Bulldog puppy with spina bifida wearing a pink diaper

What to Know About Dogs with Spina Bifida

What to Know About Dogs with Spina Bifida

We're answering your questions about dogs with Spina Bifida!

October 29, 2021In Health & Wellness

Article authored by Road Dogs volunteer Haley Bieber

Spina bifida is a common disability we see in dogs rescued by Road Dogs. We often get asked about quality of life and what it’s like to care for dogs with Spina Bifida, so we’re answering some common questions below!

What is Spina Bifida?

To put it simply, Spina Bifida is a congenital defect of the vertebrae that prevents it from completely encasing the spinal cord, leaving the cord partially exposed. It most commonly occurs near the lower back but can occur anywhere along the spine.

Bulldog puppy with spina bifida wearing a pink diaper

How Does Spina Bifida Affect Dogs?

This varies greatly from dog to dog. Some may be fully paralyzed in their back end and fully incontinent. Others may be completely mobile and/or partially incontinent. Spina Bifida is not a degenerative disorder, meaning it’s not going to get worse or better over time.

While only a vet will be able to officially diagnose a dog, there are some signs and symptoms that can often be spotted in the first few months of a puppy’s life – the first being a lack of mobility in its back legs. Another sign might be incontinence or lack of awareness when urinating and defecating. In some cases, as the dog grows you can see a divot on their back where the spinal defect is.

What Causes Spina Bifida?

There is limited research on what causes Spina Bifida, but there are indications that it is due to the interaction of several genetic and environmental factors. While birth defects are bound to occur now and then, we have seen a lot of puppies with Spina Bifida coming from irresponsible breeding with a lack of thorough genetic testing.

With the increase in popularity of “rare and exotic” colored bulldogs, there’s also been an increase in breeding that leads to more puppies in rescue with special needs. We have seen several cases of multiple Spina Bifida puppies in a single litter.

What is Life Like for a Dog with Spina Bifida?

Most dogs with Spina Bifida live very normal, happy lives. They don’t know they’re any different from other dogs and live life to the fullest! Incontinent dogs grow accustomed to wearing diapers and being changed that it becomes second nature to most.

Dogs with mobility issues typically figure out a way to get around on their own and are determined to do whatever they set their minds to. Tools are often used to help them including ramps, strollers, and wheelchairs, although most wheelchair pups only use them outside of the house.

Rescue french bulldog with Spina Bifida wearing a Capitals bandana and sitting on a couch

How to Care for a Dog with Spina Bifida

For the most part, it’s just like caring for any other dog! As we stated earlier, they have no idea they’re any different and we believe it’s important to treat them as such. Incontinence is no big deal once you get the hang of diapering. If you’d like to know more about caring for a diaper dog, check out this helpful article!

Diaper dogs make great apartment pets since you don’t have to take them outside several times a day. There’s also no need to take them out in the rain or cold! Puppies need to be changed more often, but adults usually only need to be changed, at most, 3-4 times a day.

The care for dogs with mobility issues varies depending on the severity. Dogs with more severe challenges may need to be carried at times, use a wheelchair or stroller for walks, and use ramps instead of stairs. Extra attention may need to be given to their legs to ensure they don’t suffer irritation from dragging.

Caring for a special needs dog can be a very rewarding experience and often leads to an especially close bond between the pup and caretaker!


Best Gifts for your Bulldog this Holiday Season

Best Gifts for your Bulldog this Holiday Season

December 11, 2020In LifestyleBy Katey

One of my favorite traditions of the holiday season is giving gifts to friends and loved ones – including my bulldogs! But finding the right gifts for them isn’t always easy. Finding toys that will entertain and not be destroyed within 8 minutes can be a bit of a challenge, as many bulldog owners know!

In this article, I’ll share some of my favorite gifts to keep your babes cozy, comfy, and entertained well into the new year. I’ll also share a few to watch out for and recommend some great alternatives.

For the Active Mind

Some of my favorite dog toys are the kinds that are interactive and dispense treats. The best part about these toys is that they’re great for expending mental energy! If your dogs are anything like mine, sometimes physical exercise just doesn’t cut it. Much like people, dogs can get bored, especially if their day-to-day routine is the same. Challenging your pup’s mind will keep her from getting bored and can even help cut down on destructive behaviors like chewing on furniture and destroying your shoes!

One of my favorite interactive toys is the Starmark Treat Dispensing Bob-A-Lot. This toy comes in 2 sizes to accommodate both big and small dogs and provides mental stimulation by challenging your dog to figure out how to get the treats out. One of the best features is that you can alter the difficulty level by adjusting openings to control how easily (or not) the treats come out.

And here’s an added bonus – if you have a dog that scarfs down his meals, the Starmark Bob-A-Lot is a great way to get him to eat slower and burn some mental energy at the same time.

For the Eager Eater

While the Bob-A-Lot may be useful for pups who eat kibble, I know a lot of bully parents feed their babes raw, homecooked, or dehydrated food. For these families, we love the Outward Hound Fun Feeder Interactive Dog Bowl.

This bowl not only engages with its ridges and mazes, it also lengthens mealtime by up to 10x, which can help prevent bloat, regurgitation, gas, and obesity.

The fun feeder comes in sizes for both small and larger dogs, is made with high quality, food safe materials, and is BPA, PVC, and phthalate free. Your pup will love the non-slip base that keeps the bowl steady while she eats, and you’ll love that it’s dishwasher safe for easy cleanup!

For the Cuddly Snuggler

What pup doesn’t love a good nap after a fun and engaging meal? For those dogs, I recommend a calming bed. Calming beds come in different shapes and sizes but generally offer the same benefits. They’re specially designed to provide extra comfort and warmth for your pup with raised bolsters and interiors lined with soft, luxurious Sherpa or faux fur.

Have you ever seen a pile of puppies sleeping and just “Awwwww-ed” your face off? Did you know that the natural inclination to pile up is actually biological? Newborn puppies need to stay warm and often sleep in piles to keep their body temperatures up. The snuggling also creates a sense of security after leaving the safe, warm womb.

These instincts often stay with our pups, which is one reason they love to sleep on top of us. Calming beds recreate the safety and warmth of a puppy pile when our human laps are unavailable. A couple of my favorites are the Best Friends by Sheri Donut Cuddler and Bessie + Barnie’s Bagel Bed.

For the Avid Chewer

For years I rode a wave of frustration over the droves of dog toys my bullies would quickly destroy even though they claimed to be “indestructible” or specially designed for heavy chewers. Eventually, I learned that those descriptors mean nothing when you’ve got bulldogs. Until I found the Benebone! Made of USA-sourced nylon and real flavor ingredients, these durable toys last for weeks, maybe months!

Infused with food-grade flavors like chicken, bacon, peanuts, and maple, the Benebone is a favorite among avid chewers, and the tough nylon base designed for safe chewing makes it a favorite for dog parents. Despite the durability, however, you should always monitor your dog’s chew toy habits and replace the Benebone after reasonable wear. If you’re wondering what “reasonable wear” means, check out this article on the Benebone website – When to Replace Your Benebone.

For the Delighted Destroyer

My dog LOVES to destroy toys. She lives for disemboweling stuffies and one of her all-time favorite pastimes is ripping the squeakers out. How many of you can relate?? I was so excited when I found the OMG! SURPRISE toys at PetSmart and couldn’t wait to bring one home for her.

This plush toy has it all – the fun of a stuffie, plus that sought after squeak. And when your dog eventually rips it open, there’s a surprise squeaky toy inside! Forget the days of sighs and headshaking after your pupper rips open its newest toy within 5 minutes. With the OMG! SURPRISE toy, you’ll actually get excited at the site of your baby ripping this thing open.

Gifts to Beware Of

Rope Toys

Rope toys are a very popular dog toy, but most people don’t know just how dangerous they can be. Whenever a dog chews on a toy, small particles are chewed off and can very easily be ingested. With rope toys, those “small particles” are actually small fibers that can turn into long strands of rope. When ingested, these strands can cause issues in a dog’s digestive tract and intestines.

Issues can range from indigestion or a blockage to severe intestinal damage. When a long, thin object, such as a strand of rope, is moving through the digestive tract, it can become lodged in two spaces at once, such as the stomach and intestines. If this happens, the dog may be unable to pass the strand, in which case it could act as a drawstring and tighten around the intestines, causing extreme pain and possibly death.

If you do allow your dog to play with a rope toy, he should always be supervised and never be left alone to chew on it. You should also invest in a higher-quality rope and discard it as soon as it begins to fray.

If your dog loves to play tug of war, but you’d like a safer alternative, try the West Paw Zogoflex Bumi Dog Toy or Tuffy’s Ultimate 3-Way Tug Squeaky Toy. Both of these options provide tons of tuggy fun without the danger of swallowing strands of rope.

Rawhide

While rawhide is an incredibly popular chew choice, it can also be incredibly dangerous. When my dog was about 6 months old, he stole a rawhide bone from a friend’s house. I found his ingenuity in procuring the chew endearing, so I let him keep it. He’d been chewing on it for about 15-20 minutes when I noticed he was acting a little weird. That’s when I noticed he had unraveled the folded chew and was choking on the taffy-like remains. I ran to him and ended up pulling a 6-inch piece of leathery rawhide out of his throat!

Rawhide chews are built to last, so as dogs chew on them they don’t break apart. Instead, they become soft and turn into a consistency a lot like tough taffy or bubble gum and don’t break down easily. This can easily result in a dog swallowing long pieces of rawhide that are serious choking hazards and can easily turn into an intestinal blockage.

In addition to the dangers outlined above, the process of creating rawhide chews involves A LOT of chemicals. Contrary to popular belief, a rawhide stick is not a by-product of meat, it is a by-product of the leather industry, making it, theoretically, a leather chew.

The hides used to create rawhide are first bathed in chemicals to preserve the product during transport. Second, the hides are washed and whitened using hydrogen peroxide or bleach, after which they’re “painted” with chemicals, artificial dyes, and flavors so that they look pretty on pet store shelves. Lastly, rawhide chews are often treated with a variety of dangerous chemicals to prolong shelf life. For a more comprehensive explanation of how rawhide is created and treated, read this article on the Whole Dog Journal website.

This year try safer alternatives like bully sticks or Himalayan yak chews. Bully sticks are a more nutrient-rich, natural option that can help clean teeth and gums while your dog chews, and they come in all different shapes and sizes.

Himalayan Yak chews are thicker, tougher options that come from hardened yak and cow cheese. This chew also helps remove bacteria from your dog’s teeth and lasts longer than many other natural chews.

Cheap Plush Toys

Cheap plush toys may be cost-effective, but as most bully parents know, they are easily destroyed within minutes! Not only can this feel like a waste of money, but it can also be dangerous. While some dogs may simply love the thrill of ripping a toy to shreds, others like to eat the remnants of fabric, stuffing, and squeakers. In addition to being a choking hazard, these materials can also cause an upset stomach or, even worse, an intestinal blockage.

If your dog loves a good plush toy, opt for one that has little to no filling or uses some type of chew guard fabric. One of our favorites is the goDog Tough Plush Dog Toy with Chew Guard technology. While these durable stuffies do have some stuffing, the trademarked Chew Guard Technology and double stitching make them tougher than the average toy. Additionally, the internal squeakers are built into nylon pockets that help protect them from overeager teeth.

Remember that all dogs are different and no toys or chews are 100% indestructible or safe. Always supervise your dog when he’s chomping on bones and chewies. Know your dog’s habits when it comes to all different types of toys and discard them when they become worn.

Happy holidays and happy shopping!


French bulldog looking at fruit

Dogs, Diet, and Nutrition

Dogs, Diet & Nutrition

November 10, 2020In Health & Wellness, Diet & Nutrition

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, what better time than now to discuss food, diet, and your dog!

Just like humans, the food your dog eats will play a large factor in its overall health and well-being. Here at Road Dogs, we have found that feeding a high-quality diet has helped cure some common bulldog issues such as allergies, skin complications, chronic ear infections, and a slew of other problems. Additionally, we have seen success in helping to keep conditions like IBD, kidney disease, and diabetes under control, prolonging the lives of our best friends.

French bulldog looking at fruit

Why We Do Not Recommend Kibble as Part of a Regular Feeding Routine

As a general rule, we typically do not recommend kibble as part of a regular diet since the dog food industry is completely unregulated. As long as there are chicken byproducts included, the companies are allowed to say that it is “chicken” when in fact it may not be the parts of the chicken you would ever want to feed your pup. Most kibble options are loaded with preservatives and chemicals so they are able to sit on shelves for years and still be “healthy” to feed. However, there ARE some good kibble options out there, you just need to do your research and choose the right one.

Tips for Finding Healthy Dog Food Options

How do you go about finding a good/healthy food option for your pup that meets your lifestyle and budget?

  1. Find a couple of options that you would consider
  2. Research online to see if any of the brands have had product recalls. If they have, find out how long ago, what it was for, and what issues it was causing in dogs who ate it
  3. Read the labels and see what the ingredients are. You do not want to choose any food that has byproducts, soy, or corn. You should be able to easily pronounce all ingredients included and always look for an option where the first ingredient is a meat/protein

What About Grain-Free Diets?

While grain-free diets were a fad for a while, recently there has been a lot of press about them and the potential harm they may cause dogs. We do not recommend a grain-free diet unless your dog has been tested and is allergic. In the event you do need to feed grain-free, we recommend adding taurine as a supplement, which can easily be found on Amazon or other places that sell vitamins.

Dog Foods We Like to Feed/Recommend

Below are some of the brands we recommend. Keep in mind each dog has its own unique needs and while a specific food may work great for one dog, it may not work as well for your dog. When it comes to feeding a bulldog, we typically stay away from chicken as the protein source as many are allergic. And it never hurts to add a good probiotic to your daily feeding routine!

Real Food (these options are all made from USDA certified human-grade food)

  • Just Food for Dogs
  • Open Farm
  • My Perfect Pet
  • The Farmer’s Dog
  • Homemade – Many people choose to make their own food so that they know exactly what’s going in it. You can find a ton of recipes and resources online, and Just Food for Dogs offers DIY kits to help you prepare their recipes at home. Always make sure that whatever you prepare is balanced and includes the correct amount of calories, vitamins, and minerals that your dog requires. If you’re unsure whether or not the food you’re preparing meets healthy requirements, you can always purchase and add a balanced supplement.

Food Toxicity & Dogs

Just because a certain food is good for you doesn’t always mean you should share it with your pup. In fact, there are many foods that humans can safely enjoy that can be extremely toxic, even deadly, to dogs. Refer to the infographic below to see what kinds of foods you should keep away from your pup. You can also download your own copy for easy reference!

Infographic about foods that are toxic to dogs

Disclaimer

We are not veterinarians or canine nutritionists; we are providing you with our recommendations based on years of experience of caring for thousands of dogs with a variety of health issues.

Recommended Resources and Reading

Mayor Tyson Bulldog (@mayortysonbulldog on Instagram)

While caring for her bulldog Tyson, Michelle gained extensive knowledge about nutrition, diet, and preparing homemade meals. You can find an abundance of information and recipes on both her website and Instagram account.

 

Darlin Clementine (@_darlin_clementine on Instagram)

Stacey is a big advocate for natural, healthy diets. On her Instagram account, you can find plenty of insight into raw and natural diets, as well as recipes you can make at home.

 

Whole Dog Journal 

For more information about preparing homemade meals for your pup, check out this article – https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/food/home_prepared/how-to-make-your-own-dog-food/.

 

 


bulldog puppy with diaper and suspenders

How to Care for Diaper Dogs

How to Care for Dogs with Diapers

A guide to preparing for life with an incontinent dog

October 19, 2020In Health & Wellness

As a foster who specializes in caring for dogs that require diapers, I get a lot of questions about what’s involved with their care. In this article, I will address the top concerns most potential adopters have. Please keep in mind that while these methods work for me, dogs are individuals with unique needs that will change as they grow. Most of my knowledge was learned through trial and error, and advice from other adopters and my bulldog experienced vet. It can be frustrating at times but don’t give up. The rewards of caring for these dogs far outweigh the challenges!

Dogs that require diapers generally have some degree of incontinence, which is the loss of the ability to control urination and/or bowel movements.

Incontinence can be caused by many different things, including neurological issues such as spina bifida, hydrocephalus, and IVDD, bladder infections and other bladder conditions, anatomic abnormalities, and old age.

bulldog puppy with diaper and suspenders

What is your diaper changing routine and what supplies do you use?

Every morning, each pup gets a bath to clean up residue from any creams, products, or urine, and I let them all air dry (sans diaper). It’s important to keep them clean and dry to prevent skin infection and breakdown.

When it comes time for a diaper change, I have a changing station set up similar to what you’d see in an infant’s room. The station is always in the same spot and stores all my diaper changing supplies. When we head to the changing station, the dogs know its diaper time! When I leave the house with the pups, I carry disposable pee pads for easier, on-the-go diaper changes.

For each change, I put a reusable cloth pee pad on our changing table. This protects from any accidents and provides some texture that makes it easier for the dogs to stand up. To clean their behinds and genitals I use baby wipes. There are many brands to choose from but to avoid irritation, I suggest using wipes without fragrance or additives. Next, I use butt paste as a barrier cream to prevent irritation from the diaper rubbing against their skin, and I like to sprinkle a little powder in there to keep the paste from sticking to the diaper. It also helps absorb moisture! If one of the pups gets especially soiled (ie: from diarrhea), I’ll give it a full bath to make sure all the nooks and crannies get cleaned out.

Frankie the bulldog wearing a diaper

In between diaper changes, I like to use a peri cleanser, which is a no rinse perineal cleanser for washing the genital and anal areas. These cleansers help prevent skin breakdown, burning, odor, and infection. There are many brands out there, but I prefer Aloe Vesta.

The products and routines outlined above are what work for me and my pups, but everyone, and every pup, is different. If you use different products and your process is a bit different, that’s ok! The most important thing is to make sure that whatever your routine is, it’s keeping your diaper dog as clean and dry as possible.

What type of diapers do you use and how do you keep them on?

This is where your creativity comes in! Type of diaper is very owner/dog dependent. Body type, age, and gender all play a part in choosing the right diaper. What works for one may not for another.

My favorite diapers are the Honest brand disposables. After trying out a few different kinds, I found that Honest Brand fit Lila the best and prevent leaks and irritation. But there are many different diapers out there to choose from and you may find a brand that you like better.

To keep them in place, I use a diaper cover over the diaper and clip it to a harness using children’s mitten clips, though many sites do sell dog suspenders that will also work. For puppies, a children’s onesie works well.

You can buy dog diapers, but they tend to be expensive, which is why I use baby diapers. Sizing can be a bit tricky because baby diapers are made for humans and human bodies. Bulldogs tend to have larger waists and smaller butts, so my suggestion is to choose diapers based on the size and shape of your pup, not by its weight. It usually takes a bit of trial and error to find the perfect fit.

diaper dog reusable diaper and mitten clips

As the dog grows, pull up diapers or adult diapers may fit better. For male dogs, it can be helpful to provide some added protection at the top of the diaper to prevent leaks. You can try using an incontinence pad with a reusable diaper cover or adding a pad across the top of a disposable diaper. If a male dog is affected only by urinary incontinence, you can also try reusable belly bands.

While I prefer the disposable kind, some people elect to use reusable diapers that can be washed after each use. Amazon, Etsy, barkertime.com, Target, Walmart, baby stores, and grocery stores are all good places to look for diaper dog supplies. And you can find so many cute styles and brands!

Do you need to express your dog's bladder?  

Bladders need to be emptied completely to prevent complications like urinary tract infections. Some dogs are able to do this on their own, while others need help. Everyone has a “trick” or method they find easiest, for example standing the dog up, laying the dog on its side, doing it out in the grass, or even over the toilet! If your dog leaks urine constantly, it will still need to have its bladder expressed.

This also goes for bowel evacuation. Many dogs need stimulation to have a bowel movement, however, you can have a dog that has urinary incontinence but can poop on their own, a dog that has bowel incontinence but can control urination, or you may have a dog that needs help with both! This can be done in a variety of ways – holding an ice cube on their anus, stimulation with a Q-tip or baby wipe, or even squeezing it out.

Watch this video to see one way to properly express your dog’s bladder. We have a bladder expression video coming soon, but for now, you can find many videos online that demonstrate some of the ways to safely and efficiently express your dog’s bowels. For additional help, have a discussion with your veterinarian and ask for a demonstration of proper technique.

*If your dog does develop a bladder infection, it is important to get a urine culture to find out what antibiotic will be effective. This will help prevent resistance and recurring infections.

What diet do you feed your dog?

Many owners prefer a raw diet for diaper dogs, which definitely cuts down on poop production! There are many brands of raw dog food, but availability may vary depending on location. I like to start with Dr. Harvey’s Veg-To-Bowl Grain-Free dehydrated pre-mix, add water, then some home cooked protein, in addition to goat yogurt, probiotics, canned pumpkin, Omega-3 oil, blueberries, and a cranberry supplement.

Honest Kitchen and Stella & Chewy’s make similar raw food options that are quite popular. If you feed dehydrated raw food, you can add more than the recommended amount of water if the dog needs it. Some dogs benefit from added lactulose, which softens stool and helps avoid straining when emptying their bowels.

If a dog is sensitive to certain proteins such as chicken (which is common), try turkey, beef, salmon, sardines, or eggs. If your dog seems to have trouble with many of the common proteins, there are other options out there, like kangaroo (availability may vary based on location).

Each dog and family are different, so what food you feed will depend on the needs of you and your pup. But we highly recommend a high quality, well-balanced diet.

What does Road Dogs look for in potential adopters who want to adopt a dog that needs diapers?  

Road Dogs looks for adopters who are home all day, can take the dog to work with them, or have flexible schedules that will allow them to be at home for regular diaper changes. Diapers need to be changed at least every 3-4 hours (sometimes more). It is extremely important that they’re changed often to prevent urine scald and urinary tract infections.

Some dogs may also require rehabilitation services, sometimes as often as 2-3 times per week. Potential adopters must have the time and freedom in their schedules to be able to attend those visits.

Rehab can also be expensive and may not covered by pet insurance. In addition, some dogs need assistive devices such as carts, strollers, and braces. Potential adopters must be financially able to provide the care needed.

I hope this has helped! Remember, these suggestions are from my own personal experience and are what works best for me and my dogs. It’s not wrong to use a different brand or technique if it meets your dog’s specific needs.

Having a medical team, including rehab specialists and holistic veterinarians, that are experienced in the care of bulldogs (especially spina bifida and IVDD) is incredibly helpful and will save your sanity. Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask questions! And do your research!