I recently got a call from a client wandering if I carried a certain brand of wheel chair. She wanted one for her elderly dog who needed help to get up. It took about 20 minutes on the phone to let her know that it was unfortunately a bad idea for her situation. Carts are great for dogs (and kitties) with paralysis, arthritis, deformities, amputation, severe multi joint arthritis, etc. However, people need to understand their limitations. The client who called me wanted to leave her dog all day in the hind leg wheelchair. Here is why you can’t:
-For 8 to 10 hours, the dog could not lie down, or only on his front legs. Some of my elderly patients can barely stand up for 5 minutes.
-Most dogs will likely get caught in furniture or the cart may tip over, meaning you need to supervise your dog at all time when in use.
You need to view the cart as a way to be able for your pet to follow family members restoring a sense of belonging, and to exercise outdoor. Small dogs may do very well in the house if there is enough space to maneuver around, but they still require supervision.
There is more, not all carts are good for all dogs. There are several cart companies out there. The choice of one as well as add-ons will depend of:
-How tall and heavy your pet is
-How much support is needed; is your pet unable to move, or need a little support
-What are your physical capabilities? Some wheelchairs have removable supports other you need to lift the dog’s legs into the cart. Regardless, there is some lifting involved.
-Is your pet going to be outdoor crazy or just take a 5 minute walk? There are different wheels depending of how active your pet is. Some dogs go skiing/swimming… so be warned!
-Belly strap might be needed for those with weak core stability.
-The height you place the dog in the cart depends if they can use or not their legs.
-Booties might be needed
-Wheels will be placed under the dog depending of their mobility issue(s). Put them at the wrong angle and you will place undue stress on certain parts of the body
-some dogs have progressive disease and a versatile cart is needed to accommodate the changes so you do not have to buy a new one every few weeks/months (like in DM).
-Measurements are so important; it may even take 2 to 3 people to do so.
-A custom cart might be better then a one size fit all, for example a dog with a large lipoma on the side of its chest need a space on the side bar to account for the space taken by the mass.
-And more depending of your unique situation.
There is also the issue of introducing your dog/kitty to the cart. I have seen so many clients just buying one without any professional help, spending the money to get a custom fit cart, and then be disappointed because the dog refused to be put in it. Patience is the key, and trained people in this area can make the transition so much easier.
So the bottom line: let a professional guide you in the choice and fitting of a cart to increase your chance of success. This will end up into a happy dog/kitty that will be comfortable. And let’s face it, they may outrun you! Just check my facebook page for all the fantastic stories about the wheelchair dogs, or should I say the wheelchair that gives them wings…