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