When your pet loses the use of their limbs, it can be devastating but it isn’t the end of the world. The loss may be due to a congenital problem, disease or accident, or it could be just a natural result of age. Arthritis is one example, but degenerative myelopathy (DM) affects dogs of any age and may be otherwise healthy and alert. It is a disorder that affects the white matter of the spinal cord typically affects large dog breeds and results in the eventual loss of their mobility.
In such situations, your pet may exhibit significant deterioration because of the lower quality of their life, and this can shorten their life span. Fortunately, there is an easy solution to the loss of mobility that is appropriate for certain situations: pet wheelchairs.
Pet wheelchairs can do your mobility-challenged cat or dog a world of good, but it is not suitable for all cases. In general, pet wheelchairs will work for pets with limited mobility due to amputations, arthritis, DM, or any weakness in the limbs. When considering a pet wheelchair, you need to consult with your vet first before making a purchase to make sure that it is advisable to have one.
Not all dogs (or cats for that matter) will adjust to using a wheelchair. Some will fight against it, and that will make getting them to use it properly a big challenge. Some will be apathetic, and refuse to move because they simply don’t want to. Pets that are in pain or experience discomfort may not derive any benefit from a pet wheelchair no matter how well-built, and may even make their condition worse. In some instances such as when a pet is recovering from surgery and needs to develop muscle strength, a wheelchair will only prolong their recovery period. Finally, pets that have weakness on all of their limbs will not be able to make a wheelchair work, because propulsion is to be supplied by either the front or rear limbs. In such cases, you can stop reading right now.
If your vet agrees that a wheelchair will benefit your pet, however, then you should continue reading.
Back in the day, pet wheelchairs was a pain the backside to obtain. It used to be custom-built, so the pet had to be measured. If the fit wasn’t right, the owner had no choice but to send it back for adjustments, and that took a lot of time and effort all around.
Nowadays, pet wheelchairs are much more versatile and DIY. They come in all shapes and sizes and adjustments can be made instantly. The standard sizes can fit the smallest dog to large breeds weighing up to 175 lb.
They are also easily available, but not all are built the same. When choosing a wheelchair for your pet, you will want to choose one with sealed wheels so that it can be used outdoors. You also want one that is made with aluminum and stainless steel so that they are easy to clean, resistant to rust, lightweight, yet durable.
The recommended dog wheelchair is one that is ergonomic to maximize comfort, and should pass muster with a K9 orthopedic surgeon. The parts that come in contact with your pet should be made of neoprene or any type of soft rubber, which is easy to clean and will not chafe. Last but not least, choose a pet wheelchair that is easy to assemble and adjust to make your life a lot easier.
They can be a bit pricey, but there are excellent refurbished pet wheelchairs available that can be acquired at a considerably reduced price compared to a brand-new one that fits even a small budget. They are just as good but not as painful to the pocket.
Getting the wheelchair is the easy part, however. Once you have one, you will have to get your pet to use it. And that will not always be easy.
The first step is putting it on. Be ready with your powers of persuasion (and maybe a treat or two) because your dog will not understand what it is and may struggle against having it put on. And when finally manage to put it on, the hard part starts.
Your dog may resist the pet wheelchair if they are still able to move around quite a bit. It is the seriously impaired dogs and those that feel pain when putting weight on their affected limbs that are easier to train. Below are some suggestions to make the training process easier.
1. If your dog can still walk on its own, go for a walk without using the pet wheelchair. As soon as your dog starts to look tired, strap on the wheelchair before heading bag. Your dog may appreciate then the advantages of the wheelchair.
2. Place your dog paws on the ground and see if it can still sense the ground even if it has difficulty controlling the limbs. If it can, adjust the height of the wheelchair so that the paws just touch the ground to prevent the feeling of being hobbled by a too-high perch. When the wheelchair is too high, it also puts more stress on the spine and the good limbs. Try for as level a height as possible, using the back as a sort of leveling tool. The beauty of this technique is that it lets the muscles on that limb work a little and keep its tone, and this can help your pet’s health.
3. Make sure that your dog’s back is not curving upward (or roached); this usually means the harness is cinched too tightly, preventing the dog from stretching its back. It the back is curved downward, this may mean that you need a belly strap for added support to the core muscles.
4. If your dog seems to be falling towards its front legs, the yoke may have to be readjusted because it may be putting too much stress on the neck. It could also mean that the front legs cannot take the weight, and this could entail finding a counterbalanced wheelchair where the load is neutral for all limbs.
There you have it, some basic tips on how to choose and use a wheelchair for your mobility-challenged dog or cat. If you have anything you would like to share about this article, please feel free to do so.