Dogs in Wheelchairs: Giving Dogs Their Freedom Back

|| January 12, 2018

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There is nothing quite like seeing a dog that previously could not walk take off running now that it has the assistance of a doggie wheelchair. Wheelchairs or carts truly can give them a life they would not otherwise be able to have. It is, however, important to understand what all goes into taking care of a dog in a wheelchair.

Dogs can lose the ability to use their hind limbs or forelimbs for numerous reasons including trauma or degenerative disease, but as long as their pain is well controlled, many of these animals can still have very fulfilling lives as long as they can get around and have the proper care.

It used to be very challenging to find doggie wheelchairs, but now they come in all shapes and sizes and can be custom made to fit your animal. They are made for both hind limb and forelimb problems. They come with proper cushioning, ease in getting in and out of and typically can be easily cleaned. The variety that is now available really makes it easy to customize to each pet and owner.

It is very important to consider if a wheelchair would be appropriate for your dog prior to getting one. A dog has to have good strength in either its forelimbs (for hind limb paralysis) or hind limbs (for forelimb abnormalities). It may take some time for a dog to get used to being in a dog wheelchair. Some adapt quickly and others need to be trained to use it.

Other health problems need to be considered when having a dog in a wheelchair. It is common for dogs that have lost the ability to use their hind limbs to have problems urinating and defecating normally. In some cases, owners will have to learn how to express the bladder. This will typically have to be done several times a day to allow for proper comfort and decrease the chances of urinary infections. In other cases, dogs just leak urine constantly and a doggy diaper may be warranted. In either scenario, the dogs need to be kept very clean to prevent urine scalding and infections. The same holds true for defecation.

Each day, the dog should be examined for pressure sores and wounds that may be associated with dragging the limbs or from the wheelchair itself. The wheelchair should be well padded, and the dogs should be spending time off of it as well.

In many cases, dogs can thrive in wheelchairs and go back to playing fetch or chasing squirrels. It is a great way to give a dog its freedom back.

- Kerri Wiedmeyer, DVM, WVRC. "Dogs in Wheelchairs" Fetch Magazine Winter 2018: 14. Print