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LIVING WITH: Spina Bifida - An Adopters Story

Looking after a dog with Spina Bifida, an adopter’s story. By G Burns

I’ll start from the beginning, my husband and I were looking for a bulldog to join our family, we had searched for months with no luck until one day, I saw an advert on the Bulldog Rescue and Rehoming Facebook page for a 9-month-old boy who could live with another dog (that was a tick for us) and he loved children (double tick). I clicked to look at his profile as the advert mentioned that he had special needs, we discovered that he had Spina Bifida, I must be honest, I had never heard of dogs having it before that moment so didn’t know what to expect but we both wanted to know more about the handsome face that was looking back at us.

We decided we wanted to know how the SB affected him, was he mobile, etc, would it reduce his quality of life? I think that was a key question for us. We got in touch with the admin on the Facebook group and asked the question. We were told that his mobility was great, so we expressed an interest immediately. We Kept our fingers and toes crossed to see if we were successful, I wasn’t holding out much hope as he was a handsome boy who would have ticked a few boxes for many other potential adopters.

Fast forward past the agonising wait, to the day we got a call from Lana, it was quite honestly one of the best phone calls I have ever received! We were a match!!!!!!! Lana and I spoke about his needs and how we could meet them. We knew he was incontinent, that wasn’t an issue for us if I’m honest, it was something we felt we could manage. I was told to give Carrie a call, as she looked after him daily in the kennels, so Lana said it would be best for us to chat to her so we could find out more about the reality of looking after a dog who is doubly incontinent. What a fab conversation that was, to hear more about him and what he was like and how “normal” he was. We were falling in love already and we hadn’t even met him! We spoke as a family about his needs with Spina Bifida and incontinence, we felt, we could offer him a great home and life. The incontinence wasn’t really a big concern for us, it’s only a nappy! We then did some research about SB in dogs so we could educate ourselves and make sure we knew all we could.

At the beginning of September 2020, we went to the BDR kennels to meet a 9-month-old pup with Spina Bifida. We met this wonderful boy who was so super excited (we got lots of kisses and got covered in wee and poo), we also met the wonderful Tania and Carrie too!

It was love at first sight for both me and hubby, I think pup felt the same! I could have stayed there forever! It was a big YES from us, Tania then arranged for Wendy to come round and do our home check. We spent the journey home thinking about a new name for him and we thought because he drops bombs, that Bomber would be the perfect name for him to come to his new family with, this is telling of how we had fallen in love as we didn’t know if we were going to pass the home check! We knew that he was the missing piece in our family.


Wow, I was nervous and super excited for Wendy’s visit, was she going to say we were good enough to care for this boy? Well, she did, we passed and were thrilled!!!!!!!

Now, when can we pick our boy up!

I took to the internet making sure we had all the supplies we could think of to welcome our newest family member. Normal list of bowl, harness, bed, toys etc. with the added extras of nappies and wipes.

On the 12th of September, a very good friend and I (my food god and now a BDR volunteer) went on a road trip to bring our Bomber home. Then our new adventure began……

Bomber travelled home really well and the intro with Billy (12yr old new fur bro) went well. We went on a nice walk with both boys before we go into the house. The first signs were great, Bomber was having a very good explore of his new home and his new friend.

The first night, all was fab, we went down to our local beer shop. Bomber chills and enjoys the comfy seating (plenty of treats and lots of attention, which as you can all imagine, he LOVED! (First night at the beer shop pic)

We tried him on Raw food when we first adopted him, it was not suitable for him as he has no feeling, therefore, cannot push a very firm poo out. We got some advice about another food, so he has been on that since and is doing great on it!

Got him registered with our vet. The first appointment, Bomber was started on a 5-week course of cartrophen vet injections. They stopped his back leg from giving way which was fab. The vet had hoped it would help with the incontinence but the damage was probably too severe, Bomber doesn’t know any different and lives very happily with his nappies!

So, let’s get to the reality of living with a dog with Spina Bifida!

Our daily routine

Nice walk and some nappy free time

Bum time – he knows when we say that it’s time for a change (although a typical bully, he doesn’t always listen). As you would with a baby, we change his nappy every few hours, more if needed.

We bath him every few weeks, sometimes it’s a bum wash as bathing them too often isn’t good for their skin but they do need a wash regularly.

Caring for Bomber is quite easy now we have a good routine (it was hard at the beginning because it was new to us but with support and understanding we got there). We give him as much nappy free time as possible, fresh air is good. Yes, having an incontinent dog is hard work but the love you get in return is so much more.

We learned very quickly that dogs with Spina Bifida are prone to urine infections, he must have had 4 lots of antibiotics in the first few months. We would push fluids wherever possible, Bomber drinks well but our vet advised us to put water in his food too. The issue is, because he doesn’t ever do a full wee, it trickles all the time, so because his bladder doesn’t empty the risk is there. We have been shown how to express his bladder, to rid his bladder of the urine (this should only be done on advice from your vet, and they have shown you how. YouTube is great but there is a danger of causing damage to the bladder if done incorrectly). We also give him kidney care supplements to reduce the risk of a UTI starting.

Also, due to the lack of sensation his penis is often out, his urethra has prolapsed a few times too, again with the vet’s advice we were shown how to deal with this at home so has never been a real issue (it was a big shock at first when we saw a purple balloon-like bubble on the end of it!).

Bomber is just like any other dog; we have to be careful not to over-exercise him due to his spine. But he gets lots of walks and runs a lot, he loves doing zoomies while I’m in the middle of a zoom meeting!

Routine is key for these pups, nappy changes, cleaning, regular washes to reduce the risk of infections and soreness from the nappies. We use baby nappies and then have a nappy cover (to keep the nappy on really!!!) He has special denim-looking ones for when we go out, he has to look his best for his fans!

But if I am honest, apart from the nappies, the care we give is the same as we give our 12yr old Staffy (he is a typical needy bully).

Top tips:

Bulldog specialist vet, this is a MUST!

Good food – this can be trial and error to make sure it’s the right one

Lots of baby wipes

Even more nappies

Nappy covers, they help keep the disposable one up and they are super cute! We have just started using G Nappies, they are for children but are soft and fit really well.

Time (I work from home so am around most of the time) and understanding

Most importantly LOVE

It is not as hard as it sounds, in January we took on a 9-week-old pup who also has Spina Bifida in January this year!

We are forever thankful to BDR for allowing us to be him forever home. Me and my boy have a very special bond that is unlike any before!

As I write this, my handsome Bomber is sat by my side whilst having a break from doing zoomies around the living room with his little bro Baer (8 months).


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