Creature Comforts Veterinary Service team is proud to offer Walkin’ Wheels—wheelchairs for disabled pets. These adjustable, affordable, and lightweight carts—available for purchase or rent—provide mobility-challenged pets with a new leash on life. To determine whether a wheelchair may be beneficial to your pet, check out our guide to Walkin’ Wheels, and contact us to schedule a consultation.
What is a pet wheelchair?
You have likely viewed social media videos showing pets trying out their carts or wheelchairs for the first time. These heartwarming clips are the best way to see how assistive devices transform a disabled pet’s life. Once these pets discover they can move freely, the sparkle in their eye is undeniable, and their spirit is unstoppable.
Pet wheelchairs or carts are assistive devices made of a lightweight frame, and include two or four wheels, and a body sling or harness in which the pet’s chest and body can rest. Carts are available in front- and rear-wheel designs, and as a quad cart (i.e., four-wheel) wheelchair that offers complete body support.
How do I determine whether my pet needs a wheelchair?
Pet owners share a common misconception that wheelchairs are only useful for paralyzed pets. However, wheelchairs can provide invaluable support and assistance for a range of pet mobility issues, including:
- Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD)
- Hip dysplasia
- Degenerative myelopathy (DM)
- Neurologic conditions
- Limb amputation
- Generalized weakness or decreased limb function
- Neurologic or orthopedic surgery recovery
Some veterinary professionals argue that placing a pet in a wheelchair prematurely can cause them to become dependent on the assistive device rather than on increasing or maintaining their own strength. However, you should consider whether a wheelchair might help your pet emotionally, as well as physically.
How can a wheelchair help my pet?
Mobility impairment affects more than your pet’s body. Prolonged immobilization or reduced mobility can lead to generalized muscle atrophy (i.e., beyond the original affected limb or body area), obesity, pain, stiffness, impaired immunity, and skin issues. These physical conditions may negatively impact your pet’s emotional wellbeing—resulting in frustration, anxiety, and depression.
Wheelchairs empower pets, and while the assistive devices cannot reverse your furry pal’s disability, they can make an enormous impact on your four-legged friend’s body and mind. Your pet’s wheelchair use can benefit their:
- Confidence — Mobile pets are happier and more social.
- Independence — As in humans, dependency can frustrate pets and cause them to develop learned helplessness. Wheelchairs offer pets some control over their actions and behavior.
- Strength — Wheelchairs help pets stay active, preserving muscle mass, coordination, and strength in their healthy limbs and body areas.
- Mobility — Pets who use wheelchairs continue to use their healthy limbs and core muscles to move their body through space, preserving stamina and flexibility.
- Sociability — Because they can be difficult to move from one home area to another, immobilized pets can lose their sense of being part of the family if they are confined to a bed or an out-of-the-way room. However, a pet who has a wheelchair can move with minimal to no assistance, take walks, and interact with their family and friends, encouraging their sociability.
- Immune health — As with an able-bodied pet, one who uses a wheelchair enjoys exercise benefits, including boosted immunity and accelerated healing—helpful for minor issues (e.g., skin infections) and major recoveries (e.g., postoperative rehabilitation).
How can I determine the correct wheelchair size for my pet?
As a Walkin’ Wheels provider, our Creature Comforts Veterinary Service team can assist you in determining your pet’s correct wheelchair style, size, and accessories. Unlike custom pet wheelchair manufacturers, Walkin’ Wheels offers multiple wheelchair sizes based on pet weight and body type (e.g., long-backed breeds such as dachshunds and corgis).
Proper fitting is essential to ensure your pet feels safe, supported, and comfortable in their wheelchair. You should ensure your pet’s first wheelchair experience is positive. Our staff has helped fit countless pet wheelchairs, and we have extensive knowledge to help you choose the appropriate assistive device for your pet. Contact our client services representatives to schedule your pet’s wheelchair fitting appointment.
If you decide to purchase your pet’s wheelchair through the Walkin’ Wheels website, the company’s SureFit Calculator is a great way to ensure you are making the best selection for your pet. Walkin’ Wheels provides additional helpful online resources, including how-to videos that explain assembling, adjusting, assisting your pet in and out of the wheelchair, and more.
What if my pet is not a wheelchair natural?
Despite the heartwarming message the pets-using-wheelchairs videos convey, not all pets are wheelchair naturals. As with other assistive devices, such as harnesses and slings, you should gradually introduce your pet to their wheelchair, and provide a lot of positive reinforcement, such as praise and small tasty treats.
If unfamiliar objects usually cause your pet anxiety, start by leaving the wheelchair where your pet can approach and sniff the device, rewarding them for all interactions. After a few days, show your pet how you move the wheelchair back and forth. Gradually increase their exposures as your pet gains confidence around the device. The Walkin’ Wheels blog provides expert wheelchair training tips.
How long can my pet be in their wheelchair during the day?
To prevent fatigue and muscle soreness, limit your pet’s early wheelchair sessions to fewer than 10 minutes. Gradually increase your pet’s time in the assistive device as they become stronger. To prevent your pet from having a wheelchair mishap, never leave them unsupervised while they are in their assistive device. Your pet cannot sit or lie down in their cart, and you must take them out to rest during inactive periods and at night.
Although a wheelchair will help increase your pet’s physical activity, ensure you continue performing their veterinarian-prescribed range-of-motion exercises. While you are manually moving your pet’s limbs, check their skin and hair for irritation or rubbing, which can indicate their wheelchair needs an adjustment.
Walkin’ Wheels pet wheelchairs are a wonderful way for disabled dogs, cats, and other species to reclaim their mobility and enjoy a great quality of life. For additional information about Walkin’ Wheels, visit the company’s website, or contact our Creature Comforts Veterinary Service team.