Paralysis in your dog no longer has to be a drama in his life
One day you may notice unexpectedly that your dog can not move, that he begins to have neurological or age-related problems such as arthritis, or that he suffers from an injury caused by a traumatic incident, resulting in a visit to the vet. However, many professionals recommend putting the dog to sleep if they determine that he won´t be able to walk, but you would not accept this, looking instead for other solutions to keep him by your side as many years as possible.
If you have gone through this then there´s good news, for your dog can have a good quality of life using a wheelchair, making sacrifice unnecessary. Owners who have chosen this alternative often recount how their life changed, both for the dog that regained the freedom he had before paralysis, and for the humans themselves who can see their dog run, play and socialize as before.
To fully understand the effects of wheelchairs for dogs, let’s see how this tool works and what its different modalities are.
How does the wheelchair work?
The wheelchair is a device that provides support to dogs that have weakness in the limbs and can´t support themselves, or those that have no ability to walk at all.
There are 3 wheelchair designs for dogs that you should know of, each one for different types of limb weakness or paralysis.
Back support wheelchair – this is the most common type of wheelchair for dogs. It has 2 wheels in the back, a chair to support the pelvis and a harness to keep it controlled and safe. The rear support car is ideal for rehabilitation after surgery, as well as in dogs that have weakness or paralysis in the hind legs but have good resistance in the rest of the body and in the front legs.
Back support wheelchair
Front support wheelchair – it´s called this way because the wheels are located at the front. They are use by dogs that have problems in their front limbs but a good resistance in the hind legs, which helps them to push themselves and walk.
Quad support wheelchair – this wheelchair has 2 wheels at the front and 2 at the rear. It is used as a rehabilitation tool after spinal surgery and also in dogs with weakness in the 4 extremities and with difficulty to support their body weight. The dog can support his limbs and perform a full range of motion.
What are the advantages of using a wheelchair?
– Recovery of autonomy and activity.
– Decreased constipation and prevention of ulcers on the skin caused by permanent immobility, since the use of the wheelchair increases activity.
– Improved appetite and digestion.
– Improvement of physical therapy results.
Evolution of the wheelchair until today
At first wheelchairs were built by the owners of affected dogs, using materials which were a bit heavy and crude but nevertheless sufficient to give dogs the opportunity for a healthy and happy life.
Over time the canine wheelchair industry grew and companies emerged dedicated to making “made-to-measure” wheelchairs, where the owners took the measurements of their dog, sent them to the manufacturer and in several weeks the wheelchair was ready according to the specific conditions of that dog.
However, this made-to-measure system began to have some drawbacks:
1) huge boxes were required for shipments due to large sizes
2) transportation was difficult on family trips as the chair could not fit in the trunk or in the back chairs of the car. The only solution was to disassemble it, which was very complex
3) the various measurements that had to be taken by the owner were quite accurate, and in case they were not correct the wheelchair could not be used. When this happened, no refunds were allowed, or at the very least there were replacement fees. The reason why no refunds were accepted was because the wheelchair was made exclusively for that dog (for this reason too it could not be sold or donated)
4) if the dog grew or his state of health changed the wheelchair would no longer fit these new conditions
5) they were difficult to assemble.
Today there are companies with a lot of experience in wheelchair design, such as K9 Carts (first manufacturer in the United States), Doggon Carts, Eddie’s Wheels, Best Friend Mobility, Ortocanis (Spain) and Handicapped Pets. These last 2 companies have become the most popular brands for their innovation in their product design, as it improved the aforementioned disadvantages:
1) adjustability: its design is adjustable in height, width and length, which allows it to adapt to the body of the animal, without the need for tools or screws. This was a relief for the owners, as putting the wheelchairs together was a real headache and it was even worse if the instructions were not clear.
2) its adjustable system also adapts to changes in the health and growth of the dog.
3) it´s foldable, so it can be carried in the car or be stored anywhere, even under the bed.
4) it can be sold or donated to another dog.
In the rest of companies like K9 Carts, Eddie’s Wheels and Doggon Wheels, wheelchairs are “made-to-measure”, forcing the owner to take tens of measures and assemble the wheelchair using tools, in contrast to Best Friend Mobility and Handicapped Pets, which only require one measure (though the last one has a small edge since its adjustable system does not require the use of tools). In any case, all companies have a customer service that helps their customers every step of the way.
On the other hand, a negative comment I´ve read about wheelchairs in general is that the dog can´t sit or rest while using it. The only company which has tackled this problem is Best Friend Mobility, which introduced a feature in the design of its Sit Go Dog Wheelchair where the rear part can be lowered, allowing the dog to get up, sit and rest. I wouldn´t say this is more important than all the factors mentioned before, but you can take it into consideration if that´s your preference.
Here is an additional comparison of factors from what I consider to be the top 4 brands of wheelchairs for dogs.
Top 3 wheelchairs for dogs companies, factors:
Handicapped Pets: 1 measure.
K9 Carts: 8 measures.
Best Friend Mobility: 1 measure.
Ortocanis: 1 measure + the dog´s weight.
Why it matters: the measures must be taken by the owner, and the margin of error is much lower if the design of the wheelchair requires a single measure in contrast to several, which if incorrect would involve a return to the company.
2) Are tools and screws used for assembly?
Handicapped Pets: no, it uses pressure buttons.
Best Friend Mobility: yes.
K9 Carts: yes.
Ortocanis: no, it uses pressure buttons.
Why it matters: screws need to be tightened to prevent parts from loosening, which could cause problems in the use of the wheelchair. The pressure buttons system is simpler, making the chair easier to put together.
3) Does it use a light and resistant aluminum frame?
Handicapped Pets: yes.
K9 Carts: yes.
Best Friend Mobility: yes.
Why it matters: it offers a feeling of comfort and facilitates the natural movement of the dog when walking and running.
4) Can the dog sit and relax while using the wheelchair?
Handicapped Pets: no.
K9 Carts: no.
Best Friend Mobility: yes, with the Sit Go Wheelchair.
Why it matters: dogs generally perform physical activities with the wheelchair that deplete them. Having the opportunity to rest and relax is an added value in the dog’s quality of life.
6) Refund policy
(The wheelchair must be in good condition)
Handicapped Pets: 80% refund within 30 days (minus shipping cost).
K9 Carts: 70% refund within 15 days.
Best Friend Mobility: up to 30 days. The customer chooses reimbursement or replacement depending on availability, minus shipping costs.
Ortocanis: 100% refund within 30 working days with no penalty, minus shipping costs. The only requisite is not having been used.
Why it matters: given the possibility that the wheelchair is not the right size for the dog, it´s good to have the possibility of a refund or replacement.
7) Average consumer ratings on Amazon
Handicapped Pets: 4.5 (based on 5 wheelchairs from the company).
K9 Carts: 4.7 (based on one wheelchair of the company).
Best Friend Mobility: 3.6 (based on 7 wheelchairs of the company).
Ortocanis: it´s not sold on Amazon.
Given all these factors, the wheelchairs that I recommend are Walkin’ Wheels from Handicapped Pets if you live in North America, and the Auto-adjustable from Ortocanis if you live in Europe or South America (in the case of the latter I contacted the company and they offered a special 5% discount for Animaltia´s readers; just introduce the code ANIMALTIA when buying the wheelchair and you´ll get the discount).
They both have a modern style and flat folding, which facilitates storage at home or even in the car, taking up little space. Additionally, their adjustable system that allows them to adapt to changes in the health or growth of the dog, as well as the possibility of reselling or donating the wheelchair in case you do not need it anymore.
Another added value, appreciated by many owners, is not having to use tools or screws in order to assemble it, because if they don´t end up well adjusted the wheelchair gets unbalanced, affecting the dog´s comfort and mobility. The pressure buttons system that both wheelchairs use will prevent these problems.
Frequently asked questions about dog wheelchairs
Can my dog urinate and defecate when using the wheelchair?
Yes, wheelchairs are designed so that your dog can urinate and defecate.
Can I leave my dog alone with the wheelchair?
It is not recommended to leave him alone. He should always have the supervision of a person while using it.
Can he use it inside the house?
If it is a small dog breed then yes, he can use it. However large breeds can have problems if the space is very small.
How does it work on beach sand?
It works well, he can even swim in calm waters.
How much time does he need to adapt to the wheelchair?
In most cases he adapts easily, however it may take a while if he has been immobile for a long time, since his limbs are going to be weak to support themselves, and if he´s a nervous dog then he can feel confined or frightened when stumbling with the furniture. It is best not to pressure him and letting him gradually get used to the wheelchair. If the dog does not adapt, there is a possibility that he is not comfortable, feels pain or does not fit his body well.
How to teach your child to take care of a dog in a wheelchair?
You must explain to him the illness that the dog has and the cares he must receive. You should not put your child away from this situation because of his age; on the contrary, it´s a good opportunity for instilling values such as respect for different and disadvantaged beings, sensitivity towards the other´s pain and love toward animals. All of these feelings will also likely be transmitted to humans in similar situations.
No dog is exempt from being paralyzed or disabled, but fortunately today the wheelchair exists as a solution for him to continue his life normally. While it is true that it requires an economic investment, it will always be low compared to the thrill of seeing him happy once again. If you finally decide to buy one, Walkin’ Wheels and Ortocanis are the best ones in my opinion, and which one you choose will depend on the country you´re located. Remember also that if you choose Ortocanis you have the right to a 5% discount introducing the code ANIMALTIA when buying it (not bad considering the price of the wheelchair), exclusive for our readers.