Common Myths about Dog Wheelchairs

Here are some common myths about dog wheelchairs that we hear about – from both pet owners and veterinarians – and we'd like to dispel them.

Myth #1:  Big dogs won't use carts. Over twenty years ago, when our 80 lb. Doberman became paralyzed in the rear, that's what we were told too.  And in fact, the carts that were available twenty years ago did NOT work well for big dogs, which was why Ed designed his dog wheelchair differently – supporting  the dog on the skeleton instead of the soft tissue.  We have built carts for dogs up to 240 lbs., as well a couple of alpacas, a few goats, a couple of sheep, and a pot-bellied pig.

Bull mastiff and staffordshire terrier in Eddie's Wheels dog wheelchairs

Max, a 175 lb, Mastiff who measured 39″ tall at the shoulder, next to Sweet Pea, a 40 lb. pitbull .

Myth #2:  Dogs won't rehabilitate if you give them a cart = The Lazy Dog Myth.   We have never met a dog who would rather use a wheelchair than walk without one.  We have seen innumerable numbers of dogs, particularly those who have spinal compressions due to disc issues, torn acl's and those immobilized due to FCE's,  rehabilitate while using a dog wheelchair. One key issue is making sure that the dog is supported in a normal weightbearing stance, with its feet on the floor.  In order to motivate a dog to use its legs, it's crucial to activate whatever reflexes it may have and build upon them.  Even if a dog uses stirrups to keep its feet from dragging, we recommend that the stirrups to be adjusted so that as the dog moves its legs, its toes come into contact with the rear crossbar, which provides feedback to whatever reflexes the paretic dog may have.

Myth #3:  Old dogs can't use dog wheelchairs.  The oldest dog for whom we ever built a cart was a cattle dog that was 22 years old, but we routinely build carts for dogs who are 14, 15, and 16 years old.  Being old and unable to get up and go outside to toilet is probably one of the main reasons old dogs are euthanized.  But if a dog is not in pain, and not sick – mobility challenges should not be death sentence.  Many old dogs just have problems getting up – and for those we recommend the Helpemup Harness.   We routinely recommend neutral balanced carts for geriatric dogs – this style of cart feels weightless on the dog's body and adds no load to the forelimbs, while supporting the rear legs completely.

Shepherd mix in dog wheelchairs

18 year old Bizzy is back to standing and sniffing and poking around the yard in a neutral balanced dog wheelchair, and a Helpemup Harness.

Myth #4:  Dogs can't get any exercise if they are in a wheelchair.  Take a look at these photos and video.  Try keeping up with these dogs with a towel or sling!

Great Dane races with horse with Eddie's Wheels dog wheelchair

Blueberry, a paralyzed Great Dane, races with the ponies on the farm with his Eddie's Wheels dog wheelchair

Visit our youtube channel to see hundreds of videos of happy dogs in their wheels: Youtube Channel

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28 Responses to Common Myths about Dog Wheelchairs

  1. David Kobernuss April 12, 2012 at 3:26 pm #

    How does the dog urinate and defecate when in the wheel assembly?

    • leslie April 13, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

      Dogs do not have to squat to do their business. Many dogs with weak rear limbs are very stressed out about even trying to assume a squatting posture, and have stopped trying. They can do this all in a standing position. Gender specific saddles make sure that the cart is not soiled when they urinate and defecate. Also a good percentage of our clientele are and will become incontinent – so the wheelchair helps the owners manage this problem by the getting the dogs up and outside on a regular schedule.

  2. Craig April 22, 2012 at 9:31 am #

    How do you deal with an older or weaker dog with active front legs (non-functional rear legs) when they attempt to lay upon the ground or rest while still in the chair?

    • leslie April 24, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

      You just take them out of the cart. Older dogs take shorter walks, but it’s easy to take a dog out of a cart……There is no rear wheel cart that allows dogs to lie down at will.

  3. l3x April 28, 2012 at 11:13 am #

    a lot intend to put animals down, especially vets..like im not saying its right either way, just sharing. like if the wheelchair is good, then why dont vets advice. one of my friends pet was put down for it.

    • leslie May 4, 2012 at 10:35 am #

      Sadly, there is very little taught about disability in animals in many vet schools. Many vets are reluctant to recommend carts because they have no experience or education about them. We often rely on our clients to educate their veterinarians – and they do a great job of doing this. Once a vet meets a happy healthy dog in a wheelchair, they are just as delighted as the dog owner is that this alternative to euthanasia exists. We work with hundreds of vet who’ve been converted by their customers.

  4. steve May 3, 2012 at 9:21 pm #

    That makes sense (the stress)
    How much squat room is there? a little wiggle room? i.e. stretch and give to cop a bit of a squat

    • leslie May 4, 2012 at 10:19 am #

      Dogs don’t need to squat to relieve themselves. They hunch their backs a little, the tail goes up, and what needs to come out, does.

  5. Lisa August 19, 2012 at 3:36 pm #

    My dog suddenly had no feeling in his hind legs this past Thursday. After $1600 in tests, hospitalization, and medicines, all I know is blood work is normal and the paralysis is not related to a tick bite. Just curious how commom this is, should I pursue something more conclusive, and what do I need to learn to make him getting around easier and less stressful? I am just starting to look into slings and carts. Boogie is a 7 year old cocker spaniel. Thanks in advance…

    • leslie August 24, 2012 at 12:58 pm #

      It’s good to have ruled out tick-born diseases, as these are treatable with antibiotics. Typically, IVDD is the cause of paralysis in cockers. This can be seen on a simple x-ray, but unless you’re willing to pay for a surgery, further diagnostics are not a necessary pre-requisite for a cart, as long as his cervical (neck) spine is not involved. If you and your vet can rule out cervical discs, then a simple cart will provide him with a great quality of life….and relieve everyone’s stress.

  6. Brittney September 3, 2012 at 10:28 am #

    These are all fantastic. Our 100 lb shepherd came down with a neurological disorder and lost all use of his back legs. This was 18 years ago, when canine carts weren’t as well-known. My dad tried to build many of his own to no real luck, when we came across a professionally made one. Not only did our “big dog” take to his cart from the moment we put it on, but he would outrun a few greyhounds at the dog park when he got going. :) So I can attest you’re right on all accounts!

  7. Prattle On, Boyo September 14, 2012 at 11:27 am #

    These carts are a godsend for animals with mobility problems. I always recommend Eddie’s Wheels to the animal rescue orgs that have disabled animals such as The Cat House on the Kings.com, which recently saved a 3 mo. tabby kitten that was hit by a car. Her left limb had to be amputated so now she is a tripod kitty. The social networking site for the org has been providing regular updates regarding her ensuing rehab. I’m sure she will be adopted out as soon as the foster home and vet think she is well enough. I can’t say enough positive things about Eddie’s Wheels because it is a shame to euthanize an otherwise healthy animal who can no longer ambulate.

  8. randy September 19, 2012 at 2:31 pm #

    Hello my dog was struck by a car last Saturday. He is slowling healing but he has a fractured 8th vertebra. So his hind legs are shot. I want to do the best for him so i have seen 3 vets and all have told me he could be okay in a wheel chair and some have said best to be put down. He still has tons of spirit and is crawling around the house which we are trying to keep to a minimum if none at all. But what are you thoughts about a chair for him? He weights 31 lbs.

    • leslie September 19, 2012 at 6:59 pm #

      I think he’ll do fine in a cart as long as you’re up to helping him……caring for a disabled dog is work, but if you’re up for it, then get him wheels. In the meantime, take a look at a manual assist harness and protect his legs from dragging (visit http://www.doggieessentials.com for “drag bags).

  9. elizabeth hollimon December 1, 2012 at 8:41 pm #

    hi I have built a cart for my mom’s dog so she can walk around andgo potty as needed without falling in it or being unable to get to her water without assistance but my problem is my mother work during the day and there isnt anyone to let her out or in the cart and she uses the bathroom everywhere and cant move freely room to room b/c of her rear legs not working she has tons of life in her she is just disabled do you have any suggestions on how to help her get around while we arent there so we wont have to clean the floors and her everyday we love her lots and dont want to put her down but was told we shouldnt leave her in the cart which i agree esp. being an older dog she needs to be able to lay down and rest….any suggestions?!?!

    • leslie December 3, 2012 at 4:24 pm #

      You are correct in recognizing that you can’t leave a dog standing in a cart all day. I would confine her – by an X-pen – inexpensive, portable fence and confine her a corner of a room like the kitchen where there is a washable floor. Poochpads makes an incontinence bed. Have 2 beds available to her so she can take herself to a dry one if she soils one bed.

  10. alex January 2, 2013 at 6:22 pm #

    my 7 year old great dane Will be having one of her back legs amputated any info on gettin her a set of wheels would be amazing, she’s already having trouble trying to go toilet with her sore leg still on and I want her to be comfortable in her old age with three legs.x

    • leslie January 2, 2013 at 6:33 pm #

      You are wise to consider getting her a cart. It will preserve her remaining rear leg, allow her to have normal exercise, keep her from hopping as a three legged dog. Take her measurements for a cart before her amputation, and we’ll try to get it built asap.

  11. nerdycellist February 4, 2013 at 6:09 pm #

    Thank you so much for this FAQ. My corgi mix has spondylosis and suffered a possible FCE last June. We’ve been rehabbing her and discovered that she swims as well as any labrador (for a dog who hates water! that was a surprise) and she has all appropriate pain responses, but she just doesn’t seem to be making any more improvement walking. I had been balking on getting her a cart specifically because I was worried that if we put her in one, she’d NEVER walk again. With the progress of the spondylosis, walking on her own may not be in the cards anyway, but it’s good to know that if that’s the case, it won’t be the cart’s fault.

    We will be discussing measuring her for wheels with our rehab folks this week. I look forward to seeing her drive around at full speed again.

  12. Kelly February 15, 2013 at 3:50 pm #

    I just want to thank Leslie for her thoughtful, helpful, responses to the questions here. Suggestions about how to care for disabled pets are extremely useful coming from a knowledgeable source that clearly understands the stress (for animal and caregiver), and anxiety that surround a pet with mobility issues, and require so many changes in ones life habits. All of the responses I read here are kind and thoughtful, and that can be so important to someone trying to cope with a loved one in distress. I have dealt with many pet related medical issues, so I understand the need to reach out for any help. I am so glad you guys exist. I only wish I had known about you sooner.
    Thank you.

  13. Sarah Shaw March 12, 2013 at 4:52 pm #

    Are there alternative all terrain tires for the smaller carts instead of the smooth tires that come on them?

    • leslie March 13, 2013 at 10:12 am #

      We have an array of wheels, and rest assured most of them deal with every kind of terrain. In fact, the small fat wheels on dachshund carts do well on every surface, including rough rural terrain. Nubby wheels don’t necessarily give more traction, and they definitely pick up more dirt ….I speak from experience, living through mud-season in New England with 3 dogs with nubby tired wheels on their carts. But we can give you lots of different wheel choices based on the size of the dog and the terrain on which it walks.

  14. katie March 14, 2013 at 2:16 pm #

    my 2 week old kitten was born with out the use of the lower part of its hind legs and we dont have enough money to do anything about it (wheelchair) it might be because its mother is a bobtail and so is it we have had the same problem with the mothers other litters 1 kitten in the last litter had both hind legs were clubbed

    • leslie March 19, 2013 at 2:16 pm #

      Many local humane societies and animal shelters provide low cost neutering for cats.

  15. Kirk April 10, 2013 at 10:54 pm #

    I have a beautiful Harlequin Great Dane his back legs are going.Would this work for him? I’m thinking that it is time to say goodbye and I don’t want to. He’s my best friend. He 12 and has always been in the best health. He’s still strong.

    • leslie April 13, 2013 at 8:16 am #

      We’ve built carts for many danes – so it’s worth a try.

  16. cody August 7, 2013 at 9:00 am #

    My dog small-medium sized dog at the age of 15 for the first time yesterday couldn’t use his bag leg. He hasn’t been in pain, but he is unable to walk on it. We were concerned and have been awkwardly helping him move around. We are praying it is just weak and walking him with help will help him regain strength in his back leg. If he doesn’t and we decide to get a cart is there any additional information we would need to know, because we know if we go to the doctor they will just tell us to euthanize him. We don’t want that or see the need especially considering he his only 15 still has a good amount of years left. He is still healthy and until yesterday was still running around would go for jogs with us. He just needs something to support his back legs and maybe if possible get them working again.

    • leslie August 7, 2013 at 9:16 am #

      We make lots of carts for elderly dogs. Call us at 1-888-211-2700 with your questions.