The visit last week from our friend in the wheelchair and the process of Daisy becoming familiar and comfortable with it made me think about dogs who need “wheelchairs”. We’ve all seen them – those amazing videos of dogs missing their hind or front legs and using little wheelchair-like devices to get around. We always marvel at how at ease and agile these pups are with their new appendages, but Daisy’s adjustment to my friend’s wheelchair made me realize that there must be a learning curve.
I mean, dogs aren’t just born with an innate ability to romp around with wheels attached to them any more than humans are. But, like humans, dogs are adaptable and resilient. The question is – how do we help them through their adjustment period?
There’s a wonderful article in The Daily Puppy about just that. It also discusses other issues, like the fact that not all wheelchairs are right for every dog and other reasons besides missing limbs that may cause the need for a doggy wheelchair, like back problems, paralysis, and leg problems. Sometimes dogs only need a wheelchair for a short period of time, like during rehabilitation after an accident or surgery.
I found it surprising that dog wheelchairs didn’t began being sold commercially until the 1990’s. Before that, dog owners with lame dogs either had them euthanized or built their own wheelchairs to keep the dog from dragging itself around, which caused injury and infection. But with a wheelchair, dogs can continue to function and live normal lives, participating in many of the activities they’ve always known. In fact, some dogs even enter races, just like wheelchair-bound humans do!
It’s important not to just hook a dog up to the first wheelchair (sometimes called “dog carts” too) you find. The wheelchair needs to suit the dog in size, fit, and comfort. There are plenty of places to find doggy wheelchairs, including lots that are made right here in the USA, such as at Dogs To Go, Wheelchairs For Dogs, and K-9 Cart.
There’s also a blog about how one person built their own dog’s wheelchair so you can create your own if you’re so inclined.
There’s even a book about a dog named Shorty and his wheelchair! Check it out at Shorty Stories: A Story about a Dog and Her Famous Wheels.