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Does Your Dog Need A Wheelchair?

Are you wondering if a wheelchair would help your dog? Maybe you think that a dog wheelchair could be in your future, but your pup doesn’t need it yet. Two months ago, I was in exactly the same place you are now …

After nine years of traveling together, Rod and I were facing the reality that Buster’s arthritis was affecting his ability and desire to walk. Writing How to Help a Dog with Arthritis Keep Going allowed me to share the changes we’ve made to accommodate Buster’s needs and make him comfortable. But, when someone mentioned a dog wheelchair in the post’s comments, I started down an unexpected path!

Buster in his dog wheelchair with a squeaky ball in his mouth

 

Does My Dog Need a Wheelchair?

At nearly twelve years old, it’s not unexpected for German Shepherds to have trouble with their hind legs. When we noticed Buster’s activity level decreasing, we had his veterinarian run some tests. Luckily, we were able to rule out hip dysplasia and degenerative myelopathy. The vet determined that the weakness in Buster’s hind legs is caused primarily by arthritis.

With that in mind, we made some changes to better care for Buster. Part of our new plan was to take shorter, more frequent walks. The goal was use moderate exercise to reduce joint pain and keep his muscles toned. It was on one of those shorter walks that Buster let me know it was time for a dog wheelchair.

READ MORE ⇒  How to Help a Dog With Arthritis Keep Going

Buster the German Shepherd in his Walkin' Wheels Dog Wheelchair at Lake Guntersville State Park in AL

When Should I Get A Dog Wheelchair?

Figuring out that Buster was ready for a dog wheelchair was easy. One evening I took him out for what was supposed to be a short walk. His legs are at their weakest late in the day, and I can’t carry him home if he wanders too far.

When we came to the first point on our route where we could return to the RV, Buster insisted on heading the opposite direction. Though I could see his back end was sagging, I gave in, and we continued walking. At the second split in the path, Buster tried again to turn away from the Winnebago. I was crushed, but I was also afraid that his enthusiasm to sniff was overriding any awareness he might have of his body’s limitations. So I told him we had to go home.

That night I realized that if we didn’t find way to keep Buster going his world was going to get smaller and smaller. Staying active is the most effective way to slow the progression of his arthritis. And we needed to act now, while he still had the heart and desire to go. If he wanted to walk, it was our job to make it happen.

Buster the German Shepherd laying on the sofa

How Do I Find The Right Wheel Chair For My Dog?

The idea of a dog wheelchair had been planted by that comment on the blog, so I did a bit of research. There are several companies that sell dog wheelchairs, and some talented people even make customized wheelchairs for their pets. But, after reading about Felix’s experience on Kol’s Notes, we knew that the Walkin’ Wheels dog wheelchair was for us.

When I contacted the folks at HandicappedPets.com, they agreed that a dog wheelchair could give Buster the mobility he was craving. Even better, the wheelchair would allow him to continue to exercise his hind legs, without having to rely on his hips to carry all of his body weight. That meant we wouldn’t have to cut our walks short!

We gave them the one required measurement to determine which size wheelchair Buster needed and then waited a few days for it to arrive.

This post is sponsored by Handicapped Pets who graciously sent us a Walkin’ Wheels dog wheelchair. It’s difficult to express the gratitude I have for these folks. They’ve given Buster the ability to continue roaming and loving life – even when his hind legs can’t keep up. And they’ve given us hope that we’ll have a happy dog for a long time.

Buster the German Shepherd posing in front of the GoPetFriendly.com Winnebago in his dog wheelchair

 

How Does The Dog Wheelchair Work?

The Walkin’ Wheels dog wheelchair was a cinch to assemble. And it’s very adjustable, so you can easily get a comfortable fit. The folks at HandicappedPet.com are also terrific, offering suggestions for minor tweaks to make sure Buster’s wheels were just right.

Buster's Walkin' Wheels dog wheelchair

The arms of the wheelchair (at the bottom of the image above) clip into the harness that comes with the wheelchair. Buster’s hind legs go in the holes made by the foam-covered straps, and those straps are held together with a neoprene strap to form a cradle for his back end. When he’s in the wheelchair, Buster is able to relieve himself (#1 and #2) without the straps being in the way.

Buster the German Shepherd in his dog wheelchair in a campground

The Walkin’ Wheels also comes with wonderful instructions to acclimate your dog to his new wheelchair. And I was fully prepared for that to be a lengthy process. After all, Buster needed several weeks to get comfortable using his dog ramp! So, imagine my surprise when I put the wheelchair on Buster for the first time – just to check the fit – and he started walking. No training needed … he loved it right from the beginning.

READ MORE ⇒  Choosing and Training Your Dog to Use a Ramp

How Do You Get Your Dog Into The Wheelchair?

It took a little practice to get the hang of it, but now getting Buster into and out of the wheelchair takes less than a minute. You start by putting on the harness, which goes over Buster’s head and clips under his belly. Then we position the wheelchair, put Buster’s tail and legs in the correct positions, and clip the arms into the harness. That’s it, we’re ready to roll!

If your dog has less mobility than Buster, the dog wheelchair comes with stirrups to keep hind paws from dragging. You can also get the chair with four wheels if your dog needs support for his front and back legs.

Here’s a quick video of how it works:

Will My Dog Like the Wheelchair?

Buster has tested his dog wheelchair in campgrounds, on trails, and even in the snow. The large wheels allow it to roll nicely over grass, on pavement, and anywhere the ground isn’t too uneven. We can even play fetch with his squeaky ball!

Buster the German Shepherd in his dog wheelchair in the snow Buster the German Shepherd playing fetch in his doggy wheelchair

Here’s a video of Buster playing ball in his dog wheelchair:

The only challenge we’ve found is that if Buster rolls over an obstacle, the wheelchair can tip. When that happens, it can flip Buster, so we have to be vigilant to keep him out of trouble.

 

People have been quite enthusiastic about Buster’s new wheels. Leave us a comment if your dog uses a dog wheelchair, or if you’re thinking of getting one. We’re happy to share what we’re learning!

Gear Used in This Post:
(Affiliate Links)

Walkin’ Wheels Dog Wheelchair

Alcott Martingale Collar

Alcott Weekender Leash

Pawz Boots for Dogs – Size Large

See all the gear we use to make traveling with our pets easier, safer, and more fun!

 

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  • Julie Nolet says:

    This is great ! Buster and owner look really happy ! I wonder when is the good time to start using the wheelchair. Also, like Buster, Buddy just got the hang of using the ramp to get in the VUS. It took months !!!

    • Amy at GoPetFriendly.com says:

      I believe it Julie! Teaching these older dogs new tricks can take a while. I decided it was time to get the wheelchair when I had to cut Buster’s walks short because, looking at how his hind end was sagging, I was afraid he wasn’t going to make it back home. Now he can walk as far and as long as he wants!

  • Jude Markward says:

    Just read and watched the video with Buster and his wheelchair! We have just recently had to face facts with our 12yr old Malamute that life with him is changing. You have made that awareness easier to deal with and provided a great solution to help us help him stay mobilized and enjoy life! Thank you so much for sharing.

    • Amy at GoPetFriendly.com says:

      I’m so glad we’re able to help, Jude! It’s not easy watching our dogs get older, but as long as we keep them smiling and happy – that’s what matters. Thanks for your note, and good luck to you!

  • Buster looks very proud in his new wheels. Hopefully he’ll continue his travels with you for a long time to come. I picked handicappedpets.com too when my dog Sophie couldn’t walk.

  • Debbie Disch says:

    I love seeing Buster in his wheelchair! My Shepherd (mix) Jackson started slowing down with arthritis at about 11 years old but was still relatively mobile until he was over 13. He passed away last summer at 14.5 yo and was still able to get up and around, albeit slowly, until that last few days. I never got him a wheelchair but I did do the laser therapy and found that acupuncture really helped him alot the last 6 months of his life – I just wish I’d started it for him sooner!

    You probably have also heard of the Help ‘Em Up Harness, but just in case you haven’t, I wanted to mention it. I started using it with Jackson regularly when he was about 13, didn’t use it much during those 6 months that the acupuncture was doing it’s magic and then relied on it tremendously during his last month when he really started struggling. The harness has front and back pieces with handles, is beautifully padded and very easy to get on and off. The way it evenly distributes their weight and the handle on the rear piece make it really easy to help them get up, save their energy and stabilize them on inclines, stairs or slippery spots. It might be something to look into for Buster for around the Winnebago at some point.
    https://helpemup.com

    Here’s to lots of fun wheelchair adventures for Buster this summer!!

    • Amy at GoPetFriendly.com says:

      Thanks so much for letting us know about the harness, Debbie. Right now Buster’s still doing fine inside the Winnebago – including jumping up on his sofa – but we know that will change, too. We’ll definitely keep your note in mind in the future.

  • Chelle says:

    I think that smile on Buster’s face says it all! :-D

  • Vicki Cook says:

    Thanks for the post about wheelchairs. At 15 years old, Zora’s back legs are starting to go. I hate giving up walking, which gives her mental stimulation as well as physical exercise. I will definitely keep this in mind.

    • Amy at GoPetFriendly.com says:

      I’m sorry to hear that Zora is starting to struggle, Vicki. It’s hard watching our pups get older. And I’m happy to be able to help! Sometimes knowing the options is half the battle. Hugs to you both!

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