This is one post I really had never thought I’d have to write. I was in some serious dog denial. But it was time to face the truth. Since we’ve brought Karma back to her forever home and we’ve had more time to observe her (me – obsessively for hours on end), our worst fear about her disability has become a fact. We had hoped against hope that all the ‘accidents’ were just a result of a life of abuse, never knowing anything but a short chain and cold cement. Unfortunately, however, now that our sweet girl has been home with us for several weeks, and all efforts to potty train have failed, we’ve observed too many tell tale signs that she is simply unable to control her bodily functions in many instances. But not ALL instances – which made us hopeful, and makes it so confusing and frustrating as well. The vets have tested her with complete exams ‘back there’ and they can’t find any medical reason why she’s having issues – but then again – they can’t 100% explain her disability either! Sometimes we’re sure Karma is aware that she needs to urinate – and she does squat! But then later, she’ll be laying down in the sun and out it comes all over her legs, and she’s oblivious to the stream. I’ve noticed that her ‘poo time’ always takes her by surprise. Once it does start happening it’s almost as though it’s very upsetting to her, and she ALWAYS tries to run away from it. And yeah, that creates a nice mess, especially with the constant bouts of diarrhea our poor girl suffers from. When we don’t manage things ourselves, she will urinate and yes – even defecate – while she’s sleeping or just laying down. Either she’s just unaware that she has to go or she just doesn’t have the strength to rise fast enough when she feels it coming on. Karma has always had very animated and sometimes violent dreams and nightmares – this happens every single night – and often these nightmares scare the poop right out of her. Literally. And then there is more violent dream thrashing about which (especially if it’s diarrhea) tends to paint every inch of her bed or the entire room. It just breaks my heart and to be honest – a lifetime of this seemed quite daunting. However, after just a few quick searches, it’s wonderful and hopeful to read how MANY people out there are living successfully and happily with disabled/troubled dogs. Also, so many of these dogs are much worse than our sweet little Karma (who thankfully doesn’t need a wheelchair) and living rich full lives as well. There are numerous support forums, and really just a wealth of free resources online. The thing that makes it the most heart wrenching for me is that my sweet little Karma is VERY aware that she is not supposed to poo or pee in her crate, doggie house or the foyer (her sometimes bedroom). When she has a pee accident, she gets extremely embarrassed and upset and we have to be very careful with our facial expressions and body language to not show any disappointment or she’ll become much worse. On numerous occasions now I’ve also watched her start to defecate in her sleep or while laying down in her bed and as soon as she realizes it’s happening she looks back “there” and starts growling at herself and then will try to get away from it (often creating a great big mess). SO – what to do to manage our gorgeous little pup that can’t fully be potty trained?
Here’s a detail of what we’ve done so far. To be honest it’s changed me from someone who was literally curled up in a ball in the ONE spot that wasn’t covered in dog urine and poop with my arms over my head sobbing and about to admit defeat, to the loving and supportive fur-mum I’m supposed to be!
Our first step was to try and minimize the “accidents”! The absolute best resource I’ve found so far is a collection of advice over at handicappedpets.com on three key tools that will make your life soooooo much easier if you have a dog with similar issues!
- learn to express your pets bowels or induce a bowel movement.
- adjust your pets diet so dog poop is firm and solid and not smelly moosh.
- learn your dogs digestive clock!
There are a lot of different ideas for the first one – and of course none of them sound like much fun. But they have to be better than the 45+ minutes a day I was currently spending getting faeces out of the dog house and the tiny cracks of the cement of my patio and then the next 30+ I spent disinfecting both her bed, the patio and (ughhhhhhh) ME. If anyone is interested in the full list of options I had (and many of which I tried) you can find them here: Bowel Management In Incontinent Pets So – did you know you can make a dog poop by holding an ice cube on it’s ‘bum’? HA! It sounds pretty mean, but maybe less so than letting your furbaby sleep in their own poop. There are a lot more disgusting ways of getting them to go when you want them to go, that was the one that I thought Jason and I could try as it was the least – errrrr – invasive….. gahhhh! But guess what? It works! And a week after discovering this trick and we have had ZERO poo in the bed or on the patio, and only a few pees. YAY! Seriously, you can’t understand how awesome this is after weeks and weeks of 5am clean-ups. People keep telling me how ‘much patience’ Jason and I must have and if we can’t continue to do this, they would understand, because they couldn’t do it, and I’ll admit, I NEVER EVER thought I was the type of person who would learn how to express my dogs bladder or induce bowel movements when necessary. But all I have to do is think about the months and months of abuse and suffering that this little dog has been through, and how HAPPY she is now with us and it makes my little inconveniences seem rather minor indeed.
Adjusting Karma’s diet and learning her digestive clock was the easy fix. Raw food diets are immensely popular here in Australia, but Jason and I needed to manage the digestive clock and make it work to our advantage. Kibbles take between 11-12 hours to get thru Karma’s system vs. raw or wet food that seemed to vary anywhere from four to eight! We currently have her on super premium Black Hawk Lamb and Rice. We feed her at 7am and 7pm and then knowing her clock we can get her up and moving for a walk or play at 6 or 7 am/pm and hope things happen on their own!
A few hygienic tips I’ve gathered and am happy to share with anyone else in a similar situation: Buy a box of disposable gloves (even the cheapo ones work well) and use these when cleaning up any urine or feces, disinfecting the area or bathing your furkid. Bathe your furkid often as they can get nasty urine burns on their skin. Karma really hates baths, and it’s impossible for her to stand on a slippery surface like a tub with her disability, and now that it’s heading towards winter in Australia, I have been using dry shampoo and baby wipes. Try and make the experience as positive a one as you can for your pup. Since Karma is so food motivated, I keep a constant supply of regular dry dog kibbles for her through the entire bathing process, and she hardly even realizes she’s gotten clean! 🙂 As for any messes around the house, after cleaning the soiled area thoroughly with water, you should apply an enzymatic cleaner that can neutralize the ammonia in the urine. Don’t ever use bleach or other products that contain ammonia, as this will just encourage your pet to consider that “cleaned” area one big bathroom! Enzyme cleaners should saturate the spot, and will need to air dry over the area to be successful. Keep your pet away until the area is completely dry.
Something tells me that I’ll have many more tips to share as life with my sweet little special needs girl continues. I’m hoping I’ll be able to try out those cute pink polka dot diapers for dogs, but we’re talking about a very high energy staffy pup who obsessively chews EVERYTHING and ANYTHING and a diaper on my dog would last about as long as ice cream on the end of her nose.
Any tips to share with us? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!