We are always asked, ” How long does it take a dog to adapt to using a dog wheelchair?” In our experience, if a dog is unable to walk on his own and is in otherwise good health, most dogs take right off in their carts. That’s because we are putting them back to normal – we always position them in a normal healthy weight-bearing stance. Their top lines are level, and they can use their rear legs if they are able to, or if not, suspend their feet in stirrups. Most dogs respond to being placed in their carts by standing still for a moment to notice that they are, in fact, standing up. A gentle tug on the yoke is usually all that’s needed to let them know that those wheels are meant for rolling – and once they start going, they are “on a roll”!
Jebba’s family came to us one day last summer instead of keeping that appointment with the vet to euthanize their German Shepard with degenerative myelopathy. They could not imagine how he would adapt to being in a wheelchair – after all, he was a farm dog, working with goats and oxen on an organic farm in Ashfield, MA, not far from us (www.sanghafarm.com). He was such an independent dog -a working dog who had his priorities and knew his job. Would he feel encumbered by the wheels? There was no way to know except to try him out in one of the large GSD carts that we keep on hand for just such occasions. Watch him as he takes his first turn in a cart…..
If ever there was a breed of dog that was designed to live in wheelchair, it’s dachshunds. Unfortunately, 20% percent of dachshunds will suffer from intervertebral disc disease. Often as not, surgeries can relieve the pain but paralysis is still often the result. However, rear leg paralysis doesn’t keep a dachsie down, and it’s usually instantaneous that these feisty little dogs take off in their wheels, as was the case with Princess…..
Of course, there are some dogs who will take longer to get used to a cart. Usually these are dogs who have limited mobility on their own and don’t see any advantage in using a wheelchair. We usually advise folks who have these dogs to take their dogs for a walk, trailing the cart behind them, and put the dog in the wheelchair once they are too tired to continue to walk on their own. Once dogs make the connection between the cart and increased freedom, mobility and independence, they come to love their wheels. See the joy that Scout, a lab with disc disease, experiences in his wheelchair……