Do your best to keep your dog’s toilet routine as normal as possible following a diagnosis of IVDD. Some of these dogs start to lose control of their bladder and/or bowels. A regular outdoor routine can help prevent this from becoming a more permanent problem.
These dogs need plenty of rest and must avoid running, jumping and stairs. However, a little slow walking is safe for toileting purposes. Take your dog outside on a lead to pee and poo for a few minutes at a time, at least 3 times per day. Some dogs need more frequent toilet breaks than this. Your vet or surgeon will give you guidelines specific to your dog. You may need to use a sling to support your dog for standing and walking. There’s more information about sling-walking here.
During a bout of IVDD, nerve impulses to and from the bladder may be reduced or cut off so that your dog can no longer choose when to pee. In severe cases, the bladder may fill up until it overflows, typically when your dog tries to get up or when you lift them. If your dog is recovering from IVDD and you find patches or trails of dog pee indoors, don’t tell them off. It’s not their fault. Your recovering dog cannot yet control this from happening and might not yet even be able to feel that they are peeing.
Even if nerves to and from the bladder are working okay, your dog may find it really difficult to pee simply because they just can’t stand and squat for as long as they used to. When your dog needs to poo, being unable to stand can also feel very difficult and awkward for them.
Why should I take my recovering dog outdoors to the toilet?
Some owners wonder why they need to take their dog outside at all. Might it be safer just to provide an indoor ‘toilet area’ inside the crate or pen? The answer is, “no”. Taking your dog outside to the toilet will be better for their recovery:
- If your dog used to be house-trained, they may feel confused or even quite distressed about ‘making a mess’ inside their crate or pen. Taking them outdoors won’t completely prevent indoor ‘accidents’, but it will make them less likely.
- Setting up an indoor ‘toilet area’ for your dog may eventually train them that indoors, not outdoors, is the correct place to poo and pee.
- Outdoors, there are cues to help your dog learn to pee and poo normally again. These may include the feel of grass against your dog’s feet, and being able to smell where they have been before.
Above: Take your dog outdoors for a chance to pee and poo (Photo: Attie owned by Maia D’Costa-Kalsi and family)
Safety during toilet breaks
While your dog is recovering from IVDD, don’t just ‘let them out into the garden’ for a pee. You will need to keep them on the lead. During recovery from IVDD (surgical or non-surgical), usual safety guidelines are to keep your dog on a fairly short lead, and to ensure no running, no jumping, no steps or stairs. Carry them outdoors to a suitable patch of ground, then give them just a short time walking on the lead before bringing them in again. Your vet or physiotherapist can advise you on how much walking is safe.
Above: A fixed-length lead and a harness are best for safety. Your dog might also need a hindquarter sling. Photo: Burt owned by Vicky Watt-Hedges
Tips for toilet breaks
Set your dog up for success by finding a patch of ground where they are most likely to want to pee and poo. This might, for example, be an area of grass or bark chips in your garden. Think back to where they used to ‘do their business’ most often. If this was away from your garden, perhaps out on a walk, consider taking them back there now and again, either in a dog pushchair or by car.
Above: Darcy Dolittle is ready to go and get some fresh air. Use a pushchair if needed to take your dog to her old favourite ‘toilet spot.
Set your dog up for success by offering outdoor toilet breaks whenever they are most likely to need to pee and poo. This is likely to be first thing in the morning, last thing at night and perhaps after each meal.
As your dog starts to recover, they might need to sniff the ground (to read their ‘pee-mails’!) before they feel ready to pee and poo. Keep them on the lead, but do let them sniff about a bit.
Once your dog either pees or poos in an appropriate place, then immediately tell them “well done!”. It’s best not to scold them if they go in the wrong place though (e.g. indoors).
Above: Like all dogs, Darcy Dolittle loves to have a good sniff about when outdoors. It’s important for her mental wellbeing that she gets the chance to do this during recovery, and these sniff-breaks also function as toilet breaks.
If your dog can’t yet stand unsupported, they may find toileting very difficult. Over days to weeks, exercises to help them learn to stand will help with this. Meanwhile, whenever you take them out to the toilet, place them on the ground with all four paws flat and, if needed, use your hands and/or a hindquarter sling to help them hold a standing position.
Above: Frankie practising holding a standing position
If you have a boy dog, take care that the hindquarter sling doesn’t cover the front of his prepuce, otherwise he won’t be able to pee. A scarf-style sling should not be too wide for boy dogs. It’s width should be a little less then the distance between the front of his thigh and the front of his prepuce. If the sling or scarf is too wide, you may need to fold it back onto itself at the front to leave space for your boy dog to pee.
Expressing your dog’s bladder
If your dog is not managing to pee on their own, then your vet may need to teach you to express (squeeze out) their bladder. For more information on bladder expression, click here.
Further information to help your dog during IVDD recovery
The IVDD Handbook is a comprehensive home care guide for dogs with IVDD (disc extrusion or ‘slipped disc’). It’s also suitable for those with certain other back or neck problems including FCE and traumatic disc. Use this book in conjunction with talking to your own vet. It contains:
- clear practical guidelines for each stage of recovery
- illustrated how-to guides for everything from sling-walking to home exercises
- notes on when to contact your vet
- a whole section on solving practical toileting issues during recovery
- an illustrated guide to understanding your dog’s surgical report
- advice on keeping your recovering dog happy and content
- a section on maintaining your own wellbeing while caring for your own dog
- example daily routines suitable for dogs at each stage of recovery
- hundreds of colour photos showing what to look for and how to help your dog
- an index, glossary and colour-coded chapter to help you find information fast.
How to get your copy
Click here to buy or look inside The IVDD Handbook.
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Order the book to be delivered to you from the US if you live in Australia, New Zealand or Singapore. For further details, click here.
Links to the book on this page are provided as part of the Amazon Associates program. Buying the book after clicking on one of these links will earn the author a small commission, thus contributing to the ongoing running of this website.
Booking an appointment
For bespoke supervision of your own dog’s recovery, you are welcome to contact me to arrange a video consultation appointment. To book an appointment, use the contact form here or email me at Marianne@ajdorn.plus.com. I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Please note that these contact details are for appointments only. I offer home visit appointments, when appropriate, for dogs and cats living near me in North Herts, UK. Video consultations are available for both local and distant patients.
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