice from people you trust. Wishing you all the very best. Lisa

    • Yauching Jasinski
      Posted June 6, 2016 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

      My dog became paraplegic January 29 this year after a terrible accident (he fell and suffered an injury to the spinal cord) in the house while my husband and I were at work. After surgery, specialist visit, underwater treadmill sessions and 21 sets of laser and acupuncture treatments – his paralysis is permanent. I need to admit that it hasn’t been easy – it has only been for four months – it’s not easy to learn a new routine – but other than the fact that he is paralyzed, he is still the joy and light of our lives and he is still our best pup!
      Good luck to you and your family, Louis!

      • Nicole
        Posted July 18, 2016 at 1:58 am | Permalink

        Hi. My 10 year old Boston had a terrible accident as well. He is still in the hospital. He suffered a fractured spine. They advised me to do surgery to try to repair it and told me he would have a 50/50 chance of walking again. Today they called and said he will most likely never walk again and it was time to start thinking of putting him down. However I do not want to put him down. I am more than willing to commit to taking care of him. Is that selfish of me? Can you offer any advice? Thank you

        • Posted September 7, 2016 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

          Thank you for your email. I’m so sorry to hear about your Boston. Very difficult decision. You can contact Sharon Seltzer on her FB page: Lessons From A Paralyzed Dog. She may have some wonderful advice for you, knowing it will require infinite patience, kindness and love on your part.

  4. Posted December 20, 2014 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    You are such a brave lady. I have not seen anyone who can take care of her or his paraplegic dog. It shows how humane and sensitive you are. I appreciate your courage and determination.

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