With advances in veterinary care and technology, we are able to cure or repair many conditions in our pets that were once untreatable. There are many different modifications and aides on the market that can help our pets live happy, active lives in spite of the effects of injuries, illnesses, and old age.
The most common aides involve mobility. Pets who have experienced paralysis or amputation of limbs from disease or injuries can now utilize dog wheelchairs to regain most of the freedom they lost when their condition developed.
We’ve all seen the happy videos of dogs enjoying a romp in the park thanks to their new wheels, but a pet’s entire life isn’t lived in those wide open spaces. Our homes often need some adjustment when our canine companion has had to make this change. Think about working with these areas if your pet is using a dog wheelchair.
Excluding Your Dog from Dangerous Areas
An able-bodied dog is able to go almost anywhere around the home, but once he or she is using a dog wheelchair, things have to change.
As we all know, wheels and steps don’t mix, so if your home has open stairwells, you’ll need to make a plan to restrict your dog’s access to them. The barrier should be of adequate strength and height to keep the dog away.
Many baby gates are perfect for this purpose. Before installing one, make sure the gaps between the spindles are close enough together that your dog cannot get through them. Also, be sure the gate is properly anchored at the hinge and latch points. Remember that dogs are very persistent, and that enough hours of pushing at a poorly-attached gate could cause it to open.
Improving Access to Safe Areas
Before your pet’s loss of mobility, he or she might have been your nightly bedtime companion, happily curled up at the foot of the bed. That will have to change once a wheelchair is necessary.
Be sure that your plan for your dog’s changing situation includes a happy and comfortable place to rest. You might simply need to get a pet bed to go at the foot of your own bed so that your dog will be in familiar surroundings.
Feeding areas may have to change as well. Many families feed their dogs in small mudrooms, laundry areas, or other rooms without carpet. The increased width of your dog’s wheelchair may restrict his or her access to those rooms, so make a plan to have a comparably clean (and cleanable) place for feeding where the dog can easily maneuver in and out.
General Changes Around the House
Beyond those specific needs, there are some broader issues you should address when your pet starts using a wheelchair. One possible need is to make a transition from a fully outdoor dog to a fully indoor dog, or to something in between. Oftentimes the outdoors is too dangerous for a dog in a wheelchair, so it may be necessary to bring your pet inside.
That will mean you’ll need to dog-proof the home by storing food and dangerous substances in a higher or more secure location. If the dog will be both indoors and outdoors, you’ll also need to explore options for preventing the movement of fleas into the house.
Flooring will also be an important issue. Dog wheelchairs may be difficult to maneuver on throw rugs or thicker carpets, so you should spend a little time observing your canine friend during those earliest days indoors with the wheelchair. Some problems may simple be a matter of inexperience, and the dog will soon learn to compensate. Others may require some changes from your side right away, such as the safety things we’ve already mentioned and even the width of doorways.
Your pet needs physical activity, even when it’s not done the way it used to be. A dog who uses a wheelchair still needs those fun daily walks with the family. Make sure to get a leash that’s compatible with your dog wheelchair. Those hours of fresh air, exercise, and practice with the new “legs” are critical to helping your dog learn how things will work from now on.
You may also need to reconsider your walking route. Change it if your old path involved rough ground, rocky surfaces, or steep grades that won’t work with wheels. With that said, though, try to retain as many familiar elements as possible so that your dog will feel that there hasn’t been a change in at least some of the things that he or she always enjoyed.
Going from the typical way of walking to a new setup with a wheelchair is a big adjustment for both the dog and the family. Be sure to be extra-loving with your dog so that the transition will be as smooth as possible. Talk to your veterinarian for ideas about what you should do in your house, and be sure to make changes as quickly as possible so that the dog can quickly rediscover life with your family.
Dogs are incredibly smart and resilient, and if they are able to play, eat, and socialize in a way that’s very similar to what they’ve always done, they’ll quickly learn how to move with their new wheels and begin to build a new life with them.