Twenty-one years ago, when our dog became paralyzed due to IVDD, we were offered two options: a $5000 surgery we couldn't afford or euthanasia. Sadly, times have not changed much – in fact, with the availability of MRI's, and specialized veterinary care, the cost of spinal surgeries seems to grow every year, while most middle class people are struggling to make ends meet. It was only when we pressed our veterinarian for another alternative that she mentioned “conservative management” – i.e. crate rest, use of anti-inflammatories, and eventually a canine cart.
Every week we talk to dozens of people who have spent thousands of dollars on diagnostics, MRI's and CAT scans, and spinal surgeries, only to face having a paralyzed, often incontinent, pet. Sadly, even the most skilled surgeons do not have a 100% success rate in restoring mobility in dogs with IVDD. Some dogs, such as our Daisy, a dachsund with four herniated discs, are not even considered good surgical candidates.
Dog owners are faced with difficult choices and it behooves veterinary professionals to inform their clients about all their options. We routinely guide prospective customers to alternative care practitioners, such as veterinary acupuncturists (visit www.ahvma.org for a vet near you), canine rehab practitioners, and online support groups such as www.dodgerslist.com that offer advice about how to manage and care for a disabled pet.
Unless a veterinarian has had a positive experience of a dog using a canine cart, it may not ever occur to him to suggest a wheelchair for a paralyzed pet.
Over the 14 years we've been doing this professionally, we've converted many veterinarians and rehab practitioners into seeing the benefit a canine cart can give a disabled pet. First and foremost, we offer quality of LIFE – not just for the dog, but for the human family of caregivers who have to watch disabled pets struggle to move and walk on their own. Most dogs adapt to using a cart joyfully and with ease – in our experience, if a dog is reluctant to use a cart, there's often a medical issue that 's being overlooked.
Some disabilities cannot be solved medically. More than half our clientele are dogs with degenerative myelopathy, the canine equivalent of ALS, a progressive neurological disease that eventually is fatal. However, dogs with DM can enjoy longer and happier lives using a cart to get around and go for walks. Canine carts can also provide mobility for dogs with brain damage, such as cerebellar hypoplasia. If families are looking for solutions to help their mobility challenged pets, a cart should be the first tool folks can use to give their animals independence and support healing.
The video below shows a 9 month old shihtzu who was brain damaged from anesthesia. As a result she has no equilibrium and when placed on floor, cannot stand on her own. When she came to see us, her front legs were contracted and her rear legs were weak and wobbly. This is video shows her first walk in a front wheel cart with rear training wheels. Everyone involved was astounded at her ability to walk again with the help of a cart.