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Do Tripawds Need Wheelchairs? Maybe, Maybe Not

It’s easy to assume that all Tripawds need wheelchairs. But the truth is, every dog and cat is different. Please don’t rush to borrow or buy a wheelchair if your pet just had a leg amputation. Today we’ll explain why.

Some Tripawds Need Wheelchairs Now, Later, or Never

tripawds need wheelchairs
Shadow’s mom thought he needed a wheelchair

Shadow the Corgi Tripawd recently made a full recovery from amputation surgery. Once healed, his mom asked an important question in her Tripawds Discussion Forum topic:

I am now thinking about a front wheel cart so he can take longer walks. I know it’s an investment, plus has to fit just right. Are there forum posts that give any advice on front wheel set ups and people’s experiences? 

We were so glad she asked! Many new Tripawds parents wonder the same thing. We told Shadow’s mom to hold off on the wheelchair until she talked to a canine rehabilitation therapist. We pointed her to the wheelchairs for Tripawds information. Here’s a synopsis of that info.

First, get your Tripawd evaluated by a rehab (physio) therapist

three legged Corgi Shadow
Shadow does home stretching on his own!

All Tripawds should be evaluated by an orthopedic veterinarian and rehabilitation therapy team before a wheelchair is introduced. This is also true for other support devices like orthotics and leg braces. Here’s why:

  • They are experts in animal biomechanics (how your Tripawd moves, walks, etc).
  • A therapist will study your Tripawd’s movements, weight and overall physical situation
  • Only then can a therapist determine when Tripawds need wheelchairs. Or, a leg brace, wheelchair, or other device. 

Next, get ready to work out together!

Most times, a new Tripawd doesn’t come home with a wheelchair. A three-legged dog or cat will usually go home with an exercise and pain management prescription instead. That’s exactly what happened to Shadow. “We also visited a rehab specialist who recommended against a cart at this stage,” wrote his mom here

He had a consult where they looked at his gait, movement, tested for any pain, etc. Based on his status, they thought the cart would actually do more harm than good, as it would detract from his current natural muscle strengthening.

He gets around pretty well, and I had been thinking a cart might help just intermittently so he could go on longer walks. But the therapist said the cart can take a lot of getting used to, and it’s not that easy to just switch him back and forth like that. That using it would likely make him more dependent on it and he’d possibly get weaker.

Also, she said the front wheel carts are typically harder for dogs to adapt to and if we did ever get to the stage of needing a cart, she might recommend a 4 wheeled one!

She recommended some exercises instead, and just to let him enjoy his stroller rides for our walks! So we will go with that!  — @LindaK

Tripawd dog stroller
Turns out, Shadow was fine just walking and riding with Comet.

That’s not to say that support devices are never needed. Tripawds need wheelchairs sometimes, like when they are seniors. Our Wyatt Ray’s wheelchair need didn’t arise until he was 11 years old. And Meg got wheels once she was a mature gal. Some will need them sooner because of orthopedic challenges. And some like Spree never need one, even when they do get older. All dogs are different.

When IS a wheelchair good for a Tripawd? Or bad?

According to canine rehabilitation therapist Dr. Amy Kramer of Beach Animal Rehabilitation Center, this is why you shouldn’t buy a dog wheelchair until you meet with an expert.

  • If a Tripawd is walking fairly well, it may be hard to train them to use a cart. “They think they don’t need it!” she explains.
  • If your Tripawd is slowing down, and doesn’t want to go for a walk anymore, “That would be a time to look into getting a cart for your Tripawd dog,” she says.

“My experience has been that it’s really important to seek professional help when trying to get a cart,” says Dr. Kramer. “A professional who does rehab can size the cart for your dog. They can prescribe the right type of cart. Is it a front-wheel cart? Is it a rear-wheel cart? Does it need to have a counter-balance to offset the leg that’s missing?”

Don’t buy a Tripawd dog wheelchair without expert help.

This way you can make sure that the cart’s sizing and measurements fit your dog correctly, Dr. Kramer continues. “If not, you’re likely to do more damage because of where certain parts of the cart hit the dog. Or maybe they’re going to run over their own foot. Maybe it’s putting too much pressure on the front. Or too far on the rear. You can actually do more harm than good if you get a cart without getting professional help first.”

Get FREE Rehabilitation Therapy with The Maggie Moo Fund for Free Tripawd Rehab

The Tripawds Foundation will reimburse any pet parent who meets all the requirements outlined below for visiting a certified rehab practitioner for an initial consultation with their Tripawd. There’s nothing like the guidance of a trained, certified animal rehabilitation specialist to ensure you’re on the right track to great health. Even one consultation and evaluation can make a huge difference in your Tripawd’s life.

maggie moo fund for tripawd rehab

Have you scheduled your free Tripawd rehab appointment yet? Read about Maggie here.

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