We received a phone call from a local person the other night – he’d been told by his vet that he should think about putting his five year German Short Pointer down because he had suddenly “gone down” in the rear and was incapable of walking on his own. The well-meaning veterinarian told him he needed to make some hard decisions based on his pet’s best interest and potential quality of life. After all – this was a young dog, used to a high level of activity, spends lots of time outdoors and in the woods – certainly you couldn’t expect a this dog to put up with a wheelchair.
The owner was calling in the hope that we’d be able to try Hunter out in a cart and see how he’d respond to being in a dog wheelchair. We told them to come right over.
Hunter was just as upset with his disability as his family was. He clung to his “dad” and needed reassurance that this was not a vet’s office and we wouldn’t be doing anything that would make him more uncomfortable. We did our basic evaluation by using a Helpemup Harness to stand him up and see just how much feeling and strength he had. We found that he had reflexes in both his feet, had control over his bladder and bowels, and that his tail could still wag. We took his measurements and then went out on our deck and found him a recycled cart that was the right size. We adjusted the height and length to make it fit him perfectly and took him outside.
At first his legs dragged behind him, but then spontaneously his legs kicked into gear – fired by those reflexes we knew he had and before long he was walking in the wheelchair. We made another height adjustment to give him perfect traction and he started running in the cart. Hunter’s whole face lit up with joy and relief – as did his family’s.
The moral of this story is this – don’t let your vet’s skepticism about your dog’s ability to use a wheelchair stop you from trying. Most dogs with mobility challenges are not giving up on life – and they will adapt to using a cart. After a short period of time, they simply forget about the wheels and go back to being dogs. A well fitted cart can save a dog’s life – and give him the time to heal from traumatic injuries.