There was a time not too long ago when it was a shock to see a dog with wheels, but that’s not the case anymore! As technology advances, Degenerative Myelopathy* and other spinal issues are no longer death sentences and now more than ever, pet parents are willing to go above and beyond to help their fur baby and investigate alternatives to give their much-loved family members a few more years.
Wheelchairs or “wheels” in their various forms can also be recommended by pet care professionals for countless mobility issues and conditions and have also become a key component in animal rehabilitation and treatment.
Wheels as a mobility option are best suited for smaller, lighter breeds and they should be custom made especially for your dog, taking into account their individual measurements and activity level. There are also different types of wheels, suited for different surfaces depending on where you will be walking your dog, so a proper consultation and fitting is a necessity.
Depending on the age and stamina of your dog, start off with short periods of time with the wheels, building up gradually. Positive reinforcement, encouragement and lots of love with a few extra treats will soon have your dog getting used to the idea, even if they are a bit unsure to begin with. If your dog is likely to be nervous of the wheels, try getting them used to the harness first and leaving the assembled wheels lying around so that he can become familiar with them being there before trying to fit them onto him.
When your dog is used to, and settled on the wheels, try and encourage them to start moving. Extra treats work well here too – hold them at nose level so your dog doesn’t need to bend to pick them up, and slightly in front of him so he needs to move towards you to get it. When he has successfully reached that one, do the same with the next one, just sightly further away.
How long can a dog stay in a wheelchair?
Once your dog starts moving, encourage them with lots of praise! Don’t rush or let your dog get distressed. Start with 5 to 10 minutes gradually increase the time which will build up their strength and tolerance.
Even when your dog is comfortable with wheels, don’t leave him unattended so that as soon as he shows signs of being tired or stressed or wants to lie down, you’re on hand to remove them
Watch out for slopes, steps and uneven surfaces that the wheels could get stuck in – remember – it’s a learning process for both of you.
Check that the wheels are fit comfortably, and that they have been adjusted properly to your dog.
Don’t expect too much too soon, especially if your dog is elderly, or has had major surgery. It’s a learning process and a new journey for both of you
*What is Degenerative myelopathy (DM)?
Degenerative myelopathy (DM) is when the spinal cord nerves begin to degenerate, causing communication issues between the brain and limbs. This is progressive and irreversible.