Tag Archives: Dog Wheelchairs

Talkin’ Wheels

Daisy in her wheels

Daisy in her Walkin’ Wheels

Wheelchairs for pets are growing in popularity

During lockdown, we’ve been taken aback by the volume of calls we’ve received from owners considering a wheelchair for their dog.

Is it because people are spending more time with their pets and have been forced to confront the reality that they are ageing or becoming less mobile? We know we buried our heads in the sand for some time and were reluctant to admit that Daisy had a problem.

Whether like Daisy, your dog has DM (degenerative myelopathy), another problem, or just old age creeping up, there is no doubt that a dog wheelchair can bring immense benefits.

Let’s face it, when you see your pet in the early stages, still walking but starting to struggle, you may consider euthanasia. No one wants to see a beloved pet suffer, and for some, that may be the correct course of action. Also, financially, it can be a difficult choice as a dog wheelchair is a considerable investment.

Should you consider wheels?

Daisy digging in her wheelchair

Daisy still able to dig up molehills!

If you are facing this situation and you are undecided, let’s consider some of the pros and cons of taking that step.

Wheels can be a viable option. They give your dog (or cat) back the freedom that they once had to run free, chase their ball, or just potter around sniffing if that’s their thing.

With the correct introduction and encouragement, a dog wheelchair can enhance your pet’s life by giving them back the independence of movement. They can still pee and poop whilst in their chair too.

A dog wheelchair can also give pets a huge mental boost, particularly if they have become frustrated or depressed when they cannot move around as freely as they once could. It is incredible how quickly they adapt to the wheels.

On the negative side, it is true that some pets simply don’t take to dog wheelchairs. We believe that with a little work, and right incentive, most hurdles can be overcome, but of course, each dog is different.

For larger pets, wheelchairs can be less practical for indoor use – the larger the wheelchair, the wider the wheelbase becomes, so doorways and furniture (and your feet!) are difficult to navigate around.

You should also consider how you will lift your pet in and out of their wheelchair. Technique is everything, but even so, your dog may be heavy and need to be manoeuvred into place. Additional accessories may be needed to help you (such as harness that can be fitted onto your dog first, before clipping straight into the wheelchair frame).

Think about the terrain on which the dog wheelchair will be used. Long grass or large obstacles will make it more difficult for your pet to move around, and you may need to choose a less hazardous route when out and about.

Do your research

Before you make your decision, think about what you want your dog’s wheelchair to do for them. Do some research, and talk to other owners who have taken the plunge. They will be the first to tell you the highs and the lows of wheelchair life, and talking about their experiences can really help you.

When one of our GSDs, Blitz, was diagnosed with DM, dog wheelchairs were not a very accessible option. He was happy when he was around us, but he would have loved to be mobile again.

By the time Daisy was diagnosed 8 years later, dog wheelchairs were becoming more prevalent. We were sceptical of them, and unsure whether Daisy would be willing, but we are so glad we gave one a try. Daisy was gifted nearly two years of happy ramblings with her wheelchairs, chasing her beloved Puller. Even when she could no longer run after it, walking around the field with it clamped firmly between her jaws was enough to put a smile on her face!

Daisy’s wheelchair journey:

Sabrina

From a happy new Walkin’ Wheels dog wheelchair user:

Sabrina in her wheelchair

Sabrina in her new Walkin Wheels wheelchair

“It has been great to see our dog have some quality of life back. We can’t get her out every day, but when we, can she loves it.”

Sabrina in her wheelchair

Rolling happily along!

“I was worried she wouldn’t take to it as she has always been scared of most things (she doesn’t even like squeaky toys) but as soon as we put it on her she was off”.

Walkin’ Wheels Wheelchairs

Daisy’s Story

Pup at 14 weeks

Daisy pup at 14 weeks

The White Wolf

Daisy’s story begins with a devastating loss for us. In the summer of 2009, we lost two of our five German Shepherds, Molly and Amy. One after the other within a week. Completely unrelated illnesses. They weren’t old, so it was totally out of the blue.

The grief was raw and for me, I couldn’t seem to get past it. I kept thinking puppy! I bought the local paper and trawled through the pet section. For once there was a distinct lack of German Shepherd pups for sale, but there was one ad that I decided to respond to.

I spoke to a woman who told me she had a 14-week-old white German Shepherd pup for sale. It wasn’t KC registered but was a full shepherd. If I was interested, I should act quickly as there were other people interested in her.

I had never wanted a white shepherd. We live in a very muddy place and I couldn’t think of anything worse than a white dog. However, she was all that was available at that moment in time and I felt like a pup was the only thing that would drag me out of my grief.

Neil didn’t take much persuading and we arranged to see the pup the next day.

On arrival, we discovered that the pup was living in a rented shed in someone’s back garden, with both its parents. The woman who was selling her, didn’t even keep her dogs in her own home.

Alarm bells should have gone off, but no. We saw her running around with both mother and father, who were friendly enough, so we took her. Instantly, I called her Daisy.

When we got her home, we carefully introduced her to the others, Sophie, Blitz and Fin. Sophie as always took charge.

That evening, despite the fact that she had never had much human contact, she spent the whole time asleep on my lap. She was a small white bundle of fluff and a real poppet. Although she was pure white, she had one single black spot on her front leg!

Daisy settled in well with the others, but it wasn’t long before she began growling at me. I was drying her tummy after she had been outside, and she started. I couldn’t quite believe it. I told her off, carried on with what I was doing, and she shut up.

From that day on, she was always a growler. She would growl at everybody apart from Sophie. Sophie wouldn’t have stood for it.

Our first encounter with DM

Not long after her arrival, we discovered that Blitz one of our rescue boys, had DM (degenerative myelopathy), a progressive disease of the spinal cord in dogs, most common in the German Shepherd Dog, although other breeds such as the Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Boxer, Rhodesian Ridgeback and Chesapeake Bay Retriever can also be affected. The condition has also been referred to as CDRM (chronic degenerative radiculomyelopathy). It was our first experience of this horrible disease. The vet told us there was nothing to be done. As time went on, Blitz couldn’t move about much, so Daisy would cuddle up to him on his bed.

Daisy and Blitz cuddled up

Daisy pup with Blitz

We didn’t really know much about DM but learnt as we went along from various groups on the internet and although Neil made a wheelchair for him from copper pipe, we never tried him in it as he also had a mass in his gut and we were wary of putting any pressure on it.

Dog wheelchair frame

Our first attempt at making a dog wheelchair

Neil would carry him outside in a belly band that I made for him out of old sweatshirts. He was happy enough sitting in the garden. Then, of course, inevitably, the day came when we had to say goodbye. We were prepared, but it still hurt.

After we lost Blitz, Neil had to have physio for tennis elbow due to strain on his joints from hefting a large dog around day in and day out.

With just Sophie (Amy’s litter sister), Fin and Daisy, who was growing rapidly, we soon added to our numbers with Archie, then Jack came along. A collie. We had sheep, they needed herding and the German Shepherds just couldn’t quite grasp that concept.

We lost Sophie in the wintertime. She collapsed suddenly and died before we could get her to the vet. We were once again devastated.

The big Ginger Fin, our second rescue boy, was getting on and had his own ailments. Namely, anal furunculosis, a chronic, progressive inflammatory disease of dogs that results in ulceration and inflammation in the area surrounding the anus. He needed constant nursing, but inevitably we lost him too.

Daisy takes charge

Daisy was now in charge. She ruled the roost with Archie and Jack and continued her growly ways, but we were used to her and took no notice, although she could be alarming to visitors. She may have growled and snarled, but it was all show.

Daisy and a goat kid

She loved her life here on the croft, surrounded by livestock. There were two walks a day in the fields, the occasional rabbit to pursue and her favourite thing of all, chasing frisbees. She adored them from a tiny pup. When the Pullers came along, she was in her element.

In 2017, I started to notice that her back legs weren’t working quite as well as they should. There was nothing obvious, just a feeling I had, having been through a similar thing with our Blitz.

We buried our heads in the sand for a while because we didn’t want to believe that there was anything wrong, but during the winter months, I could tell from her pawprints in the snow that all was not well. It was apparent she was dragging her back legs very slightly.

Paw prints in the snow

December 2017

It was time to face up to it and get a diagnosis. A few years had passed since we had lost Blitz so there could have been some new treatment available.

DM strikes again

DM was confirmed, and we were disappointed to hear that there was still nothing that could be done to combat this horrible disease. We had recently discovered that we had a dog hydro pool nearby, Fusion Vet Therapy, so we decided to try physio and swimming.

Dog physio

May 2018:  Physio

We didn’t know how she’d react to the pool; she had never swum before, but during her first session, she took to it like a duck to water. She absolutely loved it.

Dog swimming

November 2018

As well as her swimming and physio, we scoured the internet and Facebook groups for something, anything that would help us prepare for what was to come.

As her disease progressed, and her back legs got weaker, we put her in Dog Boots to stop her from damaging her back feet. We tried just about every boot on the market with varying degrees of success. Some wouldn’t stay on her feet and we would spend hours looking for lost boots in the field. We quickly learned to tape them to her legs with micropore. Some wore out too quickly so we would reinforce them with duct tape. The boots that worked well for us, we decided to stock ourselves. Daisy tested them all!

After doing a lot of research, we learned that DM could be related to deficiencies in diet, after finding the following article: Does DM (Degenerative Myelopathy) and other Neurological issues like Seizures and Doggie Dementia, actually start in the gut? In desperation, we embarked on an extensive vitamin regime which was primarily based around vitamin B and magnesium.

Eureka!

We had one moment of triumph. Five days after we started her on the vitamin supplements, she suddenly stood up on her back legs for the first time in weeks and we were over the moon. We really thought we had found the cure!

Dog with DM stands up

December 2018: Daisy stands up

But it was short-lived, and we soon realised that vitamins weren’t the answer.

We continued with the weekly swimming sessions. She would get so excited when she realised it was time to go to the pool. She also had hydrotherapy sessions which she wasn’t quite so keen on but put up with them with good grace. Funnily enough, she never once growled at the girls at the pool.

She was at the stage where she couldn’t stand up on her own and we were using the belly band that I made for Blitz to get her out and about. She could drag herself along the floor so to help her get about indoors, we removed all the rugs that she was getting snagged on. This left wooden floors which were difficult for her to grip, so we bought metres of black rubber flooring and covered the ground floor of the house.

There was also some incontinence, so we got a cover for the sofa and invested in boxes of puppy training pads.

A wheely good idea

I really wanted to try a wheelchair, but Neil wasn’t so keen. I spotted a second-hand one on Gumtree which was not too far away from us, so we went ahead and bought it.

At first, it wasn’t a great success. It was a bit on the big side for her and she didn’t like the rigid saddle. She would just stand in it and not move. On the other hand, if we put her in the belly band, she would run around quite happily with Neil trying his hardest to keep up with her.

Sweatshirt belly band

October 2018: Out and about in her sweatshirt belly band

We decided to make some modifications to her wheelchair so that the belly band could be used to support her instead of the fixed wheelchair saddle.

When it was done, it looked a bit Heath Robinson, but she loved it. She had her freedom back. She could walk outside unaided, go to the toilet, run with the other dogs and even chase her beloved Puller.

Modified dog wheelchair

October 2018: We combine the wheelchair with the belly band

She may not have had her legs back, but she had her life back.

Her back legs were still very mobile, although they couldn’t support her weight, so we still needed functional boots.

There wasn’t the space to use the cart indoors, so she would crawl.

Her feet were of major concern to us, and every day we would check them over, put Sudacrem on any sore bits and bandage them up to protect them when she crawled. She also developed sores on other parts of her body from the friction of using the chair daily, and they also had to be attended to.

We rarely went out or left her alone for more than an hour as she got distressed. One day my mother was staying with us and offered to sit with her whilst we had a few hours away from home. Daisy was under the table in the kitchen. After a while, my mother detected an odour and when she looked, Daisy had pooed. As she was in such an awkward position, my mother couldn’t get to her to clean it up, so she used my extra-long wooden jam spoon to drag the poo nearer and pick it up! Needless to say, I shan’t be making jam with that spoon ever again!

But it didn’t matter what we did, there was no halting the progression of the disease and day by day, week by week, month by month, it gradually crept up her spine, leaving her more and more debilitated and reliant on us for her every move. She was too heavy for me to lift and take outside in the homemade belly band, but then we discovered the Solvit Mobility Harness, and with the aid of this, I could manage when Neil wasn’t around.

Her cobbled together wheelchair was wearing out, so we managed to get her another from a DM charity, Cure4DM. Once again, she had a new lease of life, only this time her back legs were no longer mobile, they were just dragging, so we hooked them up in stirrups. Still, she was running with the others and chasing her Puller.

Dog wheelchair with stirrups

April 2019: Her back legs are now in stirrups

It wasn’t long before we realised that her front end was struggling. She found it challenging to sit up. She was no longer dragging herself around the house and wasn’t finding it that easy to walk in her chair. There were also problems with diarrhoea and urinary incontinence.

The vet recommended Incurin for the incontinence and it worked. No more peeing herself overnight. The diarrhoea was a problem on and off. We knew we were having a good day if she ate her breakfast, didn’t pee herself and her poos were firm!

We lived day to day, hoping for the best. Worrying when she was under the weather. Neil slept next to her every night for months, holding her paw or rubbing her belly. He started off in a chair in the lounge and then graduated to a camp bed!

We decided to get her a new quad chair so that she would have support at the front end. We ordered her a snazzy, camo Walkin’ Wheels.

Daisy in her Walkin' Wheels

September 2019:  In her Walkin’ Wheels

Her new chair arrived, and it was perfect. However, we never did fit the front wheels. Our fields are rough grassland so we weren’t sure that she would be able to manoeuvre around it with the front wheels on. We were at the point where we were going to fit them on her wheelchair to try them. If they didn’t work for her, we would have looked for a flatbed trolley to take her out and about.

We lost the fight

Sadly, there was no halting the ever-creeping paralysis and the weekend just after Christmas she lost coordination on her right-hand side. Her belly was distended. She wasn’t peeing when we took her outside and she was generally sluggish and quite distressed.

As painful as it was, we knew the time had come to let her go while she still had some dignity, so we called the vet out. He examined her and agreed with us. It was her time.

On her bed in the lounge next to the wood burner, with a Christmas tree in the background, we said our goodbyes, told her how much we loved her and held her paws while she slipped peacefully away.

We buried her in the garden next to Blitz, Sophie, Fin, Amy and Molly. Some she had known and some she had never met, but we like to think of her running free with them all.

The pain of the loss seems unbearable, but we know from bitter experience that it will start to fade in time.

Knowing what to do with ourselves is another matter. Our days revolved around her care and now they seem to drag on endlessly.

We have the others to focus on. Archie, Jack, Toby and Tilly and already the pack dynamic has changed. We were always so focused on Daisy, her needs and her wellness, now we can see them coming out of their shells and blossoming with our attention. It must be hardest for Archie as he spent all his days in my office with Daisy and myself.

From the summer 0f 2017 until December 2019 was the time it took for that horrible disease to take our beautiful White Warrior. She fought it so hard and so did we.

We went to extraordinary lengths to care for her. Our whole lives were geared up to her needs and people must have thought we were crazy, but I know that there are hundreds, probably thousands of DM dog parents out there doing exactly the same. From diagnosis to progression of illness, to aids for caring for your DM dog, there are so many people seeking solutions. And we are passionate about sharing our experiences and knowledge with them.

Breeders take note

We have had Archie, Toby and Tilly DNA tested and we know that none of them will ever suffer from it which is a massive relief for us. However, we know Toby is a carrier. If mated with a bitch who is clear, none of the pups would be affected by DM, but there is a 50/50 chance that they too would be carriers. When I gave his breeder the results, she told me that none of her dogs had ever suffered from DM, but although she claimed her dogs were DNA profiled, they couldn’t have had that particular test. Without that knowledge, she could possibly mate two fit, healthy dogs that just happened to be carriers, thereby creating a new generation of dogs vulnerable to DM.

We will never buy another pup unless it has been tested.

We know nothing will stop the puppy farms and back street breeders, but to all those registered breeders out there, or even owners who think it would be nice to have a litter from their dogs, we urge you to DNA test your dogs before breeding from them. It’s a simple test. We used Animal Genetics, who offer a whole range of canine testing options. It doesn’t cost a fortune and it could stop other people and their precious dogs going through what we’ve been through, twice now.

Neil will once again be getting physio for his elbows, but he would gladly put up with the discomfort of carrying Daisy again in a heartbeat, if he could.

Daisy on the beach

April 2019: Daisy 2009 -2019 The White Warrior rides again

The White Warrior

Daisy, a differently abled dog!

Daisy has degenerative myelopathy, a non-painful, progressive disease of the spinal cord that usually results in hind limb paralysis. At present, she can still move her hind legs, but they don’t support her weight and she can’t walk unaided. Indoors she drags herself around using her front legs.

Living with a disabled dog is a real challenge and we have altered our lifestyle to cope with her needs. So how does our day look? Well, it begins with Daisy plunging from the sofa when we get up, and to ensure she doesn’t hurt herself, we have a folded yoga mat in her landing spot! We use either a rear harness or (for sheer speed) we wrap a belly band under her gut and guide her outside for her morning ablutions, being careful not to stamp on trailing feet.

Then it’s time to get ready for her first walk of the day, and for this, she is ‘booted and suited’. Her feet are constantly dragging on the ground so we ensure that they are well protected with dog boots. She is then hoisted into her wheelchair which is made by Best Friend Mobility. We are delighted with it. It’s sturdy and has a flexible saddle which is comfortable for her and allows her freedom of movement.

She’s always eager to get going, yipping with excitement and the pressure is off of us for a while as she runs free in the field, chasing her favourite toy, the Puller, or sniffing out rabbits with the four other dogs. Occasionally she topples over and then it’s all hands on deck to get her upright and back in her chair, but whatever happens, she has a whale of a time!

Back from her walk, she’s assisted into the office and onto her bed. Her boots are removed, feet dried and cream applied to any sore areas (these are rare thanks to our prep, but they do happen). Then her feet are wrapped in lint and Fun Flex Bandages to prevent any damage when she’s dragging herself along the floor.

She is served breakfast on a stand to make it easier for her to eat sitting up, and for ‘elevenses’ she has her first dose of vitamins wrapped in a slice of ham and followed by a tasty biscuit. She is taking and a mixture of B Vitamins (mainly B12) and Biotin as it has been suggested that dogs with DM may be deficient in B12.

Then it’s snooze time for her but work time for us as we get an hour or so off.

At lunchtime, she is assisted outside to toilet then back to her bed for another biscuit and her afternoon snooze.

Late afternoon and we start gearing up for her second walk of the day. Dog boots on, harness on and hoisted into her wheelchair. On her return, her routine is similar to the morning.

Another snooze until dinnertime.

After dinner, outside for more ablutions, then she’s assisted onto the sofa next to the woodburner, where she awaits her evening treat. Then more snoozing until her final outing to the toilet just before bed, and her final biscuit of the day.

She generally sleeps through the night, but has been known to have the odd accident so we have a special cover for the sofa. We have also covered the floors in hardwearing, industrial rubber matting which not only makes clearing up after her a lot easier, it also gives her a grip on the floor so she can pull herself along.

The next day we begin the whole process again.

It is physically and mentally exhausting looking after her, she weighs around 25kg so it takes strength to lift her and she’s not the most cooperative dog to deal with. Not to mention the constant worry about her deteriorating health. We are very fortunate to be working from home which allows us to care for her 24/7, so she’s rarely left alone.

DM is a horrible condition, and to see our once healthy, very active dog dragging herself around is heartbreaking. However, she still loves going out, she adores chasing her Puller and she also swims regularly which gives her freedom from her paralysis as all four limbs seem to work perfectly in the water.

Swimming at Fusion Veterinary Physiotherapy

We know what’s in store for us. She will continue to deteriorate and despite all our efforts, there is nothing that can be done to prevent it. We just care for her as best we can, keep her comfortable and happy take hundreds of pictures so we will always have the memories. We are amazed at the way she has adapted to her situation and feel so proud of her when she trundles along in her wheelchair.

We were really lucky to get her wheelchair through the Finding a Cure for DM Foundation. They run a Wheels to Help Me scheme. By making a donation to the charity you can borrow a set of wheels that have been kindly donated by parents of DM dogs. Her particular wheelchair has two tags on the back with the names of its previous occupiers. Such a lovely way to remember them and we are so grateful for their generosity. The wheels will, of course, be returned to them at some future date, but we don’t want to think about that just yet.