Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Pets With Spina Bifida

My daughter was diagnosed with spina bifida when I was 30 weeks pregnant and had an extra ultrasound to check her growth. There hadn't been anything unusual noted on her 20 week anatomy scan, so I felt blindsided. I didn't have any sense of what spina bifida was or what it would involve. Now five years later, I have become a pro at explaining spina bifida to family, friends, and teams of therapists and teachers at IEP meetings.

A couple years ago, I came across the Facebook page of a little cat who has spina bifida. I was surprised that cats could have spina bifida, because I never really considered it. None of my research into how spina bifida would impact my daughter even mentioned that it wasn't a condition that is unique to humans. Further googling revealed that dogs can also be born with spina bifida, and some of them had their own Facebook pages too. My daughter was delighted to see animals wearing diapers and scooting around in carts, because they had spina bifida just like her!

Now we have a new member of our family! 



This little sweetheart is Soot. My daughter named her Soot Gremlin after the little soot gremlins from Totoro, because like her namesakes, Soot is tiny, black, sneaky, and can blend in wherever she hides. My daughter finds these qualities admirable. In Totoro, the soot gremlins live in the shadows in an abandoned house and move away when they decide the new family that moves in is nice. Soot has decided that we are nice, but rather than moving away, she is spending far less time hiding.



Soot is a manx, and she has spina bifida too! The mutation that leads to the shortened or absent tails in manx cats can also cause spina bifida or other spinal abnormalities. In dogs, spina bifida is most common in bulldogs. Dogs and cats of any breed can be born with spina bifida, but it is very rare. Just like humans, the severity varies with each case depending on the amount of nerve involvement.

Soot has spina bifida occulta, which is the least severe form of spina bifida. She can use the litter box and walk independently, but her back legs are weak so sometimes she hops and wobbles, especially when she is tired. Even pets with more extensive special needs can live wonderful lives too!

We are so happy to have Soot as part of our family. My daughter loves having a pet who shares having spina bifida. 

I set up a page Soot the Kitty With Spina Bifida to help raise awareness of spina bifida in humans and in pets. Neither Soot nor my daughter let spina bifida stop them!

Though sometimes everyone needs a good nap!

(A shorter version of this post was originally posted on my personal blog.)

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