Dogs in wheelchairs are painfully cute. I find it extremely heartwarming to watch them motor along in their carts, living happily despite the inability to use their hindlimbs. They seem completely unaware of the trauma or injury they succumbed to. These cases are all over social media where they are portrayed as living happily ever after.
I hate to be a bearer of bad news, but these critters do not always live on without any long term difficulties. Depending on the location and severity of their spinal lesion they are often predisposed to issues with bladder infections, constipation, pressure sores, more spinal injuries, etc. They can face some real challenges moving forward. It takes extremely diligent pet owners to maintain an acceptable quality of life for these little ones.
Urinary tract infections are quite often the most common illness secondary to a loss of bladder control. This causes urine to sit in the bladder for longer periods of time. Also, the bladder is typically never fully expressed, leaving residual amounts of urine behind. These factors predispose paralyzed animals to urinary tract infections. Because these patients typically do not have bladder sensation, they cannot alert us to their discomfort, which can lead to infections brewing for long periods of time. For this reason, they often need a biannual urinalysis.
That being said, these patients can still maintain a good quality of life for a long time. They just require lots of maintenance and regular veterinary visits. Owners need to be made aware that they will require lifelong management and are predisposed to a variety of complications. This conversation needs to happen with owners before pursuing intervention for back dogs. If they are willing to make the sacrifices and lifestyle changes needed for these patients then these pets can live happily for a long time.