When Neikko, a six year old Akita, showed up here for a wheelchair, I was skeptical that he’d use it. He was able to stand and walk, but not very far, and his family told me that he had not been able to go for a real walk for almost 2 years. The reason? Bad hip dysplasia, arthritic knees as a consequence of compensating for congenitally bad hips, and complicated by Wobbler’s Syndrome – a narrowing of the disc space in his cervical spine. Neikko was beginning to show signs of neurologic impairment, and his owners wanted to get him in wheels before he really became paralyzed or unable to walk at all.
After measuring him, we found a new cart on our deck that had been exchanged for a larger cart just a week before. It was almost exactly the right size and configuration for him, so we tried him out and you can see the smile! It was interesting watching him test out the wheels. First he fully extended his rear legs behind him, giving them a long stretch, only to discover that he didn’t fall and the cart was holding him up. Then he was ready to take it outside for a test drive. Down the ramp he went, with his tail a plume of joy.
Watch his first walk in the wheels:
Dogs are so stoic – it is always hard to know how much pain an animal is suffering, but an unwillingness or inability to go for a walk is a sign that should not be ignored. I am always amazed at how intuitively dogs utilize their carts. Once Neikko understood that the cart was holding him up, he postured his legs under his hips, knowing that he could rest on the center of the sturdy padded saddle and take some weightbearing off his legs.. I watched as he walked, and trusted that the cart was supporting him even as his hips collapsed. His gait improved in the short time it took him to walk from the front door out to his car. If he uses this cart for regular walks of increasing length, he’ll build muscle mass around his arthritic joints, and have more muscular support for the times that he’s not in his cart. What a pleasure to help a young healthy dog lead a more comfortable life!