When a dog undergoes amputation surgery, humans often assume that a wheel chair or dog cart is required to help the Tripawd get around. After talking with canine rehabilitation experts and wheel chair manufacturers, we learned some important facts about three-legged dogs and wheel chairs.
Here’s what two of the world’s leading experts in dog wheelchair design and usage, Amy Kramer PT, DPT, CCRT, of California Animal Rehabilitation Center, and Leslie Grinnell, President of Eddie’s Wheels from Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, have to say about dogs and carts.
When is it Time for a Doggie Wheel Chair?
The loss of a limb presents different challenges for a dog than a human, Kramer tell us. Canine amputees have a distinct advantage over human amputees, because a dog has three legs to distribute its weight over, instead of just one remaining leg.
And although Tripawds can easily adapt to life without a cart, a three-legged dog can often benefit from use of a wheel chair, when the dog has pre-existing physical ailments like arthritis.
As a Tripawd ages, mobility issues often affect remaining limbs. Using a wheelchair on the longest walk of the day may decrease the damage to the spinal cord, elbows, carpus and rear legs, which are common age-related issues for front and rear Tripawds, says Grinnell. “Think of the wheelchair as preventive medicine against the wear and tear of being three-legged,” she explains.
According to Kramer, Tripawd parents should always keep an eye out for signs that their dog may need a cart. For example:
Can your dog walk comfortably without rest for more than 30 feet? If not, call a qualified veterinary rehabilitation therapist for an evaluation. If your dog undergoes an extensive pain management, rehabilitation and acupuncture program by a qualified professional and is still showing signs of pain, a cart can give provide mobility and a better quality of life.
Dogs who use wheel chairs don’t get dependent on them, says Kramer. “A cart is not ever detrimental to the patient’s health and fitness, but it should only be used when and if they are showing other signs of difficulty with gait.”
How to Choose and Buy a Dog Wheel Chair
All dog wheel chairs might seem alike, but for the best fit and use of your money, it’s critical to know the differences between manufacturers.
According to Grinnell, the biggest difference between her company’s dog wheelchairs and pre-manufactured carts is that Eddie’s Wheels takes every dog’s physical situation, mobility issues and even spinal curvature into consideration before building the dog a customized cart in their Shelburne Falls factory.
Unlike prefabricated, low cost wheel chairs for dogs, Grinnell says that an Eddie’s Wheels cart will always have customized features for Tripawds, which give the most accurate fit and safety features.
“For amputees, we calculate the weight of the missing rear leg and install a counterweight on the side of the amputation to keep the cart balanced and minimize the danger of tipping over,” says Grinnell. Eddie’s Wheels also makes the only front wheel cart for front leg amputees.
Know Your Tripawd’s Limitations
For most Tripawds it only takes about a week to learn how to use a properly fitted and professionally built dog wheelchair after fine-tuning is made through the help of Eddie’s Wheels staff and their YouTube instructional videos.
But regardless of whether or not a Tripawd is ready for a wheel chair, says Kramer, “All amputee pet owners should understand their pet’s limitations due to being an amputee, as well as have a home exercise and stretching program designed for their pet.”
To learn how to spot potential ailments that could affect your Tripawd, find see a certified canine rehabilitation practitioner near you.
Please note that Tripawds has no affiliation with any dog wheelchair manufacturer, nor do we have personal experience using a wheelchair for either Tripawds Founder Spirit Jerry or Tripawds Spokespup Wyatt Ray
If you have experience using a wheelchair for your dog, please provide feedback with a comment below. Or post any questions in the Hopping Around Discussion Forum.
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