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The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick's Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption

An inspiring story of survival and our powerful bond with man's best friend, in the aftermath of the nation's most notorious case of animal cruelty.

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My Isabel, the paralyzed Belgium sheepdog mix that I have spoken of on this blog is ten years old now. She is doing remarkably well for a paralyzed dog in diapers. And I am happy to say that I am doing well too.

Isabel my paralyzed dog 300x262 Bowel and Bladder Care of a Paralyzed Dog

Isabel, My Paralyzed Dog


We have all well-adjusted to life with a paralyzed dog. It isn’t as difficult as you might think. After the initial shock and learning curve were behind us, we have sailed right through with about the same number of problems you might have with a dog with all four walking.


But the main problem we continue to have is Urinary tract infections. Which I am happy to report is better controlled now than they were in the beginning. But a dog in diapers is bound to have these issues. Well a few of you have been interested in what it is I have done to improve on this situation.


As you know, I am a nurse, and I have taken care of many paralyzed patients. Whether by spinal injury or Multiple Sclerosis or whatever the cause. All these people must have bowel and bladder routines. We actually train their bowel and bladder to empty on command, by habit almost. Well it occurred to me, why wouldn’t this work for Isabel? Well it does.


When you bring your paralyzed dog home from the vet, after surgery or after healing from whatever injury caused the paralysis, they will have taught you how to express the bladder. It is always good to do this after your dog has been incontinent of urine, making sure the bladder is empty. This helps cut down on UTI’s. But instead of waiting until after the incontinence, I empress her bladder two or three times a day, before she is incontinent. Completely emptying her bladder and also keeping her dry. Of course, there will be accidents, but the goal is to dramatically cut down on urinary incontinence.


Now let me tell you another secret. As your dog continues to wear diapers. The hair around her bottom end will recede, making it much easier to keep her clean. You may even consider giving her a trim to help with the cleaning issues. But no matter, when the area is free of hair, you will notice that the bladder is easily stimulated by a rubbing pressure right next to the anus. Repeated effort at each session will completely empty the bladder without any problem. Also I learned that gentle pressure right on the anus, (I use the baby wipes or rubber gloves to keep me separated from her skin and clean from her urine and feces) will stimulate a bowel movement. Repeated pressure after each elimination will assure you have emptied the vault of her colon, thus keeping her clean until the next time you help her eliminate. I do this twice a day, morning and night.


So by emptying her bladder and bowel before she is incontinent, I make my life easier and cleaner and her life with less frequent urinary tract infections. I know this is not a preferred topic. But it is essential to a healthy and long life for your loved pet. It is not their fault they are paralyzed and it is better for you both if someone has control of the situation.


So you can see why I say it takes a special person to take care of a paralyzed dog. I have known people who simply couldn’t face this “disgusting” task and they just allowed their animal to be incontinent and felt cleaning up afterwards was more appealing. Hmmmm. I disagree. Or they had their pet euthanized because it was simply too difficult for them to deal with. This very much saddens me. I’ll admit a medical background did certainly help me. But my powerful love of animals would have gotten me over the hurdles, and anyone motivated can learn all this care. I hope you will have an easier road with your beloved paralyzed animal with this new knowledge.

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20 Responses to “Bowel and Bladder Care of a Paralyzed Dog”

  • Valarie says:

    I would love more information from you. My poor pup recently lost use of his back legs and I could really use some advice and help! It’s only been 3 days and I’m taking pretty hard. Any chance I could get your email so we could correspond more about this?
    Thanks for sharing your story!

  • Susan says:

    Oh Yes Valarie, don’t despair there are some things you can do to make things better and get you both through this. We’ll talk.

  • Matt says:

    My amazing German Shepard / Lab mix just suffered a freak accident & is now paralyzed in his back legs. Its only been a couple days & i’m a complete mess over it. If you could give me some more tips to better care for my boy I would GREATLY appreciate it.

  • Susan says:

    Matt, I am so sorry, It is so traumatic. Please hand in there. Don’t be afraid, You can do this. I’ve emailed you. Susan

  • Crystal Hine says:

    Hi my 14 yr old pit mix is now in a wheelchair, and I was wanting to see if you have any advise or preferances on diapers, I’m having lots of problems finding one that will cover his front and back. The male diapers only seem to cover the front and the female diapers dont cover enought of the front. If you have any advise please let me know, there are a few other ?’s I have about the chair, thank you so much for all you do with helping us with our very special babies. Crystal and Chaos

  • Denise says:

    My 9 year old doxie had surgery less than 48 hours ago. This morning her doctor informed me that if she is unable to bear down to evacuate her bowels it would be in her best interest and mine to euthanize her. I am not willing to accept that. Can she not recieve enemas and such to cleanse her bowels? Why must she be able to push? She is paralyzed. I thought that was basically what paralysis was all about. Is there nothing else I can do> I cannot just give up without a fight.

  • Susan says:

    What happened to your boy? I am sorry you are having to go through this. I have emailed you my suggestions. Thank you for contacting me.

  • Susan says:

    My Isabel can not bear down at all. She is able to have bowel movements. Don’t give up. People including some vets just don’t know much about this. Let’s talk, I’ve emailed you.

  • Wente says:

    Susan, hello and thank you for posting this information. My Golden Retriever was in an accident and is now paralyzed in the rear. Today is the 3rd day since the accident and he has shown a lot of improvement since Friday afternoon. When we first brought him home from the vet, he couldn’t move his rear legs, his tail, and his front legs went stiff when he would relax. The vet put him on high dosage of steriods because his spine was fractured in three spots (neck, mid back, and between the hips). I didn’t receive any information on taking care of a paralyzed dog from my vet, other than how to keep him comfortable and give him his meds. Actually, he was surprised that we took him home, rather than euthinizing him.
    The concern I have now is: Rexy is refusing to eat. He eats the lunch meat we wrap his medicine in and he ate about a cup of dog food last night when my sons fed him one piece at a time. Every other time, he refuses. I’m concerned that he is starving himself. He’ll drink water, but barely eats. Any suggestions?

  • Susan says:

    Hello, I am so sorry about your Golden, I have emailed you, please feel free to contact me again.

  • Malinda says:

    I have read a few these posts and wanted to talk about my experience with my boxer and his spinal stroke. He went to bed Thursday night and Friday morning could not use his back legs. We took him to our regular vet and he referred us to a trauma center that specialized in this. Brutus my boxer was quickly put on pain meeds and steroids. The center had him doing physical therapy every day. It consisted of him in a water tank with a treadmill under the water and motion of the leg throughout the day by stretching it. He was in the center for 7 weeks. I drove to see him twice a week and the center was an hour and a half away. During this time he has regained the ability to urinate with the use of medicine that helps contract his bladder. He also is able to poop but it is really without his knowledge. I express his bladder about 6 to 8 times a day. It certainly is very stressful at first but it can be done. To anyone who is feeling overwhelmed seek out a trauma center that can truly give you the knowledge you need and support that will get u through it. I am so blessed that I took my dog to this center. They encouraged me everyday and told me that it can be done and it really does get easier.

  • Susan says:

    Malinda, thank you so much for your comment. I am sure it is going to be encouraging to some of our readers. And thank you so much for your insight. Also you are so right, It might be very overwhelming at times But it DOES get easier, especially with a better understanding with what is happening with your pet. It does take very special people to love and care for these very special animals. And a very good number of them will walk again. Or at the very least hugely improve in life and circumstances. Thank you so much for your comment, and I am so happy your boxer is doing so well. And you are a wonderful person for giving him his chance.

  • Celina says:

    It seems like this is the place to get the help/advice I need. My pit bull went to sleep Monday night and Tuesday morning he was sliding across the floor because he couldn’t move his legs. The vet says either it’s an embolism or a disk rupture. The MRI that would determine which is too expensive. If it’s an embolism, I’m waiting (and praying) to see if it will go away just as easily as it came. However, if it’s a disk rupture, he will be paralyzed for the rest of his life. That to me is not enough for me to put him down. I’m in the process of learning to express his bladder. I’m concerned about him releasing his bowels also. Can you give me some advice on this and other information that would help me with my dog?

    Thanks so much.

  • Susan says:

    Thank you for your query. I am sorry you are having to deal with this. I have emailed you. Please feel free to contact me again. Susan

  • sarah wareing says:

    My whippet Beadley had to be rushed to an emergency vet after experiencing excruciating pain then paralysis in his back legs. After an M.R.I yesterday we were told he has an embolism a slipped disc and 3 degenerative discs, we were also in the process of giving him physio for a torn cruciate ligament.
    He is so much more than just a pet and we would only consider putting him to sleep if he was still in pain and unhappy, we are also willing to pay whatever it costs to keep him comfortable.
    The specialist centre he is in wanted to care for him for a week but with him having severe separation anxiety and myself being able to care for him 24hrs a day we are due to bring him home tomorrow to nurse him ourselves. We have another whippet at home who is quite boisterous but we do have a large cage. I would be very grateful for any advice you can offer.

  • Candace says:

    Hi Susan
    Thanks for your post and all the assistance you’ve offered people. We have a 5 yr old female Belgian Sheepdog who out of the blue had a disc explode in her back last week and became paralyzed in her hind end. Such a shock. She went through surgery and we’re doing everything we can for her in terms of physical therapy, acupuncture, hydrotherapy etc. to try to get mobility back – long shot but we’re trying. We just brought her home today and my husband left on a business trip and he was the only one who could get her bladder to express and fully empty (whereas I just do it by accident and make messes and am probably not emptying it fully). So I was searching the websites for help and came across yours – and you have a Belgian Sheepdog too!! You mention some tips above – could you email me with more specifics (e.g. where exactly to rub to stimulate the bladder). I’m hopeless at this and very overwhelmed but just want to make sure she’s okay!

  • Sammy Sam says:

    Hi Susan, I’m an American Cocker Spaniel mix and I suffered a ruptured disk back in late May 2010. My hind legs stopped working even though my mom and dad had surgery done on me and I’ve been using a cart since late June 2010. I’m still getting monthly acupuncture and chiropractic treatments (and laser treatments), weekly swims in a warm water (92 degrees) pool to loosen my chest muscles and to experience weightlessness. I also get daily supplements of Neurotrophin PMG and Neuroplex because my mom and dad are still hopeful that I’ll get my leggies back. I just experienced my first UTI, am on antibiotics and awaiting my culture results. Hopefully all will be well and I’ll be on my way again. If you have a moment, come visit me on my blog. We’ve tried to help other dogs who have suffered ruptured disks too. Thank you.

  • Susan says:

    Hi There, You are my first puppy to comment on my blog. Thank you so much for sharing your story and congratulations on all the success you have already shown and for trying to help other puppies too. I think you are terrific and I know my Isabel would love you. Keep working and many successes to you.

  • Bunny Muth says:

    Susan, Please let me know more information on how to manage my pug, Jeffrey’s bladder and bowels.He had surgery on his spine for a cyst on his spine several years ago and had some fair bowel control. Lately he only defecates when he gets excited.Also his bladder control is worse. He can walk but his legs are very weak (back legs). He is only six and we love too much to put him down. Thanks for just being here.

  • Ronne Senick says:

    Hi Susan,

    Thanks for the very informative website. I have a 13yo Scottie with mast cell tumors who came out of surgery paralyzed; first back leg, a few days later, the other one, and then she became incontinent. This happened a few days before Halloween. BTW, nothing unusual showed on X-ray. Since then, I have perfected expressing her bladder and she stays dry. Am having trouble teaching my family how to do it. Will be leaving her with my daughter and her husband in a few weeks and have anxiety about this. I have Valium for her and if necessary, they can up her dose to keep her bladder emptied. I am curious, however, about the technique you use to stimulate pee by rubbing around the anus. Do you have any other tips to help others learn to express her bladder? I need a way for them to learn that has a faster learning curve….it took forever for me to feel successful. Thank you.


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I have connected with an amazing woman who loves dogs as much as I do. Her website, Health for Dogs, teaches dog owners ways to keep their dogs optimally healthy with more natural methods. She has also studied many symptoms in dogs and diseases that affect our pets and is willing to share her knowledge with us all. Feel free to visit her site, I know I do.

Paralyzed Isabel
Belgian sheepdog, paralyzed dog

Paralyzed Isabel

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