11-27-03  We began scarf walks

I discovered I could walk her by putting a 7' long winter neck scarf around her waist and holding her rear half up as she walked along on her front feet. We went for two walks a day like that, and I continued to exercise her feet and legs as well.

Scarf walking a paralyzed dog

Figure 1

After that I looked at every other brand of carts for my small dog. To tell the truth, I never felt like spending that much money all over again, so we just walked her with a sling (wheelbarrow style) until she began to be able to walk some on her own at about 9 months post-injury. We went for long, wonderful walks with her sling. It was much better, she could go up and down curbs, run flat out, do hairpin turns, and easily walk for 30 minutes. Our sling was a 7 foot long hand crocheted winter neck scarf. I wrapped her back feet with vetwrap in case they brushed the ground, tied the scarf around her waist, took hold of the two ends, lifted her hind feet just barely off the ground, and off she'd go. It was great.

One of the first things I had to learn was not to pile up on her when she stops suddenly or makes a sharp turn during a run. Fortunately, she is both agile *and* aware of my big clumsy feet!

11-27-03  We discovered carry-walks

Carry-walk exercise for a paralyzed dog

Figure 2

We accidentally stumbled onto a way to use resistance early in my dog's recovery. I had walked her with the scarf, then was strolling home bicycling her back legs with one hand while I held her under my arm with the other. I would try to bicycle, but she'd stiffen and resist. Somehow, at one point I had both her feet in my palm at the same time and she was pushing against my hand, and I swung my hand down so her back feet were in a standing position and she was bearing weight on her back feet in my hand. This was wonderful, because she's like a little circus acrobat dog in that if she's given the opportunity to use all 4 feet, she relies solely on her two front feet because she can balance so well! Therefore, I'd been unable to get her to do weight-bearing exercise with her back feet. She didn't need 'em! Since that discovery, she has done hours and hours of weight-bearing exercise, body tucked under my right arm, chest supported in my right hand palm up, and back feet planted in my left palm.

Carry-walk exercise for paralyzed dog on the side

Figure 3

When she is "standing" so I can feel her weight and resistance, then I move her feet forward and back with short swings like a pendulum. This exercises her hips and knees, and also gives her the sensation of her weight shifting on her paw pads. It's a kind of an active range of motion exercise.

11-27-03  Standing in my hand

At first my dog could only stand a very short time, like the time it took me to carry her about 100 feet at a normal pace, then she would sink. I'll never forget the day when she stood for the better part of 2 blocks. The "deal" was that she had no balance or other ability yet (her nerves weren't nearly ready) but we kept the strength in her back legs by these daily standing-in-my-palm walks around the neighborhood.

Carry-walk exercise for paralyzed dog forward position

Figure 4

11-27-03  Positions for carry-walk exercises

We used three positions for carry-walks.

Figure 2 shows one we used a lot. Her rear rested against my chest to prevent swaying from side to side. In this position I could push up on her hind feet and she would bear weight, and I could swing her feet forward and backward.

Figure 3 shows our other favorite. She was tucked under my arm and had the greatest stability. I would put my left hand around behind my back with my palm up and support her hind feet. This exercise was easiest for her, easiest on my back, and also safest because I could see where we were going. I could not see her feet, so I had to be sure my hand was centered under her so I was not supporting her legs at an angle.

Figure 4 shows the most difficult position, with nothing to prevent her hips from swaying. My elbow was braced against my chest so she was held farthest out from my body and we had the greatest room to swing her legs forward and backward.

I never realized how many wire coat hangers and other things are lying in the street until I began carry-walks with my dog. They are hard to see, holding a small dog out in front of you.

11-27-03  Walking schedule

We did two walks a day faithfully throughout her recovery, one 20 minutes and the other 60 minutes or more.

I used to scarf walk my dog on her front feet (they call it wheelbarrowing) for 30 minutes first, before we did the 30 minutes of back feet exercise. It worked off some of her energy. At lunch we scarf walked for 10 minutes, then worked on the back feet for 10. So she got 80 minutes of exercise a day, 40 on her front feet only and 40 on her back feet. I felt she needed the front feet exercise for her sanity. It was when she got to go wherever she wanted and smell all the smells. She would make me *run* for the first block. Then she would go across streets, up and down curbs, across the grass, everywhere a regular dog went. That made her happy and the exercise was good for her whole body even if it was only her front feet. After 30 minutes of running and doing hairpin turns and smelling all the smells, she was tuckered out and ready to let me work her back feet.

My dog is an active breed and getting her energy level down was one key to helping her learn to walk again. I had to give Katie at least 30 minutes (or more) of really active playtime to get her energy level down, so afterwards we could practice our standing and walking. And I could tell when she would start to settle down. I used to say, the first 30 minutes were hers, the next 30 were mine. If we hadn't done this, honestly she never would have learned to walk, she just would have dragged wherever she wanted to go and never slowed down enough to learn to walk, because slow is not her nature.

I had to invest 40 minutes a day getting my dog tired enough to work. I got the idea from quarterhorses. You need to let them run flat out for a distance when you first go to ride in order to have a manageable horse the rest of the way. You have to give them their head and let them get it out of their system. It's the same with your dog. He's been cooped up and bored like a horse stuck in a stall. Ya gotta let him exercise till he's got his energy level down before you ask him to work. It's only fair.

11-?-03±  Splint

I did try an Orthovet splint for my chihuahua. I had to order the cat size, and it turned out to be designed for a wide kitty foot and leg, like a Persian. My dog's slender foot and leg floated in it. Supposedly you can mold them to fit better by heating them but I guess I felt too inept to try. You can also add padding, which I didn't try.

12-03  How we used rhythm

Four Fur Feet cover

We used rhythm to keep us going during her long recovery. My dog could not do standing exercises on all fours because she's such an acrobat that she would rely solely on her front feet to balance and not really use the back. I discovered the way I could exercise her back feet was to hold her under the chest in my right hand and under the back feet in my left hand, and she would stand in my hand on her two back feet. Then I would swing her feet forward and back while she was bearing weight.

There was no way we would be able to do half-hour stretches of this indoors staring at the kitchen wall, so we developed a routine of going out and walking with me holding her, and she would bear weight and get her exercise while watching interesting sights along the way. But I could only hold her in midair like that for about 8 minutes before my arm would die and we'd have to take a break. We did 40 minutes of this a day for 9 months until she was doing some walking herself. We had to do something to keep going!

The thing that kept us both going was rhythm. I used jody calls (military cadence calls) and poems and songs to keep our spirits up. Had to do them rather quietly so nobody would think I was nuts marching along with a dog in midair! One song that worked well was "The Ants Go Marching".

Here is our favorite jody call, which we did over and over and over:

Left, left, left, right, left,
I left my wife and 47 kids
In a striving position
Without any gingerbread
Thought I did right, right,
Right for my country
By jingles I had a good job but I
left, left...

When I first started doing it I was swinging her back feet in time to the music. Then one day I realized she was a small dog and this was too slow for what was natural to her, so I learned to double-time her legs to the music. I think this helped her make the connections she needed better. There's nothing slow about chihuahuas.

Our favorite poem is "Four Fur Feet" by Margaret Wise Brown. It has many verses, and eventually you find yourself making up your own. It starts out:

Oh, he walked around the world
On his four fur feet,
His four fur feet,
His four fur feet,
Oh, he walked around the world
On his four fur feet
And he never made a sound-o.

(He walks out in the country, and along the river, and all sorts of places. It's a wonderful book.)

I already had it more or less memorized and I checked the book out of the library again to refresh my memory. We changed the words to "She walked around the world on her four fur feet", and repeated it many times as we walked around block after block doing carry-exercises those months she was healing.

12-03  Bathtub therapy

I was inspired by Poppy's website to try hydrotherapy in the tub.

Actually she was a little too tall for the tub. With my tub, I had to unscrew the face plate of the overflow hole (that hole 3/4 way up the front of the tub) and reinstall it upside down so I could get another 2" of water in the tub for it to be deep enough for swimming. I got a rubber mat for the bottom of the tub, and put wafered ham on a napkin on the side and encouraged her to walk from one end to the other with little bites of ham. She loved the ham but she was only using her front feet. I tried to use the water chest high so she could walk with it supporting her, but her little rear just bobbed in the water, or else when I lowered it she sat.

But the real problem was, when I put her in she only wanted out in the worst way!

12-8-03  Message posted on Pets With Disabilities

Plenty of Strength but Won't Stand
Posted by CarolC on 12/8/2003, 10:47 pm

I have a rescued chihuahua who was found injured and had back surgery 11 weeks ago. She will not stand on all four feet at once. She can walk on her front feet with a scarf under her tummy. We discovered if I hold her in midair under the chest with my right hand and place her back feet in my left hand, she can stand perfectly well for long periods, and will shift her weight from her right to left back foot at intervals. She also will tread up and down in my palm while I am holding her like this, and has even stepped out of my palm several times. She is strong enough that she can even stand on each back foot separately this way. But she will only do it if not allowed to use her front feet. I do not know how to encourage her to use all four at once. She has not responded to hydrotherapy so far. I tried an Ortho Vet splint because her toes knuckle under, but it was too wide for her slender leg (the smallest size is designed for cats) and didn't work. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thank you.

12-11-03  Messages posted on Pets With Disablilities

Chihuahua has Strength but Doesn't Stand
Posted by CarolC on 12/11/2003, 10:13 pm

I am looking for advice or an explanation on a situation I do not understand. I have a rescued chihuahua who was found injured almost 12 weeks ago and had back surgery. A few days after surgery, she could lift her tail to right angles with her back, and would stretch her back legs and point her toes. Later I discovered she could resist my hand if I pressed her footpads, which we were doing for proprioception. Then I discovered she could actually bear weight on her hind legs if I held her chest in my right hand and her back feet in my left. Now when I carry her home from a long scarf-walk, we do it with her hind legs in the standing position. She will shift weight from one foot to the other at intervals, and sometimes tread in my palm like a cat kneading, and has even stepped one foot out of my palm several times. In spite of this, if I set her on all four feet she does not stand. She has the strength, can anyone explain this? I know her toes knuckle under, but even if I hold her toes she still does not stand. Is there anything we can do to encourage her to stand, or just wait? We haven't had any luck trying buoyancy exercise in the tub. She either sits, or her little back half bobs in the water.

Thanks to anyone who can help.

Re: Chihuahua has Strength but Doesn't Stand
Posted by CarolC on 12/15/2003, 11:27 pm

I think the answer is that her balance right now is probably less than normal. Her hindquarters kind of sway unsteadily even when I place her feet in a good stance and hold her toes. When she does her standing exercises in the palm of my hand, she does sway somewhat and I find it easier to allow her back side to rest against my chest slightly to steady her from the rhythm of my walking. She has stood up once in her pen, and that time her little back side was leaning against the pillow on the back wall of her cage, which would have stabilized her balance. Her vet specializes in surgery and doesn't seem to do much follow-up. She hasn't seen a regular vet yet. I wrote to the physical therapist at the clinic on 12/8 but haven't heard back. Thank you sincerely--I hadn't really considered balance but now I will.

12-24-03  Email to Pro-Active Paws

We're looking for hind leg boots for a chihuahua who is a little under 7 lbs. and also has a very slender foot and ankle. She had back surgery and is doing scarf-walking with her hind feet slightly off the ground. Since she is not putting weight on her hind feet, they do not splay out and are only slightly wider than her ankle, like a rabbit's foot. I want something to protect her toenails so they don't scrape.

[Note: We tried ankle boots from PetsMart, but they did not fit or stay on since her foot was nearly as slender as her ankle. These boots come above the hock and they will put an extra layer of protection on the toes for dogs who drag their paws.]

12-31-03  Messages posted on HandicappedPets.net

Could Use Encouragement?
by CarolC » Wed Dec 31, 2003 6:00 pm

We are 14 weeks and 2 days post spinal fusion for a chihuahua. We are doing the following: bicycling legs, scarf walking twice a day, tub therapy, and also standing exercises. She still has some strength in her legs but cannot stand or walk. She raises her feet like she's riding a little Harley when I express her. She can stretch and point her toes, and can raise her tail up and also wag it sideways. I know they say it may take 6 months, but I was thinking we'd see a glimmer by now. She is happy and comfortable and healthy otherwise. Has anyone had a dog who eventually was able to walk or stand or urinate independently, which didn't start to show signs before 14 weeks? Thanks.

Re: Could Use Encouragement?
by CarolC » Thu Jan 01, 2004 6:00 pm

She weighs 7 lbs, has short hair, rarely soils her bed, can turn herself at will, and is expressed at 6am, 11am, 6pm, and 11pm. Her bedding is towels and laundry is every few days. If I bathe her, she can be towel dried. Lifting her is no strain. Her main injury was a spinal fracture. She had the draw-away reflex but no deep pain. The doctor said not to expect her to walk again, but that sometimes especially with small dogs, they can learn a type of reflex walking even with no deep pain. I believe she is going to gain some type of mobility with time. My goal for surgery was to save her life (she was a rescue) and that she live the rest of her life with no pain or minimal discomfort, and we have met that goal so I have no regrets. I hope she will walk again, but we are happy and having a good life now even when she cannot.