Dealing with a doggy disability: Happy National Specially-abled Pets Day

Dealing with a doggy disability: Happy National Specially-abled Pets Day

Paws For Reaction National Specially-abled Pets Day Saint Bernese

May 3rd is a special day for pet owners like me who own a pet with a disability. It's a day to celebrate the reasons that make our pets unique and one of a kind. Today is National Specially-abled Pets Day! My dog Hazel is a 5-year-old Saint Bernese who has been dealing with her disability her entire life. She had a broken femur when she was just a puppy. The injury went undiagnosed and the bone fused together, causing one of her legs to be shorter than the other. She will always walk with a limp as a result. It was the first of many health problems that Hazel has had in her lifetime, but she's taken it in stride. Despite all of her ailments, she is an extremely happy dog. 

When Hazel was 9 months old she developed facial nerve paralysis. The left side of her face went completely limp as if she'd had a stroke. Her ear, eyelid, and left side of her mouth sagged. She couldn't raise her ear or blink her eye. She didn't have a stroke and she wasn't in any pain- in fact the only thing she was prescribed was an eye lubricant because she could develop an ulcer from not being able to blink her eye. Her veterinarian was unsure what brought it on. There was no event that I could think of that would have caused damage to her facial nerve, and yet here she was; lopsided. 

Paws For Reaction National Specially-abled Pets Day Saint Bernese

Hazel is asymmetrical, as I liked to say, from the front to the back. Managing the facial nerve paralysis was an interesting journey for Hazel and I. Four months after the initial diagnosis, her ear on the left side of her face became stiff and her face began to spasm occasionally. At her progress evaluation with her veterinarian, I was told that the ear was showing signs of atrophy, and the spasms were likely contraction of the facial nerves. Fortunately, Hazel was still not in any pain from this condition, although she was visibly annoyed when the nerves would twitch. Her face stopped twitching after a few months and her ear is doing very well.

Over the years the muscles on the left side of Hazel's face tightened to the point where it looks like it was the right side that had sagged all those years ago. She has a crooked ear, a crooked nose, and an adorable crooked smile. Sometimes her left eye tries to blink, but it still doesn't work properly. Her left ear still hangs limp when the right ear perks up. People often comment on the face she's making. It's funny because not everyone notices her lopsided face right away, but when I point it out, it's all they see. Then they can't stop staring. In that way, Hazel can probably empathize with many disabled pets.

Hazel's femur has been a different story entirely. While the facial nerve paralysis was easy to manage and caused minimal discomfort, Hazel's broken femur has caused her problems over the past 5 years. She's developed severe hip dysplasia. She also developed a type of painful elbow dysplasia called an ununited anconeal process. She's had chiropractic care, reduced activity, NSAID pain medications, and stronger medications, as well as laser therapy. Hazel's had several x-rays and the most recent ones showed that her hip dysplasia had progressed even more. Her happy-go-lucky attitude and loving spirit despite her circumstances are remarkable. You wouldn't know by her demeanor that she's living with a disability.

Paws For Reaction National Specially-abled Pets Day Saint Bernese

"Specially-abled Pets Day celebrates these amazing and heroic animals, helps to educate the public about caring for disabled pets and find homes for orphaned, specially-abled pets," is what's stated on the National Specially-abled Pets Day website. "Celebrated nationally and internationally on May 3rd annually, National Specially-abled Pets Day encourages adoption always and for people who would like to bring a new furry family member home, to consider a specially-abled pet."

Lucky for Hazel, I already owned her and was not willing to give up on her when I found out she was disabled. But there are many pets who end up in animal shelters with disabilities, and that may make it more difficult for them to find a forever home. Specially-abled pets are exactly that- special. They deserve to receive as much love as they put out into the world. Just ask Hazel- look at that crooked smile! That's the smile of a dog that has nothing but love to give. 

Paws For Reaction National Specially-abled Pets Day Saint Bernese

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