Last Updated on January 18, 2022 by Dogs Vets
8 Ways A Dog Wheelchair Helps Pets With Rear Leg Issues
Wheelchairs aren’t just for humans who need a bit of a boost to get around. Pets also benefit from using these devices, and they provide pets with different needs.
A dog wheelchair is a valuable asset for pets with hind limbs issues. For dogs recovering from an injury, have arthritis or degenerative myelopathy, allow them to get the exercise they need while supporting their legs so that they heal correctly. A quality wheelchair can provide your pet with freedom and comfort.
What Is A Dog Wheelchair?
A dog wheelchair is an apparatus that provides support and mobility to dogs who cannot walk or have difficulty walking. It’s usually made from moulded plastic, metal, or carbon fibre and has four wheels, with the two back wheels positioned on either side of the dog’s rear legs.
A harness attached to a central brace helps hold up the dog’s back legs while walking.
Type Of Dog Wheelchairs
There are three different types of dog wheelchairs. The two main ones are rear support wheelchairs, which have a harness that holds the front legs off the ground and rests on the back legs, and the sling wheelchair, which is similar to an old-fashioned baby carrier.
The third type offers support to the front end, which helps to prop up your pet’s head and chest so that they can eat, drink, and play without spilling their food all over the floor.
- Rear Support Dog Wheelchair
Rear support wheelchairs are considered the most common wheelchair for dogs because they allow for unrestricted movement of the front limbs, making it easier to accomplish daily tasks.
Dogs have a very dog-centric view of the world and just want to move around generally with their pet parents, play with the other dogs in the house, fetch a ball or a Frisbee, and go for walks. A rear support wheelchair lets them do this much more quickly.
- Sling Dog Wheelchair
A sling wheelchair is a device that straps around your dog’s midsection and holds their back legs off the ground while he moves forward, similar to a baby’s baby carrier. A sling wheelchair can serve as a short-term solution for dogs who need to rest their rear limbs or small breed puppies who still need their legs held up.
- Front Support Dog Wheelchair
A front support wheelchair is used when your pet has trouble holding its head and chest up while eating, drinking, playing, barking commands, and other activities.
These wheelchairs are typically reserved for pets with significant paralysis in the neck muscles or extreme weakness in the front limbs.
They allow your dog to be as independent and active as possible while still giving them the support they need while eating or drinking.
The main difference between dog wheelchairs is that rear support wheelchairs allow for free movement of the front limbs, whereas sling and front support wheelchairs hold the back legs immobile.
How Dog Wheelchairs Help Your Pets
If your pet suffers from hind leg issues, here are some of the most helpful ways a dog wheelchair can help them.
1. Keeps Your Pet’s Muscles Strong
First and foremost, a dog wheelchair helps your pet’s muscles stay strong and healthy as they’re recovering from an orthopaedic injury or working to overcome rear limb paralysis that prevents them from moving around.
It allows them to go up and downstairs, into the car for rides, and outside to play with you. Dogs who are elderly or suffer from arthritis provide them with the low-impact exercise they need to keep down their weight so that they don’t injure themselves trying to get around.
If your pet can’t use their back legs, they’ll atrophy or get weaker over time, which means that it’s vital for them to stay mobile to keep their muscles functional and prevent injury. A dog wheelchair gives them the freedom to move around.
2. Protects Joints And Prevents Cartilage Damage
When your pet’s rear legs don’t support their body weight, they put their total weight on the bones in their joints and feet. It can lead to joint damage, bone spurs, and inflammation. It can also result in cartilage damage over time. Using a wheelchair for dogs helps take the weight off your pet’s joints, so their legs are not bearing the brunt of their body weight.
If your pet suffers from rear leg paralysis or weakness, a dog wheelchair for pets with back limb issues can be a great idea. The better you understand different wheelchairs for dogs, the easier it’ll be to make a good decision for your pet’s specific needs.
3. Prevents Progression Of Rear Limb Paralysis
A dog wheelchair also helps prevent the progression of paralysis by supporting your dog’s rear limbs and providing them with assistance as he moves around. It prevents further damage that may hinder their ability to walk or move independently. The longer your pet is stuck in one position, the greater the risk of injury to their muscles and bones.
As your pet’s muscles begin to atrophy, it becomes more and more difficult for them to move around from one position to another. That’s why they must use a wheelchair as long as necessary, even if the entire movement returns.
4. Prevents Weight Gain And Muscle Atrophy
A dog wheelchair also prevents your pet from gaining extra weight as they can’t engage in physical activity, which would burn calories and contribute to a healthy weight. It also keeps their muscles strong and prevents them from wasting away.
Because your dog doesn’t have to work as hard for movement, they’ll naturally burn fewer calories, leading to weight gain. That’s why it’s necessary to provide extra exercise opportunities for dogs who cannot move around on their own or are recovering from an injury or surgery.
5. Reduces Strain And Stress On Other Areas
When your pet cannot use their back legs, they put all their weight on their front limbs and spine. It can cause pain in your dog’s chest, hips, and shoulders.
It also increases stress on their spine and lowers their back, which leads to various complications over time. A wheelchair for dogs helps to reduce the risk of complications from pressure on their hips and upper body.
Even if your dog is only temporarily paralyzed, it may be a good idea to invest in a wheelchair. Over time, your dog will regain some movement so that you can remove the wheels for short periods, but other problems might arise as well.
Your pet will have to go through an adjustment period before they can walk without assistance again.
6. Prevent Pulling On The Lead
If your dog can’t use their back legs, they have no way of pulling against the weight of a leash. It means that you’ll be able to walk them outside without hurting them or risking injury if they try to pull on their own. A wheelchair makes it so that you can walk your pet even when they can’t walk on their own, which prevents any damage that might occur if he jerks their body forward to keep up with you.
7. Helps Keep Your Pet Safe
If your dog has rear legs issues and can’t walk independently, they might fall over and injure themselves from the hips down when you try to move them around. They’ll also have difficulty getting into or out of bed or up or downstairs. A wheelchair would help them keep their balance and prevent falling and injuring themselves.
8. Encourages Normalcy And Lowers Anxiety
Lastly, when your dog cannot walk, they might become anxious quickly because of the lack of mobility. They’ll be forced to lie in one spot for extended periods, which could cause depression or encourage behaviour problems.
A wheelchair for dogs helps keep your pet mobile and happy, which reduces anxiety levels.
The wheelchairs work by supporting your dog’s hindquarters so that they can move around with ease. These wheelchairs are designed to help 50-100% of their body weight so that they don’t have to use any effort to stand or walk. They vary in their design depending on your dog’s size, weight, and breed.
When you first get a wheelchair for your pet, it’s essential to properly train them to understand what the device does and how they can benefit from using it.
Many dogs are initially confused by the wheelchair and think it’s a toy or treat dispenser. They may paw at it, run into it, roll over on top of it, and even try to eat it. It’s perfectly normal for them to explore this new object in their environment.
It’s best to let your pet get comfortable with the wheelchair on their terms and introduce it in a manner that doesn’t cause any additional stress.
Let your pet investigate the wheelchair when they’re calm, such as after a meal or after waking up from a nap.
Some dogs take to their wheelchairs right away, while others may need several days before they start to understand and familiarize themselves with it and how to use it.
You may start with the wheelchair on the ground, let your pet sniff it, and notice any strange new objects in their environment.
Also, try to encourage them to walk around and exercise to get more comfortable moving with the wheelchair on their back.
Once they seem used to having something strapped onto their bodies, you can begin to pick up the wheelchair so that it’s touching your pet’s body. It’ll help them get used to it being near.
If they seem distressed by its presence, try offering a treat or toy each time before picking it up. Eventually, they’ll realize that the wheelchair means good things happen.
It’s important to remember that while a dog wheelchair can be life-changing for pets with back injuries, they aren’t the answer to every problem.
Your veterinarian might prescribe medications or physical therapy in addition to using a wheelchair. Be sure to ask what kind of follow-up care is necessary before deciding to purchase one for your dog.
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