There was a day not too long ago when it sounded odd to think about a dog using a wheelchair. Now, it’s not uncommon to turn on your TV and see a wheelchair dog in a commercial or kid’s cartoon or even see walking the street. If you find yourself needing a dog wheelchair, you’re not alone. Almost 18,000 pet parents in 2022 purchase an adjustable wheelchair for their best friend, and that’s just a drop in the bucket. Since 2001, Walkin’ Pets has helped over 1.85 million animals improve their mobility.
Even now, there are still many misconceptions about dog wheelchairs, including how they work and what they do. Let’s break down the stigma around dog wheelchairs and understand why your dog deserves one.
Mobility loss doesn’t have to be an end-of-life decision
It’s a common misconception that if a dog can’t walk, they must be miserable and should be put down. The truth is that if a dog isn’t in pain and can still have a good quality of life, there is no reason to put your dog down. We encourage you to talk to your veterinarian about your dog’s health and ask them if a wheelchair is the right option for your dog.
Having a dog wheelchair has many advantages, one of which is that it enables your dog to remain active. A wheelchair provides support to your pets, allowing them to stand upright in a natural position and walk again.
“My big 8 year old Labrador Gunny has had surgeries on both hips so I can tell just standing for long periods and walks take a toll on him these days. For the last year or so he just looks at me, not excited at all when I suggest a walk, because it’s uncomfortable and hurts him. Most of his exercise now is in the pool but I could tell he wants to go for his walks but just can’t. So, I had received info from my sister, I had seen the advertisements, did some research, and ordered Gunny’s Walkin Pets system. After the first familiarization day, short walk, and adjustments Gunny has gone from laying there just looking at me when I get his harness and leash, then trying and bribe him with treats to go outside for a walk, to now, he’s jumping up barking moving to the door by just showing him the new harness. My big boy has a new outlook and his new quality of life has him out visiting the neighbors around the neighborhood again.”
– Ben C.
Using a wheelchair will not prevent or discourage a dog from walking
Believe it or not, dogs can walk and use their back legs while using a wheelchair. The term wheelchair brings to mind someone who is sitting, unable to use their legs, or stands without help. Instead of thinking of a dog wheelchair as a wheelchair, think of it as a walker.
Just like a walker, the wheelchair frame’s support will help a dog stand ergonomically up on all fours and give the balance your pet needs to move forward with ease. The wheels sit directly in line with your dog’s hip to support your dog the same way their back legs would if they had full strength. There’s no change in how your dog moves or walks, only now they can do it without straining themselves, wobbling, or collapsing.
‘We got “Wheels” for our German shepherd, and he can actually run down the yard. He still has use of his back legs, but they are not very good. The wheels help him a lot when he wants to go for a walk and especially when we go camping.”
– Sylvia S.
Dogs that are healing or in rehab can use a wheelchair too!
Not every dog will need to use a wheelchair for the rest of their life. There are many dogs who use a wheelchair temporarily as they recovery from a knee injury or after an operation. After surgery or a traumatic injury it can be painful and difficult for a dog to get around on their own. And if you have a really big dog, it’s not easy to carry or lift your dog every time they need to go outside. For that reason, many veterinarian or rehab specialists will recommend using a wheelchair as a part of their healing process.
A wheelchair may be used during rehab or only on your daily walks. Everyone will use a wheelchair a bit differently, but the benefits remain the same. The wheelchair reduces the weight the dog places on their back legs which will make it easier for them to walk but also limit the potential risk of injuring their other leg. For a dog in rehab, the cart allows the dog to stand and move naturally without straining themselves. The extra support of the cart makes it possible for them to focus on their exercises without struggling.
In some instances, a dog can use their wheelchair for a short period of time and once they build up enough strength and stamina, get around completely on their own after lots of hard work.
“God answered my prayers, along with medications prescribed by my Veterinarian, and the physical therapy of walking long distances. 4 months later, she started walking on her own! Her walking has progressed over the last month, so the only time she is in the cart is when we take our long walks. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.