Carts Offer Comfort and Mobility
Through our rehabilitation facility we have had the opportunity to meet a lot of dogs with a wide variety of mobility issues and needs. Some pets are suffering from arthritic joints or sore muscles, others have an orthopedic injury that needed surgery to repair, and then there are the neurological or back dogs that are having difficulty getting around on their own. Whatever the case may be, our job is to try and get them back on their feet and moving around comfortably and as independently as possible. During a therapy session, we frequently encourage mobility through aqua therapy such as the underwater treadmill or therapy pool. But what about when the session ends and the patient has to go home? It is important to keep the exercise momentum strong and moral high with continued independence outside of rehab time and at home in real-world situations. One useful tool to help families with home mobility needs for a weak or down dog is the use of a cart or canine wheelchair.
All of the Positive Changes a Cart Can Bring to a Pet
Many of our clients are resistant to the idea of using a cart for an unstable or non-ambulatory pet. They feel that using a cart is somehow associated with giving up on their pet and any future healing or movement possibilities. Some owners expect a cart to be too expensive or not worth the investment. Thankfully, this is frequently not the case. In rehab therapy, carts can be a very useful tool to allow free movement and help avoid depression or isolation away from family. If a dog has a tendency to fall over or drags an end of the body around, it is natural for us to pen them into an area that we consider safe or easy to care for. This may leave an animal companion spending their days behind a gate or in a crate watching family fun instead of being able to participate. While intentions are good, often times such isolation will eventually lead to depression and lack of motivation to progress in healing therapy. Through the use of a cart, a mobility challenged dog can once again participate in the neighborhood family walk or the backyard play time. After a brief transition period where a pet learns how to motor around with wheels, many dogs enjoy some cart time and return to activities that they had been forced to give up.
As a Powerful Tool in Recovery
A cart can become a powerful rehab tool in a pet’s recovery from disk surgery. Some dogs will be on their feet within days of back surgery while others may take weeks to months to be fully ambulatory. Then there are the unfortunate few that we expect to progress and eventually walk but do not. Rehab intervention is important for a speedy recovery but what can owners do during non-rehab time at home? If a pet looks like they are going to have a longer recovery, using a cart can allow for independent movement with the spine in proper alignment. With the spine supported and all of the limbs left free to move, a cart can be a tool for conditioning and strengthening. Sometimes the first few twitches of limb use and gait retraining are seen when a pet is motoring around in a cart as if they are walking. A cart can be a “for now” thing and not a “forever thing”, so I encourage owners to keep an open mind when considering this option for a down pet.
Choosing the Right Cart
At this point, we have convinced you to consider a cart. Now you have to choose the right one for your pet. Not all carts are made alike and some can be downright the wrong ones for a dog with a fragile back. For their quality and sturdy craftsmanship, our rehab facility recommends Eddie’s Wheels. These custom carts are specially made for each pet to fit their body size and mobility needs. Their support system will hold a pet’s spine in proper alignment and reduce sway or strain on the back during active times. If there is too much shifting or movement of the back while an animal is walking in a cart, it can result is muscle pain and in worst cases a worsening of disk issues. When shopping for a cart, look for a firm or secure saddle where the hind end or front end rests. Many cart companies offer used or recycled carts at a discounted price. Some even offer cart rentals to try out by the week or month and see how your pet will do in a cart. This is a nice option for recovering dogs that may not need a cart for more than a few weeks or so. These lower cost opportunities may not be readily apparent so try calling a cart manufacturer and see if they have any discounted options available.
Need help measuring or deciding if a cart is the right choice for your pet? Call us or your veterinary professional to assist you in this rehab journey.