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Help for Dogs with Mobility Challenges
Sometime in your dog's life, you'll probably face mobility issues in one form or another. Certainly, arthritis limits mobility as dogs age. Sometimes, however, dogs need help getting around for other reasons, including orthopedic surgeries or neurological troubles.
If you're lucky, your dog will only need help for a short time. If not, work with your veterinarian and a canine physical therapist or canine rehabilitation specialist. These experts know a lot about adaptive technology, including canine wheelchairs and prosthetics.
Here are some tips to help your dog.
Pet Mobility Slings
Pet mobility slings protect your pet and your back. It's a real strain - no matter your age - to bend over and support your pet as he walks:
- Some pet mobility slings use webbed handles and fleece-lined belly bands.
- Others feature soft rope-like handles sewn to terrycloth slings.
In a pinch, use a large bath towel looped under your pet to help him walk or hop.
Make your goal to support your dog's chest, belly, or hips while you remain mostly upright, with the sling handles in one hand and your arm at a 90-degree angle at the elbow.
Pet Mobility Harnesses
Dogs with neurological problems, or those who've lost a limb due to cancer or major accident, often need a more permanent and comfortable solution. Since pets with neurological troubles often wobble all directions, you definitely want to keep a good hold while protecting your own back in the process.
The harness I use, made by Canine Equipment, features padded straps across the shoulders, chest, and belly. (It's a hiking backpack, with removable panniers.) The suitcase-like handle provides help with balance, weight distribution, and forward momentum.
Pet Mobility Strollers or Wagons
Often pets with mobility challenges cannot walk as far as they once could. I recently asked our canine physical therapist for ideas - other than dog strollers.
Tammy Culpepper Wolfe, DPT, PT, CCRP, GCFP, from The K9 Body Shop in Arvada, Colorado, recommended taking along a wagon on walks - padded with blankets. This way, when your dog gets tired, she can ride the rest of the way, enjoying fresh air and family time.
A child's toy wagon certainly might work. I'm also keen on the bigger (and quieter) gardening wagons sold at big box home improvement stores.
I recommend borrowing one and testing it or training your dog to like riding before you invest in a fancy wagon or stroller set-up.
Nonslip Dog Booties and Area Rugs
The popularity of hard-surface floors in homes can make it tough for pets with mobility issues. In these cases, dog booties with nonslip rubber nubs or rubber-backed area rugs may help.
When my eldest dog recovered from knee surgeries, we bought utility rugs at the home improvement store that featured ribbed fabric tops and rubber backs to give him better traction. A bunch of bathmats in strategic spots also work - just be careful you don't trip on them.
Until my Border Collie regained her balance, after onset of her neurology problems, she often wore special dog bootie socks for better traction as well.
Tell us your ideas for helping dogs get around - whether they face short-term or long-term mobility issues. Share your comments below.