Making Accommodations at Home for a Dog’s Disability

When my beloved Tiki recently started vomiting copiously, I feared the worst - kidney failure. So I raced him to the Humane Society of New...


When my beloved Tiki recently started vomiting copiously, I feared the worst – kidney failure. So I raced him to the Humane Society of New York‘s excellent clinic. The good news is that Tiki’s kidneys are OK; his digestion was temporarily out of order, but it righted itself.

Unfortunately, there was some bad news too. A routine exam revealed thatTiki has conscious proprioceptive deficits in his hind feet. Howzat?

That’s a fancy, hyper-syllabicway of saying thatTiki hastrouble getting traction with his rear paws. He occasionally loses contact with the feet back there, unaware of their position in space. Proprioceptive means “of or relating to proprioception,” a term coined in 1906 by the English neurophysiologist Charles Sherrington, who receiveda Nobel Prize in 1932.

Proprioception, whichcombines the Latinproprius (meaning “one’s own”) and the word perception,is the ability to sense stimuli arising within the body. Those stimuli tell you the position, location, orientation, and movement ofyour body and its parts, so that even if you are blindfolded, you know where, say,your feet are and what they’re doing.

Because Tiki has shortcomings – deficits – in proprioception, it’s as if his brain has a blind spotwith regard to hisrear paws, so theyoften start to buckle under him. He can no longer automatically sense whether or not his feet are in the right position on terra firma.

All this explains his slower gait in recent weeks, which I had mistakenly attributed to advancing arthritis (he’s almost 14). Well, now we know it’s not his joints that are the cause of the problem – it’shis brain’s diminished ability to receive information fromhis joints (and muscles), information thatmakes him aware of his stance and posture.

Well, at least I can save some money on the extra FlexPet joint supplements I was boosting Tiki’s diet with – that supplycan now be redirected to the dog in my pack who really, reallyneeds and benefits fromit: Sheba, my very arthritic Border Collie.

SinceTiki’s new health hurdle isneurological, not orthopedic, now Ineed to watch him for other developments, including losing control of the front paws andpossibly, later,degenerative myelopathy. With his sensory awareness diminished,several thingscould happen, none of them good. I’m a big believer in dietary supplements,but alas, they don’t make a supplement for this.

Tiki’s deficits could become so severe that his hind legs might cross while he stands or takesa step – and he won’t even know it. We’ll have to be extra careful on our walks, soTiki doesn’t wipe out and injure himself, especially with the sidewalks iced overfrom yesterday’s freezing rainfest.

Meanwhile, back indoors,I’m making some adjustments to our animal house, togive Tiki the surest possible footingwhile he’s at home. I was already a big fan of modular carpet tiles by FLOR, pictured above, because they’re decorative, inexpensive, madewith recycled materials, and easy to attach to the floor with a low-tack adhesive that doesn’t strip the wood. And if copious vomit or any other form of accidenttakes placeon these tiles, they’re a cinch to lift up, clean with Get Serious, and replace. Plus, FLOR hasone collection called House Pet and another called Toy Poodle. How can a Dogster resist?

I always thought of FLOR tilesas clever,plush Post-Its forthe floor. Now I consider them a dogsend.

In addition to adding color, style, and softnesstoany type offlooring,and serving as an excellent thermal layer between a dog bed and the floor, the carpet tileshave a therapeuticbenefit: With these underfoot, Tiki’s rear pawscan get better traction as he moves around the house – especially on the porcelain-tiled kitchen floor, which is especially slippery. Plus, I can move and remove the carpet tiles whereverTiki needs them – i.e., he can stand on them when he eats, so he doesn’t have to worry aboutwobbling while dining.

I’m laying in an extra supply of FLOR tiles to create a kind of runway for my boy. They might as well be red – myhandsome oldfashion hounddeserves to walk on a red carpet, right?
Dogsters, what changes have you made to your home to accommodate a dog’s disability?I hope you’llsharethem in the comments.

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