Do you ever look at your dog and wonder if he needs a wheelchair? Perhaps he’s becoming a senior furry citizen with joint issues. Or maybe your furry friend requires a wheelchair due to an accident or disease. Whatever the reason, getting a doggy wheelchair can significantly improve your best friend’s quality of life. Take a read below to learn more about wheelchairs for dogs!
Does My Dog Need a Wheelchair?
There can be several reasons why your dog may need a wheelchair. Almost always, a wheelchair can be beneficial when a loss of mobility occurs. This can occur due to injuries or diseases. Some of these are listed below.
- Accidental injuries
- Spinal problems
- Neurological issues
Besides the mobility issues listed above, some specific conditions can also mean that your dog will benefit greatly from a wheelchair.
Arthritis is a disease in the joints and will lead to your dog suffering from stiff joints. This can make easy everyday tasks, like running or walking, painful for your dog. For some dogs, it may even become near impossible.
Besides supplements like Glucosamine and painkillers, it is essential to keep your dog active. Movement causes an increased production of joint fluid. Joint fluid is the fluid that lubricates the joints—making the joints less painful. A wheelchair for dogs can help get your pet running around again! This will mean less pain, greater quality of life, and a strengthening of the muscles.
Intervertebral Disc Diseases (IVDD)
IVDD is a common condition. Some breeds are more predisposed to it, but it can affect all dogs of all ages. It happens when a displacement or deterioration happens in between the spinal discs. Depending on the severity, varying degrees of weakness or paralysis may happen in the legs. Most often, the hind legs.
If your dog is still in the early stages of IVDD, a doggy wheelchair may be used for rehabilitation. If the disease is more advanced, a wheelchair may become necessary for your dog to get around.
Degenerative Myelopathy (DM)
DM is caused by a loss of the connection between your dog’s brain and its spinal cord. Most often, it appears in older dogs, above eight years of age. The most common symptom is wobbling and dragging of the feet.
There’s no known treatment for DM. Therefore a wheelchair for dogs may be the best option for this condition. Especially as dogs with DM won’t be experiencing any physical pain. A wheelchair will improve your dog’s mobility and general well being.
Whatever the reason is, if you find yourself with a dog that is struggling to walk or move, it’s essential to consult your veterinarian. Both to control the condition and to discuss your options.
One of the things the veterinarian will discuss with you is your dog’s overall health. Is your dog still responsive, alert, happy, and want to be active? Then a wheelchair might be the perfect solution for you both. This can all be quite an overwhelming process. But don’t worry, continue reading to discover some of the things you need to research and remember.
How Dog Wheelchairs Work
The most important feature of a wheelchair for dogs is to bring your senior or disabled dog back on his feet. Exercise is always important to ensure you have a happy dog. This is where a wheelchair comes into the picture.
Many dogs with wheelchairs are paralyzed, but it isn’t the case for all dogs. Many wheelchair dogs still walk on all their paws – some can even stand on their own. The wheelchair’s point is to give your dog exactly the support needed – for its own unique needs.
Most wheelchairs for dogs support dogs from underneath the body in varying degrees. Some are carrying the legs and part of the body completely. Others only offer support to relieve the joints. They all have wheels attached underneath the dog, allowing it to move around freely.
Choosing the Right Wheelchair for Your Dog
When you and your veterinarian have decided your dog will benefit from a wheelchair, the next step comes. How do you choose the right wheelchair for your dog?
To determine precisely how much support your dog needs (rear- or full support), you can try the simple towel test.
- Place a towel underneath your dog’s lower abdomen and lift.
- Walk with a towel, lifting the rear.
- If your pet can walk the distance with the front legs. Then just rear-wheel support is needed.
- If your pet cannot walk the distance and the front legs give out. Then front wheels, or full support, is needed.
Rear Support Dog Wheelchairs
Rear support wheelchairs are best for dogs with weak hind legs, injuries, or paralysis. Here the wheelchair will support your dog from the rear only. Meanwhile providing stability and balance. This means your dog is now free to run around, dragging himself forward with its front legs.
Below are some examples of rear support dog wheelchairs
Designed by veterinarians and with over 53 years of experience, this is one of the best on the market for all sizes of dogs. It is made from aluminum normally used for aircraft. Also, making this one of the lightest wheelchairs for dogs.
Currently, with high rating by users, it is a beloved wheelchair for dogs all over the world.
Have you got a small dog (<25 lbs)? This may be the chair for you.
This small wheelchair is durable, lightweight, and with an aluminum frame that allows your dog to be mobile while keeping them stable. It is also easy to clean and transport.
It is adjustable in height, length, and width, ensuring that your dog is comfortable.
Named ‘Best for Budget’ by Petlifetoday, this dog wheelchair can be a wonderful fit for your dog. It comes in a range of sizes, from XXS to XL. It has a soft, adjustable harness that allows you to fit your dog’s unique needs.
Full Support Wheelchairs
This kind of wheelchair has four wheels. It is best for dogs experiencing general weakness of the limbs, both front, and hind legs. It’s important to remember though, that your dog must be strong enough in its front legs to drive and steer the four wheels. It can, for example, be very beneficial for dogs with Degenerative Myelopathy (DM).
Below are some examples of Full Support Wheelchairs
This four-wheeled chair is ideal for dogs with general weakness in the limbs.
The wheelchair frame is made in durable and light aluminum. The wheels are dense foam with an outer rubber layer that won’t puncture. It can be adjusted for almost all sizes of dogs!
Another quad-wheelchair made for dogs in need of either rehabilitation or long-term support. Allowing your dog to run and play like healthy pets. Adjustable and with a soft harness, so your pet is always comfortable.
Key Wheelchair Features to Consider
Before you buy a wheelchair for your dog, there are some features you need to consider.
Dogs come in all sizes. From the smallest Chihuahua to the largest Great Dane. It is important to choose a wheelchair that fits the size of your dog. Most wheelchairs luckily come in a variety of sizes. Most often, they also come with adjustable straps and harnesses.
What type of wheel to choose is a matter of taste. Generally, there are two types available: foam wheels or air-filled tires. The Air-filled ones give a more natural suspension and are great for active dogs. But, they can puncture. Foam wheels are the most popular type. They have a less natural suspension, but will never puncture. They’re also durable enough for any terrain.
A fully adjustable chair can be useful, especially if you have more than one dog using it. It can be adjusted with the push of a button. This allows for easy adjustment of height, length, and width. It also allows you to completely tune it to your dog’s needs.
Will My Dog Be Happy in a Wheelchair?
Some owners worry if it’s cruel to put their dog in a wheelchair. But, it is never cruel to allow them a chance at a better quality of life and a reduction of pain, if we have the options.
The transition into a wheelchair is often easy for most dogs. They want to move around and see the world! Experience shows that most dogs quickly figure out that the wheelchair will help them get around.
Especially dogs who have been experiencing great pain when walking due to stiffness in their joints, tend to be extra happy to be able to move freely!
But, of course, some dogs don’t take to the wheelchair immediately. The age or personality of the dog can cause them to be wary of the chair. It’s thus important to give your dog the time and space it needs to make it comfortable around the chair.
Here are some tips to help your dog adjust.
- Make the wheelchair a positive experience. Bring out the favorite treats or toys and encourage and praise your dog for being near the chair.
- Let your dog get comfortable around the chair. Leave the chair out in the open and let your dog get comfortable around it, without turning it into a big thing.
- Put on the harness. Without putting the wheels on, just let your dog get used to the feeling of the harness and the sounds it makes. Remember, lots of treats and praise here!
- Add the rest of the wheelchair. When your dog is comfortable with the harness and chair, it’s time to put the two things together. Move slowly away from your dog, treats in hand to encourage it to move with the chair.
Remember always to stay positive, and don’t rush your dog. Almost all dogs, will with time, come to love their wheelchair. As long as you remain calm and happy, your dog will often follow your lead. If you’re stressed, your dog knows, and it may make him anxious. If you’re frustrated or upset, take a break and get back to it later.
Can My Dog Go to the Bathroom in a Wheelchair?
Reading all of this, there might be one thing you’re worried about. Can your dog relieve itself while in the wheelchair? The short answer: Yes.
All wheelchairs for dogs, whether male or female, are made so your dog can relieve themselves. Even though they’re strapped into the wheelchair, some dogs may even be happier to relieve themselves when in the wheelchair. As they’re now standing upright and are moving around more. This encourages proper bodily functions and more natural options to relieve themselves.
Dog Wheelchair Alternatives
Some dogs may need a hand getting around, but a wheelchair might not be the right choice for them. In those cases that are alternatives available. One of the more common alternatives is a Dog Sling.
A Dog Sling or Walking Sling allows you to give your dog some support when it moves around. It’s a sack that you place around the dog’s stomach and grabs the two handles on each side. You can then manually support your dog’s weight while it walks. It is especially useful for dogs who need post-surgery rehabilitation.
Another option is a drag bag. This is a bag placed around your dog’s rear and hindlegs to protect them when they move around the house. The bag makes sure the dog avoids scratches and damage done to the hindlegs. Please note that the drag bag is not meant as a fulltime alternative to the wheelchair. A drag bag is an option when the wheelchair is not.
Make Your Home Dog Wheelchair Accessible
Once you decide to buy a wheelchair, it is also essential to make your home wheelchair friendly. Especially ramps are useful here. If you have any steps or small stairs in your house, these can quickly become a hindrance to your wheelchair-bound dog.
Small ramps allow your furry friend to wheel fast as lightning up and down, without having to stop. These ramps can also be very useful for your dog to get in or out of the car.
We all love our dogs dearly. Whenever we see them in pain and discomfort, we want to help. Unfortunately, for most though, carrying them around all day isn’t quite possible. Nor is it the most beneficial for your four-legged friends.
Just like us, they need exercise to stay happy and healthy. In many cases, a wheelchair for dogs can be a fantastic addition to the household. To have your furry friend wheeling around again, happy, and healthy.
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Catharina is a Veterinary Medicine student from Uni of Copenhagen. When she isn’t making camp in the library, stuck to the books, she’s also a writer and avid photographer. Capturing everything from buildings to dogs – especially her poodle Bailey is a frequent subject.