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living alone and taking care of pets after surgery

Good morning all. I'm having a microdiscectomy and foraminotomy done at L4/L5 and L5/S1 next Thursday, May 30th. I will have someone staying with me for the first week after surgery but will be on my own after that. I know this sounds silly but the thing I'm most worried about is taking care of my pets while I'm recovering. I have two cats and a chihuahua and I realized that I bend over a LOT for feeding, walking, cleaning up, etc. Even just getting my dog's leash on seems like it will be an issue. If anyone has any tips they can share I'd very much appreciate it.

Some background on me: I'm 38 and have been dealing with back pain since I was 12. Back then I was too embarrassed to tell anyone because, well, I was 12! I tried tackling it when I had a terrible case of sciatica in my 20s but my doctor's weren't exactly responsive. I'm particularly concerned about this recovery as it will be my fifth surgery in 4 years (but my first back surgery) - I have Crohn's disease and am a colon cancer survivor which took quite a toll on my body. I've tried ESIs, RFA and pain medications. I've been on Nucynta for the past year which takes the edge off but doesn't give me great relief. My doctor offered me a spinal cord stimulator but at this point I'm ready to just get in there and try to fix the problem instead of just managing it.

Thanks for any helpful tips!


  • The cats will be easy since you can relocate their food/water dishes to an elevated surface. The small dog will be a bigger issue. I have a dachshund and am 4 weeks post op. fortunately I live with my husband and daughter so they've taken over the feeding, watering isn't too bad, you can pour water in the dish while stooping. Perhaps if you leave the food on the counter you can aim at the bowl and if you miss your dog probably won't mind! Just FYI, I ordered a grip & grab from Amazon and it's been a lifesaver. One night I dropped a teeny tiny blood pressure pill on the floor and was home alone. I was worried about my little dog eating it and couldn't figure out what to do. I tried that grabber and by golly, got it on the first try! I've been able to keep up with laundry using it, too. Toast has become my primary food group so the toaster made a move to the counter top. Be sure to put some towels (bath towels, dish towels) on the counter as well as toilet paper, underwear and clothes. Best of luck to you.
    Lumbar laminectomy L-4/L-5, 2006
    XLIF with posterior pedicle screws L-4/L-5, 4-23-2013
  • Thanks, Shari. I bought my grabber a few weeks ago when I scheduled the surgery. I've been practicing and I can even pick up a dime with it! It's already been a big aid to my back and I wish I had bought one years ago. I can't wait to get this surgery over and done with.
  • I am recovering from a fusion so I cannot bend, lift or twist. I can pour water into my dogs bowl from a pitcher. I feed my cat on the counter. I rely on my kids to feed the dog but they are teenagers and there have been mornings where they dont get up until noon so i do squats to get to the dog food. I strengthened my legs doing this prior to surgery so I could squat down when i needed to. The litter box will be an issue unless you have it up at waist level. I tried doing it once and it was a struggle and i am not going to jeopardize my fusion process for the litter box. It is now on the kids' list.

    Oh....make sure you get an elevated toilet seat/seat riser. This was a lifesaver for me. They are inexpensive and worth every penny the first few weeks. Also, the grabber is the best item ever invented as you know!

    Best of luck to you!
    DDD 2 level ALIF L3-L5 in 2007. 4/11/13 posterior fusion w/decompression on L5-S1.
  • MetalneckMetalneck Island of Misfit toysPosts: 1,364
    Try that on for size!!
    Spine-health Moderator
    Welcome to Spine-Health  Please read the linked guidelines!!

  • natannnnatann Posts: 66
    edited 05/25/2013 - 3:37 AM
    When I had my disectomy 2001, I didn't have any pets at home. But I was ok on my own after about a week or two.
    I'm having a 2 level fusion in July and ill have someone staying with me for 2 weeks.
    If you can afford it, there are companies that are called pet sitters that will come once a day and take care of your pets.
    People use them when they are out of town but they help out for whatever reason you need them to.
    It's a little expensive though but I know they will take care of my fur babies.
    99/00 L4/5 & L5/S1 herniation
    2001 L5/S1 microdisectomy age 25
    severe DDD at surgery level
    2011 pars
    2012 RFA L/3/4/5
    7-02-13 L4/5 l5/S1 360 fusion ALIF PLIF
    DX spondylitis , DDD, scoliosis, and slight kyphosis
  • Another suggestion would be to check with friends and neighbors to see if there is someone who could come in twice a day to feed and walk the dog. If it's a neighbor, they could be quite young since you would be there to supervise. An alternative would be to contact your local animal shelter and ask if any of the volunteers would be willing to help you in exchange for a donation to the shelter. You may be surprised to find out how many people are willing to help.
  • I am also on my own and have a small dog. Have had two lumbar fusions so I understand the difficulty.

    I found I can fill her bowl from a jug without having to bend down. Getting food in her bowl was definitely more challenging. I kept her biscuit bowl full so that she always had something to snack on. This I could tackle in a similar manner to the water - just stand over the bowl and gently pour. If any miss the bowl you can use your reacher to pick them up. Wet food was the most difficult. I found that I could manage to pick up her bowl with my reacher (as long as it was empty) i had to squat with my back straight to put it down for her. I found that a lot easier if I kept a chair near by to steady myself both on my way down and on my way back up again.

    My suggestion is to give this a try before your surgery and see if it might work for you.
  • My husband was an over the road truck driver when I had my two fusions last year. He would stay home for about 2 to 3 day after my surgery, then I was all on my own. I have two cats, a yorkie, and a greyhound. I had to learn to accomadate my abilities to their needs. The cats food was elevated and I also like many of the people I poured water into the bowl with a pitcher. I just poured the dog food into the bowl like I did the water. If a couple pieces missed the dogs were always more then happy to clean it up for me. I taught the yorkie to get in a chair so I could put her leash on. Luckily the greyhound is a easy dog to handle so I no problems walking her. If you have any other questions feel free to send me a pm.

    Discectomies 05/08 and 04/11, fusions L4-5 Feb 9,2012 and L3-L4 June 28,2012, Staph infection washout 3/2/2012, Bulged L5-S1. SCS trial on January 17th, 2014, which was a success! Permanent SCS on February 20th.
  • Thanks for all the suggestions! I've been getting my dog into the habit of jumping up on the sofa or my bed to put her leash on, so no bending. I have a self cleaning litter box (the litter robot if anyone wants to google it - it's amazing) that I only need to fiddle with about once a week. I got it when I had my colon removed and couldn't crouch down to clean their box. Having some trouble with the water dishes still and I'll have to buy a pooper scooper. Ugh. I'm sure I'll muddle through. My boyfriend and I broke up in March, which was some very bad timing! :(

    Even though it hurts I've been furiously cleaning every corner of my house since I won't be able to for a long time. THAT is going to kill me! I'm one of those weirdos who enjoys it.
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