It’s sad sight when you see a your dog that can’t walk, but luckily there’s such a thing as a dog wheelchair (also called a cart) to bring a spring back into his or her step!
When your dog seems to be struggling a great deal with walking, if they’re scraping their toenails against the floor, or if their legs are crossing in a scissor-ish motion, it may be time to get a dog wheelchair.
Dog wheelchairs are usually given to dogs who have Degenerative Myelopathy (DM), which is an awful condition that affects a dog’s spinal cord and slowly takes feeling and mobility away from part of the dog’s body—usually the back legs.
Degenerative Myelopathy begins in the chest area and works its way into the spine. There it starts eating away at the nerve fibers, reducing the dog’s motor control over a period of time.
Usually this disease affects older dogs. It’s comparable to the way many people’s grandparents need walkers to remain mobile, or, in worse cases, wheelchairs.
It’s a natural part of some dogs’ lives, indicating they’re getting older.
To diagnose DM, your dog will have to undergo a “myelography” and an MRI. Both of these procedures will be carried out by your doctor.
It’s important to make sure it’s DM, as many other ailments can look like DM, including sprained ankles and slipped disks.
A cart is appropriate for other ailments, too, most of which are just temporary.
Carts can be used to alleviate pain caused by arthritis, slipped discs and can help with recovery from surgery.
Once you get the wheelchair, it’ll take a little while for your dog to adjust to it.
The amount of time their front legs have been filling in for their back legs will determine what kind of wheelchair they’ll need and how long it’ll take.
Sometimes they acclimate instantly, sometimes it takes a little getting used to, and sometimes adjustments will have to be made.
Only about 2% of dogs can’t get used to a wheelchair at all, and they’re usually the more stubborn-minded dogs.
Some training goes into the process of acclimating your dog to a wheelchair.
Not too much, but it’s important to read about recommendations for your dog’s particular case.
They might have to try out different wheelchairs with different calibrations before finding the one that works best for them.
If your dog has been relying on his or her front legs for too long, you should look for something similar to what’s called a neutral-balanced cart.
If your dog has lost mobility in all legs, you’ll want to look for a full cart.
You might also want to check to see if they need special leg-holders to prevent their legs from dragging behind them or picking up the cart as they walk.
If your dog is a single amputee, finding a cart may be more difficult. You may not even need to get a cart, if he or she is able to walk comfortably on three legs.
In any case, talk to your vet to see if a cart is right for your dog after an amputation.
There are also cart manufacturers like K9 Carts and Walkin’ Wheels who have experience fitting dogs of varying mobility with carts specially suited to dogs’ needs.
Walkin’ Wheels in particular prides itself in having a self-adjusting cart which supposedly accommodates changes in dogs’ health.
There are different kinds of carts for all different kinds of needs from a variety of different manufacturers. They come in all shapes and sizes, so don’t think there is a cart too small for your Chihuahua or too big for your Dachshund.
Weight is very important when choosing a wheelchair, because you don’t want your small dog carrying extra weight and you don’t want your wheelchair bucking under your big dog’s weight.
For example, there are rear-wheelchairs and full-wheelchairs. The first helps your dog with hind-leg mobility while the second helps with four-leg mobility.
Alternative to a dog wheelchair is a handheld harness.
In less severe cases of immobility, or if your dog doesn’t take well to the wheelchair, you can give your dog a hand by holding him or her up with a harness while you go for a walk.
As with any major decision to be made regarding your dog, the first person you should talk to is your veterinarian. He or she will provide the most informed recommendations for your dog’s particular needs.
Dog wheelchairs and harnesses are ideally fitted under veterinary supervision. Getting a wheelchair without veterinary supervision is not advised.