Have you ever seen a dog using a wheelchair and wondered if it would help your dog with hind end weakness? Karlie and I would say yes it can! Eventually her geriatric onset laryngeal paralysis polyneuropathy (GOLPP) started to take away her mobility. Although she was able to get around inside the house and outside to pee and poop, she struggled to walk a straight line. One of her legs was weaker than the other. When this happened she was no longer able to take walks, but we refused to let that stop us. At first we tried a harness that supported her back end, but she didn’t like it and struggled to walk with it. Then I decided to try a rear-wheel wheelchair. At first she didn’t like using it on walks, so we did laps in the basement for physical therapy.
After using it for a few days in the basement, we decided to try wandering in the backyard. She loved being able to go further and explore the yard again and decided the wheels weren’t so bad. A few days later when my parents were visiting, we took her for a stroll on a nearby paved trail. We only traveled about half a mile, but she was all smiles and enjoyed getting back to her walks, even if they were shorter. We continued to use it on the sidewalks in our neighborhood and on paved trails increasing the distance slowly.
A week later we traveled by car to San Diego to spend the winter. It took several days and we spent two nights at hotels. When we stopped to use restrooms or get gas we let Karlie walk without the wheels, but had to help her to make sure she did not go in circles. When we arrived at the hotel each night we put on her wheels since it was a long distance from the car to the room. We took walks each evening to stretch our legs and give Karlie a chance to exercise. Everywhere we went with the wheels, she received a lot of attention.
When we arrived at our condo we thought using the wheels would be a struggle since she had to go down the hall and ride in the elevator before getting outside. It ended up being the best thing for her because she got so much exercise. We also took daily walks so she was going 2 – 3 miles a day between going outside to do her business and her walks. Since she was doing so well we started to take her on adventures with her wheels on the beach, in the canyons, and on the trails. We refused to let anything stop her from getting out and enjoying things.
A funny thing started to happen, she no longer was walking in circles. We decided to let her go down the hall without her wheels and only put them on once she was outside and done doing her business. She was so happy to have some of her independence back. Over time we extended the time without the wheels until she was taking her whole 1.5 mile walk without them. My husband always carried the wheels (they folded up) just in case she needed them, but often they just came along and were never used.
I don’t know if a wheelchair will work for every dog experiencing hind end weakness. I just know it worked for Karlie. The wheelchair allowed Karlie to walk and the more she did, the more she could. Keeping her moving was the key to our success in preventing the hind end weakness from progressing too quickly.
There are a variety of companies that make wheelchairs, but the one that we purchased was from Walkin’ Pets. I felt they offered the best product and I later found out that an organization that specializes in dogs with neurological issues uses them. I also liked that you could get an add-on that converted the rear-wheel wheelchair into a four-wheel wheelchair. Thankfully Karlie never needed that, but if your dog is not strong enough to support herself with her front legs, you can get four wheels. One last thing we did was to put “sneakers” on Karlie’s back feet. These helped give her traction and made using the wheelchair a little easier. Check out the resources post for resources for the sneakers.
While we were in San Diego Karlie got a lot of attention because of her wheelchair. So many people asked me about it and wanted to know why she was using it. She even had her picture taken to show other people the wheels for their dog. I was always happy to sing the praises of the wheelchair because it had helped her so much. In fact the reason I started this website was because of all the people who asked about the wheels. I felt it was Karlie’s legacy; to help other dogs even after she was no longer here. If it helps just one dog live a better life it will have been worth it.