Not much has been documented regarding spina bifida in dogs, but there is a ton of information out there regarding humans. It is a congenital condition, and there isn't much you can do about it. This can be slight or bad. In the slight case there is a dimple near the end of the spine and that is just about it. In the worst case scenario the dimple is usually there but the poor pup cannot control its bladder or BM's and always has diaper rash. These pups never can control their elimination's and really should be put down by the breeder before they are 6 weeks old or younger. Then there are all phases in-between. There is a problem in the spine where the spinal cord is not connected right.
The best thing you can do in most cases is put the pup down at a very early age, if moderate to severe spina bifida is detected. Some Mild cases can be managed ony. There was an article about it in The Bulldogger Digest (no longer in print).
A vet will examined the pup, take x-rays, and do a complete exam to concur that it is probably spina bifida. He would need to be re-evaluated in another month or so. Other signs may be a rough "cowlick" like spot on his back over the spine near the tail, hair different in a small patch than the rest of the coat, or hair growing in reverse order as the rest of the coat, limping, loss of control of bowel and bladder, sorness,etc. See a vet if you need further help on this matter. Thanks Melanie for the information.
Living With A Mild Spina Bifida Dog..... Daily Life And Needs.....
by Carrie. Raising a dog with mild Spina Bifida requires special care in some areas, more so than with a dog without SB. My boy does have urine control, but is fecal incontinent at times, mainly when he is asleep. I try to keep his stool firm through diet. If his stool is firm enough, he is aware 95% of the time that he has to go, and he will posture and void. If his stools get too loose, he has no control over his bowels at all. If that is the case, I give him canned pumpkin or yams to help firm up his stools. When he has to wear diapers, it's very important to keep him as clean and dry as possible, as SB dogs are prone to UTI's. I change his diapers frequently, as not to keep him in soiled diapers for too long. I wash all areas thoroughly with warm water and soap, I like Dial antibacterial. I dry all areas very well, and apply a diaper rash cream, such as Desitin, which forms a barrier against the skin, to help protect the skin from wetness. I also apply some powder, I like Gold's Bond the best.Although my boy has pretty good strength in his legs, he does have quite a bit of stiffness in his legs and backend. I make sure he gets regular exercise to maintain his strength. Before bedtime, I give him a nice massage on his legs and backend. With some extra time, dedication, and TLC, a Spina Bifida dog can live a very normal happy life. Thanks Carrie for the advise! there is some things on it cloe. it can happen in bull dogs, and once again thx everyone.
Spina bifida in the dog J. W. Wilson, H. J. Kurtz, H. W. Leipold and G. E. Lees
Spina bifida was diagnosed in four English Bulldogs and one Collie dog. These cases and the examination of records from the Veterinary Medical Data Program suggested a high incidence of spina bifida in the English Bulldog. Urinary and fecal incontinence was the most common reason for initial examination for the five dogs. Radiographs and myelography confirmed the diagnosis of spina bifida. Blood, cerebrospinal fluid and urine analyses did not aid diagnosis but urocystitis was identified. In addition to spina bifida, clinical signs and morphologic changes in the spinal cords of all five dogs fulfilled the criteria for an additional diagnosis of spinal dysraphism. A common pathogenesis for the two conditions is suggested.
Common names or abbreviations: Spina bifida
Description or definition: Spina bifida is a developmental abnormality where some vertebrae are malformed and do not fully cover the spinal cord, leaving it exposed to injury. The abnormalities can range in severity from slight malformation of only a small part of one vertebra – to absence of most of the vertebral arch on multiple vertebrae. Spina bifida can occur anywhere in the spinal column, but it is seen most often in the lower back region.
This condition is congenital (present at birth), and both genetic and environmental factors (toxins, nutritional deficiencies during pregnancy) are thought to play a part in the development of this condition.
The symptoms depend on the severity of the condition. In mild cases, the dog may not have any observable medical problems at all. However, with more severe defects there will be clinical signs that are associated with the specific area of the spinal cord that is affected. Symptoms may vary from hind end weakness and lack of coordination to paralysis and urinary and fecal incontinence. With a very severe defect, signs are generally evident as soon as the puppy starts to walk.
Radiographs (X-ray) or more advanced imaging techniques (MRI, CT, etc.).
Surgery may be helpful for mildly affected animals. Dogs with hind end weakness may benefit from hind end support when standing and/or walking and/or special products to help the owner manage incontinence.
In this edition of the Bullie Owner Spotlight, we feature the inspirational story of Bullie owner Kris Richardson and her Bulldog, Maggie.
Maggie was born with a spina bifida type condition. Spina bifida is a developmental abnormality where some vertebra are malformed and do not fully cover the spinal cord, thereby exposing it. This leaves the spinal cord susceptible to injury and damage. Spina bifida can occur anywhere along the spine but is most common in the lower back.
The clinical signs or symptoms of spina bifida vary with the severity of defect. With minor cases, the dog many not show any signs at all and the owner may not know of the condition unless an x-ray is taken of the area for some other reason.
If the defect results in the spinal cord itself being affected, the signs can range from weakness in the hind legs to paralysis, and urinary and fecal incontinence. With this type of severe case, the evidence is apparent early on when the pup starts walking.
In general, there is no treatment for such spinal malformations. It appears that for dogs with limited symptoms, reconstructive surgery may be helpful, though this is not commonly done. It is not uncommon for dogs diagnosed with spina bifida to be euthanized.
Maggie on her first day with Kris Maggie's story began several months ago. Kris tells us that Maggie was rescued, along with several other dogs, by a local vet clinic employee at an auction for animals from a puppy mill in Missouri. She was placed in foster care at 10 months. Kris read about Maggie on an Internet forum for Bulldog owners.
Kris adopted Maggie through The Animal Placement Bureau. Kris tells us that, "Her foster Dad actually drove her ALL THE WAY FROM MICHIGAN to NJ twice. The first time they were going to take her to a sanctuary, but changed their minds when they received more details about the facility. Once approved for the adoption, Maggie's foster Dad drove her back to NJ again! The rest is history!"
Kris told us that she was advised to euthanize Maggie early on, but she opted not to do so. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
We interviewed Kris about her life with Maggie via e-mail. The interview appears below:
LGBD: How long have you had Maggie?
Kris: Since October - so that is four months now.
LGBD: Did you know anything about spina bifida prior to adopting Maggie?
Kris: I was familiar with the disease and how it affects humans. I knew a girl in college who had it - but appeared 100% normal. She was a model, actually.
Daddy and Maggie at play LGBD: Has your family supported your decision from the beginning? If not have they changed since Maggie's arrival?
Kris: My boyfriend was totally supportive and wanted her as much as me. The rest of my family was supportive as well. Since then, I have had close friends tell me I am nuts.
LGBD: Have you owned other Bulldogs before Maggie?
Kris: Our first pup, Dyna was put to sleep in October at three months. She was diagnosed with distemper and that whole situation was incredibly difficult. We have a lawsuit pending - we are pursuing the breeder. We got Cammy, our second pup soon after Dyna left us. So Maggie is our third in a very short amount of time.
LGBD: Is Maggie limited in anyway with regard to the activities she can perform?
Kris: HA! Not really…she keeps up with Cammy well!
Cammy and Maggie wait for treats. There are only a couple noticeable things - she has problems jumping and putting weight on her hind legs, and she can't sit normally - she leans to one side. She shows a partial ataxia - a little waddle in her gait. Her abnormality is near her pelvic area of her spine.
LGBD: Do you ever worry about Maggie injuring herself and making the condition worse?
Kris: At first, but after seeing how she rough -houses with Cammy, if she hasn't done it by now …I don't think it would really be possible. It is my understanding that she is "fine" and won't deteriorate.
LGBD: Were/are there any special training difficulties that can be attributed to Maggie's condition? If so how did/do you address them?
Kris: She is incontinent - and that won't change, so she can't be housebroken. Other than that, we plan on taking both for formal obedience training soon. So far, she is extremely obedient for never being trained.
LGBD: With a situation like yours, there are no doubt highs and lows. Can you tell us about some of the highs and lows?
Kris: Everyday is a high with her! She really is a joy. She is very affectionate. I am very proud of her adjustment that she made to us so quickly. I was worried that she would be aggressive - being that she came from a puppy mill and was only in foster care a few weeks. Her foster mom advised me that she had been food aggressive, but within a couple of weeks, I saw NO signs of any aggression to anything or anyone. That is amazing to me! As for lows, middle-of-the-night emergency diaper changes are tough, but that is once in a while now. Maggie also has some food allergies and some sensitive bowels. It was pretty frustrating for a while to get to a place where we knew what foods were aggravating her. But we seem to have the hang of things now.
LGBD: Do you have a plan in place for Maggie's care, should she need to be away from you for an extended period of time?
Kris: We both decided that we will not leave her with anyone unless it is totally necessary. In the event that we would have to, we are still considering some close friends with bully and special needs experience.
LGBD: There are almost certainly those who would question, maybe even criticize the wisdom of your decision against the euthanization of Maggie. These people likely feel strongly about their belief. How do you respond them?
Kris: First let me say that I plan to go back to school soon to study veterinary technology, I want to work in that field or in rescue somehow. I have no problem with euthanasia when an animal is suffering and /or will lead a poor quality of life. I completely will not and cannot support those who euthanize an animal purely out of laziness or hardship. This is the USA and we have loads of opportunity here. I just can't take the idea of a little soul dying because we have given up on it. I am extremely opinionated on this topic.
Maggie and Kris sharing a hug.I believe most people who "thumb their nose up" at situations like Maggie are egoists. They are comfortable in a disposable society. Everything has to be perfect and revolve around their whims. Perfect cars, houses, kids, faces, dogs - when it is less than perfect, it is undesirable. There are many who don't want to be inconvenienced -"it is only a dog," they say. Caring for a disabled animal to them seems impractical. Some only want perfect dogs to do what they want them to do, act how they want them to act, etc. Maggie is a special soul. She is who she is - like it or leaves it alone. She is happy and she doesn't care that she has a problem, believe me! Why shouldn't I go that extra step for her?
LGBD: Are there any days when you second guess your decision?
Kris: I second guessed the decision before I met her. I put a lot of thought and prayer into it. After we met her, NEVER! She has given us so much joy - I wonder if she would second guess herself for coming to us!
LGBD: If you had it do over again, would you have done anything differently concerning your decision to take on Maggie?
Kris: Nope. In fact when we have the facilities we would love to take more dogs with SB and will encourage and support those who do also.
LGBD: In your opinion, what is it about Bullies that makes them so special?
Kris: Bullies are so loving and loyal. I read some place that they "just love life" - and that is true. Anytime we are depressed or annoyed - they always make us smile and forget whatever the issue was.
Maggie's winning smile. They are here to love us and remind us how great life is. They have beautiful expressions and awesome personalities. They are fat little angels!
LGBD: Maggie is obviously a very special Bulldog, but what is your favorite characteristic or behavior of hers?
Kris: Maggie is learning English very well. She has many phrases and words that she knows. She knows her name, "treat," "toy," and her most favorite thing is "outside." When she hears one of us say it, she goes nuts! She starts dancing around and running towards the door. She tap dances and jumps off all fours in circles. You can't help but laugh. Then as soon as you open the door, she freezes and locks eyes with a squirrel and then takes off!
We asked Kris to describe Maggie's typical day for us.
Okay - Maggie is NOT a morning person! Cammy, our pup wakes us up full of joy for the morning, barking, sniffing, and wiggle-butting. Maggie, we literally have to wake-up. Usually we make coffee and feed Cammy before attempting to persuade and roust Maggie from her spot in our bed. (I joke and say that Maggie is truly my dog, because I am not a morning person either.) So, it takes her about 20 minutes to get going!!! She has the cutest "disgruntled" expression.
Maggie gets two pills in the morning smooshed in a "puddy meatball" of wet food. She gets a Pet tab, and I spoon feed her approx 3 tablespoons of pumpkin mixed with a little wet food. Since being "detoxed" from the mill, she is a picky eater and I don't trust her to eat all the pumpkin. The pumpkin is to firm her stool. The pills are both antibiotics that we give her to help her to not develop any infections from the diaper situation. From having repeated UTI's that went untreated a recent ultrasound revealed some significant kidney damage. We aren't taking any chances.
After I have some coffee, I change Maggie's diaper. Normally, we put her in the sink and rinse her butt 1-2xs a day depending on the damage. We use a special antiseptic ointment and desitin to keep the fecal from aggravating her skin. I also use a medicated powder. She wears Huggies size 6 with the reclosable tabs. We also follow up with a stylish diaper cover….no lady should go out with her knickers showing!!!
Maggie and Cammy engage in some ferocious play time followed-up by napping and begging. That is the days' events typically! Our favorite toys are anything Cammy is playing with. Our favorite chew is a bully stick.
Maggie and Cammy enjoy a birthday treat. We usually take both girls out together for two walks. Cammy gets some extra time outside, so Maggie gets a few extra treats now and then. She loves to snack on cheese and peanut butter.
Diaper changes are as needed or about every 4-6 hours. I guess this is the only extra time or treatment she receives. I do have to chase her a bit - when she sees something white in my hand, she usually starts walking away! (I don't think she appreciates that I express her bowels now and then!) But for the most part, she is very complacent. We think that she knows what it's for and is grateful for our patience.
Bedtime is a favorite. As soon as I turn out the living room lights she knows to go to the bedroom door. She cries until someone puts her on the bed and then she falls asleep on her side between us, with her head between our pillows.
YOU KIDNAPPED BENTLEY!!!!. Sorry, your friend on the left is an exact image of the bullie that lives down the block from my sis. All 3 are adorable!! Sometimes patience is a troubling gift...do not mean to sound like a fortune cookie. Awesome Bulldogs, awesome picture...get a frame!!! e
Shon - Thanks for the posts about spina bifida. Before hearing about your Bullies, I honestly never heard of sb in dogs. A school mate of mine has a son with sb though, so I was a little familiar with it.
I cannot imagine all the hours of care that you spend on these wonderful special puppies each and every day. Your dedication to making a normal life for them is unselfish.
Any puppy that can find his or her way into your home and your heart is so lucky. Thanks again for being so kind and caring to these dogs.
I wish that I was wealthy, I would buy cases of diapers for the dogs, this must be an awful expense on your budget. I hold you in the highest esteem Shon. God bless you for your dedication.
ob pyr & bass to start with yes i kidnapped bently lol j/k. it took me a few days to get them all 3 to sit still together long enough to snap a pic. and your welcome on the sb stuff.and at times i will not lie yes diapers do get expensive but i am also letting them run around naked lol to try 2 cut back on diapers. just clean up after them . lost of natures miracle does wonders.
Bullie..I love the pics...they are so special..as I said they are my fav dog...But...I backed out when I heard of the problems associated with them...and I NEVER concided SB when I made that decision...I appreciate the fact that your addressing this head on...Your one special lady...God Bless You!!!!