About the Dog Wheelchair

Wheelchairs for Dogs.dog wheelchairs

There was a day when, if a dog couldn’t walk, it meant the end of his or her life. Whether due to injury, disease, or unknown causes – sometimes even temporary ones -- a handicapped dog could not survive without inflicting great hardships on the caretaker.  Not anymore.

Extraordinary care such as hip replacement, spinal surgery, and more may be beyond the means of most, but another device, a dog wheelchair, is quickly becoming the economical solution of choice. These devices, first invented in 1981, have come a long way; from a cobbled-together mass of pipes and clamps to the new, sleek, adjustable designs available today.

Walkin’ Wheels from HandicappedPets.com

Mark Robinson, founder of caretaker website HandicappedPets.com patented his new design called Walkin’ Wheels in August 2008. His designed was based on thousands of comments from pet caretakers, veterinarians, and animal rehab specialists. As he had sold several other brands of wheelchairs from his website, he knew what the problems were and solved each of them.

  • Adjustable: Fits all dogs from 20 – 250 lbs
  • Ships Overnight – No Customizations needed
  • Folds Flat for easy storage and shipping
  • Adjusts with no tools needed
  • Harness system can be used separately as a log lifting sling
  • No assembly needed
  • Looks stylish
  • Dogs can be put in the cart with a few simple clips. No lifting required.
  • Cart can be adjusted as pet’s health changes

Is a wheelchair right for my dog?

Paralyzed Dog: The most obvious candidate for a dog wheelchair is an animal that can get around by dragging his back-end behind him. These dogs, due to paralysis, injury, or disease are otherwise healthy, but have no feeling or control of their back end. The fact that they are able to drag themselves along with their front legs suggests that they are strong enough to be nearly completely mobile in a rear wheel wheelchair.

Weakness: Older dogs, and animals with arthritis, muscle soreness, and in the beginning stages of degenerative disease can use a wheelchair when they get tired. If the wheelchair can be taken with you on a walk, it can be put on the dog at the first signs of tiredness. This avoids a common problem of taking a long walk with a older dog and having him lie down while still miles away from home.
Three Legged Dogs:  Tripods are not usually considered “Handicapped Pets” because they can run and play and be as active as 4 legged dogs. Once they get used to the loss of their leg they can often compensate to nearly 100%. There is, though, a danger. It is critically important, with a three-legged dog, that the remaining leg be cared for with a great deal of vigilance; should this leg fail, complications can be severe. A three-legged dog should be put in a wheelchair when he get tired, or while recuperating if there is a mild injury on the remaining leg.

Rehabilitation:  After surgery, or during recovery of any kind, it is often important to keep weight off the dog’s legs, back, or other area. IN many cases, this requirement can use the dog to be kept in a crate for weeks or months. This loss of activity and muscle-tone can cause complications. Using a wheelchaitr during rehabilitation can give the dog the exercise he needs to support the healing process and keep him healthy during recovery.
Typical Problems

Dog will not move the cart.

Most of the problems a new dog wheelchair will encounter involve the fit and the temperament of the animal. On the one hand, we’ve seen dogs who, the moment they’re put in a dog wheelchair, are off and running; even if they haven’t walked in months. In the best case it’s like a light turns on and they’re free.  On the other hand, though, some dogs will completely reject the idea of the cart at first; frightened of the apparatus and confused at how to work it.

First, be sure the cart is a good fit. Because it is nearly impossible to measure a dog accurately, the cart may require some adjustment. If you have a custom made cart, this may require sending it back to the factory. If it’s an adjustable cart, adjustments can be made on the spot. See the section of this article on fitting. If the dog had hot spots or sores, make sure they are not being aggravated.

Second, be sure the dog is comfortable. Check the harnesses, seat, and any clips. Be sure the dogs genitals are not in an uncomfortable position, that no straps are digging into the animal, or nothing is pinching him. Adjust if necessary. Neoprene, the material that some harnesses are made of, can be safely cut without fear of edges fraying.
Third, be patient. Coax gently. Use treats. Sometimes, all the dog has to do is figure out that he or she can move.

Often, a dog will move backwards in the cart. This is normal. Four-legged animals learn to use different legs for braking, propulsion, stability, and direction. When in a cart, all of these functions are controlled by the front legs alone. If the common stance of a dog involves putting his front paws forward then he us counting on his back legs to keep him from moving backwards. When his back legs are replaced by wheels, he’ll roll back. Also, a dog in a wheelchair will move backwards when he tries to sit down.

Keep control of the dog while he moves for the first time. Do not him run loose. There are several reasons for this:

a)    The noise of the cart could frighten him, causing him to run faster. As the noise follows him, it could panic the dog.
b)    The dog is does not know how to use the cart. If he goes to close to a building or a wall the wheel could catch and get stuck or force him to turn.
c)    The dog needs to be kept away from stairs.
d)    In some cases, the dog could run adapt immediately to his new wheels and run away.

Elimination: Dogs, like horses, pee and poop standing up. This should be no problem in a wheelchair. If he does have a problem, it could be that the harnesses are constricting him. Watch to make sure that he can do his business in the wheelchair. If he cannot, then adjust as needed. If the dog us unable to go due to nerve damage or disease, you will need to express your dog. See your veterinarian to learn how to express your animal (it’s REALLY easy once you know how). If an animal’s bladder is not completely emptied several times a day, serious complications can result.

Fitting: How to Tell if the Cart is Adjusted Properly

When the cart is adjusted properly, the animal stands in a ‘natural’ position. Basically, the dog wheelchair should relate to the dogs skeleton with the siderails supporting him like a spine and the wheels supporting him like legs. Here’s what to check. Refer to the figure below.

A – Knuckle at the hips. The knuckle – or the place where the legs join the frame of the dog cart, should be at the dogs hips. If you were to draw an imaginary line from one knuckle to the other, the line would pass right through the dog’s hips… where the bone of the leg meets the bones of the body. If not, tighten harness and/or adjust length.
B – Front Support loop at the shoulder. There is naturally some downward pressure at the front of the cart. This is the normal pressure of standing. It is important that this weight be directly on the top of the front leg… where it is meant to be. The loop on the front harness that the bar goes through should be at the shoulder. Adjust the straps so that the loop is held firmly against the shoulder.
C – The dogs back needs to be straight or arched UP (slight hunch). In this photo the dog’s back is arched down a little. This is NOT correct and this dog needs the Belly Strap.
D – The back legs need to be just touching, or just off the ground, depending on the health of the back legs. If the dogs wants to use his back legs, then allow his feet to touch lightly. This is often adjusted by tightening the straps that hold the harness to the frame – this brings the dog’s seat up. (Take the dog out of the harness before adjusting.) If the height of the harness cannot be changed, then lengthen the leg struts.  Consider boots if the feet drag. Use the stirrups if the dog cannot use his back legs or the feet are dragging on the ground.
E – The horizontal bar needs to be level with the ground. If the cart itself cannot be adjusted, the harnesses can often be adjusted so that the horizontal bar is level with the ground – or even with the dog’s spine.

If you cart is adjustable, for active dogs with strong front legs, the wheels can be adjusted to angle back.