08 January, 2011
It is never easy to watch your dog get older and often times people feel powerless because they are not sure how to help. In the past when a dog lost their mobility the common decision was to euthanize. People felt that the quality of life for their dog was so compromised that letting them go was the only way to provide them with relief. Now there are options.
You can help your dog re-gain their mobility AND improve the quality of their life.
Despite their existence for the past 40 years or more many people are still in the dark about the life changing power that comes with a dog wheelchair. While there are dog wheelchairs (also called dog carts) for just about every type of mobility issue, the most common type is the 2 wheel cart for dogs suffering from rear legs problems. The extent of the rear leg issues can range from some mobility to complete rear leg paralysis. But how do you know if a dog wheelchair is right for your dog? Here are some tips to help you in making your decision:
Your dog must be able to walk strongly on its front legs, with its back held in a level position. You can test this out with a simple “towel test” to make sure your dog is comfortable propelling him or herself with their front legs. If you have a small dog you can take an old towel, cut two holes in it, and place the legs through the holes. Remembering to keep the back level, see if your dog will walk normally. This action simulates the cart support system. If you have a large dog, a towel under each hind leg is an easier way to do the “towel test”.
Your dog needs to have enough spirit to want to be mobile again. Attitude is a huge factor in the success of a dog and their wheelchair. Is your dog bright, alert and full of life despite their mobility challenges? If your dog has the will then you are halfway there.
While a dog wheelchair can be used indoors, it is more practical for outdoor use, so it is important to assess your location to determine whether you will have enough space to accommodate a dog wheelchair. These carts are quite rugged and can be used over most terrains, but the bigger the dog the wider the wheelchair, so availability of space should be a factor.
There are several medical conditions where a dog wheelchair can offer significant mobility, relief and at times, recovery.
Thoracolumbar Disc Degenerative Disease: This is the most common medical condition for which a dog may need a dog wheelchair. A dog wheelchair can aid in a dog's rehabilitation whether he or she has had IVDD surgery or not.
Degenerative Myelopathy: This is the second most common condition for which dogs need a wheelchair. It generally starts off with knuckling of one hind paw, leading to both paws, and a swaying gait in the rear, very often with legs crossing. There is no pain associated with this condition. Unfortunately, it usually travels up the spinal cord and affects the front legs. A dog wheelchair can help to delay this process as this will take stress and strain off both the rear and front legs and keep your dog active and happy. Your dog can still use its rear legs as long as he or she is able.
Knee: Dogs with knee, or ACL, problems generally have surgery to correct this. Post surgery, a dog wheelchair will aid in taking stress off the surgically repaired limb, while preventing breakdown of the other leg. This is particularly applicable to overweight dogs.
Arthritis: If the arthritis is controlled with medication, and is in the rear limbs, then a dog wheelchair will aid mobility by taking stress off the hind limbs.
Paralysis: Whether it is due to injury or other spinal difficulties, a dog with rear leg paralysis can find mobility again with a dog wheelchair. Their rear legs can be suspended above ground with rear slings allowing the wheels to do what their legs can no longer provide. Just because your dog has lost the use of his or her rear legs, it doesn't mean that they can't enjoy life. It doesn't matter how tiny or how big your dog is, or whether you go with a custom cart or prefer something adjustable, there is a dog wheelchair to suit your needs. Do you have a life changing story to share?.