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Wheelchairs for dogs Part 1: helping dogs with disabilities get a new lease on life

Posted in Client Service @ May 7th 2015 - By Gillian Shippen, Nurse Manager, Director at Pets Need A Life Too!

Have you seen a dog whizzing around in his wheelchair?

Guest Blogger Gillian Shippen has a passion for helping dogs become mobile again with their own specially fitted cart....

By now you may know my history of why I started Pets Need A Life Too! For those that don’t, I adopted the most beautiful Rottweiler in the whole wide world (no, no bias whatsoever – honest!…;-) ) into my home at a time when the breed was receiving a caning in the media. Cole become my heart dog and as I was determined he would not be a nuisance to anyone, I embarked on a path of self education about training, behaviour and enrichment.  This journey developed a keen interest and understanding in animal behaviour enrichment which I soon discovered was knowledge that was highly sort after.

Then towards the end of Cole’s life we began another journey when he suddenly developed ataxia. Dreading the “Rottweiler  Curse” (I always said to my partner and step-son, whom both loved Cole dearly, that if cancer didn’t get him, his spine would!) we rushed Cole to our Vet School Referral Centre with its newly opened and fabulous clinic. Imaging suggested there was not a lot we could do for Cole which was disappointing given he was always such an active animal. He could get around our home and toilet himself but he walked like a drunken sailor, so I could not take him for his much loved strolls around our neighbourhood and on the beach.

We had to do something for him, so I investigated mobility aids and came across Dog Wheelchairs. There wasn’t much available at the time however I did find a really good one that was easy to use and that I could get straight away. There was no complicated measuring or waiting for a custom cart to be made so we went for it. At the time it cost around $600 plus another $70 or so for a special harness to make the ride more comfortable for him.  He was a big heavy dog, not overweight – just a big and heavy dog!

Well the change in Cole's demeanour when he was able to go on his walk again was just a delight to see


1. The very first time we put Cole in his cart          2. Going for a walk with his pal Chevy

Here's a short YouTube video of Cole trying out his cart for the very  first time...

Wheelchairs for dogs have really improved since then and there are now many more brands to choose from. I decided this should be another aspect to Pets Need A Life Too! and have explored a number of options and have even had some manufacturers chasing me to stock their product.  In the end I went with what I knew and became an agent for the Walkin’ Wheels Dog Cart because I really do believe it to be the best one on the market as well as the only fully adjustable cart available.

It’s not the end but just the beginning

Many people worry that using a wheelchair for their pet is the last resort, the point of no return after giving up after rehabilitation or other therapies that haven’t worked.  They are often concerned that once they put their dog in a cart it will never be able to walk unaided again. In many cases (particularly hip dysplasia) however, the cart will actually help extend the dogs ability to walk on its own by taking the strain during exercise.

Taking the pain away from movement by providing the much needed support and making it easier to enjoy life is the positive of placing an animal in a wheelchair.

It doesn’t necessarily mean you stop other therapies or rehabilitation, but it helps the animal cope with it all much better.

Assisting during recovery from surgery or injury

Wheelchairs can be a great addition to a dog’s recovery from surgery or injury; and for some dogs whose rear limbs don’t work well but the rest of their body is fine, they can be life changing.  The carts enable them to still go for a walk and have independence to toilet unassisted.

Since my decision to become involved with mobility aids I have been inundated with requests for dog carts for all types of dogs. I have worked in conjunction with several of our Referral Centres to help patients become mobile faster after surgery and assisting them to remain mobile for as long as possible. 

You would think my most common patient would be dachshunds and German Shepherds, and although I do get them I also get a good mix of Shih Tzu’s, Jack Russell Terriers, Labradors, Kelpies and Boxers. I have also had a three legged Bull Terrier and two patients that have required full quad carts - a paralysed Cocker Spaniel and a Border Collie with cerebral issues. The sad part is that unfortunately many of my patients don’t last very long because they are elderly to start with but their owners are always grateful that they have been able to provide a good quality of life with mobility.

We only used Cole’s cart on him about 6 times in total until he did succumb to the dreaded Rottweiler Curse (cancer in the stomach!) but we never once regretted paying for the cart to help him remain mobile during that time.

Hiring or buying….

Understanding that pets with mobility issues may only be around for a short period of time or may only need a cart whilst recovering from surgery or injury I offer a scheme for hiring carts out as well as a “buy-back” scheme depending on the condition of the used cart. 

“It is not ‘cruel’ to put a dog in a wheelchair, - it’s actually cruel to deny them a better quality of life and reduction in pain if we have the means to do it.” (Michelle Monk – Dogs In Motion)

Next week... Part 2: What conditions can the carts be used for and which patients make the best candidates?

Following week... Part 3: Success Stories!

Gillian Shippen is not only a Nurse Manager, but has also written a book: 'Pets Need a Life Too - A Guide to Enriching the Life of Your Pet - Series One: Dogs' AND she runs her online website 'Pets Need a Life Too!' where she sells a range of enrichment toys for pets including wheelchairs for dogs.


Click here to visit the 'Pets Need A Life Too!' Page in the Vetanswers Business Directory


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