In this post I would like to talk about mobility aids for dogs, how much they have helped our family and what they can do for yours.
Who can they help?
- suffering from arthritis, hip dysplasia or joint pain of any kind
- recovering from surgery or injury and have to take it easy
- finding it harder to climb/jump
- who are having trouble or are simply unable to lift their dog
Is your dog…
Staying in his bed longer?
Having trouble getting out of his bed?
Lying down really slowly?
Going for shorter walks, or doesn’t want to walk at all?
Not as interested in playing?
Many people assume these are natural signs of aging, and ignore them. If you have noticed changes in your dog’s behaviour, I highly recommend you make an appointment to see your vet as soon as possible. It is always easier to treat a condition the earlier it is detected.
If your dog is experiencing some kind of joint pain, there may be several options that will help make your dog more comfortable. They include: hydrotherapy, acupuncture, supplements, medications, and of course the mobility aids I’m going to be talking about.
The pet stroller
The pet stroller has been an incredible help in ways almost too numerous to mention.
I originally decided to get one because of a favourite vet. I’m very particular about who cares for my animals, and when I find one I trust I will make an effort for continuity of care. We had moved so had to rely on public transport to get to appointments. Red is older and blind and while she is able to walk, she does so very slowly. A 20 minute hike over a bridge would take forever, and although she only weighs 10lbs, carrying her quickly feels like 50. Hence the stroller!
I use it to bring her to the beach when I join my husband and other dog Jack in the summer, and when we go for days out. Why leave her behind just because she can’t walk too far?
They aren’t only helpful for older dogs though!
I couldn’t have predicted how much it would benefit Jack as well. After running around like a maniac at the beach or in the park, he would be so pooped he’d hitch a ride part of the way home.
In August of this year Jack became paralysed, losing the use of his back legs in a matter of hours. After a visit to the specialist hospital where an MRI showed a disc had exploded, he underwent spinal surgery. After 8 days in the hospital he came home, and of course wasn’t able to walk. I didn’t want him to be bored staying in a cage all day, only getting out to pee and poop, so with the neurologist’s permission I would take him in the stroller for a walk around the neighbourhood.
As he improved and was able to walk with the support of a sling (that I will talk about next), I would bring the stroller with us and when his allotted walk time was up, back in the stroller he went.
We used it for about 2 months twice a day, and being such an active dog I’m sure he would have been bored and depressed if he couldn’t get out and about. I certainly couldn’t carry him!
A stroller is perfect for senior dogs, dogs of all ages suffering joint pain or injury, recovering from illness or surgery, even keeping small dogs safe in crowds. You can see why I’m such a fan of pet strollers and have written so much about them. They’re great for cats as well.
Dog support sling
The sling is another mobility aid you will find useful if your dog is having trouble walking for whatever reason.
When Jack was recovering from spinal surgery we used a sling while walking him. At the beginning it was because he was unable to move his back legs, but even as he started to regain movement, he needed the support it provided. He’s walking really well now so it’s no longer required, but we will use it to help him over uneven terrain.
You’ll see in the video our sling was homemade. Because Jack is a small dog, the neurologist didn’t feel we needed to buy a “proper” one. He thought a scarf or something similar would be worth trying to begin with, so we cut up an old t-shirt and used that. It worked wonders in our case, but I doubt our improvised version would work well enough in most situations.
Sadly lots of dogs get left back from family car trips because it’s too hard to lift the dog in and out of the car, and he’s unable to walk much once they arrive at their destination.
No worries, that’s why we have dog ramps to help get in and out of cars and boats, and even onto the bed or couch.
Styles and sizes galore, some are telescoping so their reach is far, others fold, some turn into steps and I’ve even seen one that rolls. Pay attention to how much traction the ramp you’re considering has, you don’t want your dog slipping if it gets wet. Steepness of incline is also key. Too short and too steep, your dog may not be able to use it. A longer more gradual incline is best.
Doesn’t this sound perfect, teamed up with a pet stroller? They both fold for easy storage in the car, one helps your dog in and out, the other when you arrive.
By the way, there are also ramps that can be used alongside the bed or for joining you on the couch. If you are thinking of indoor use, be aware of the amount of floor space it will take up and how far out it will reach. You don’t want to create a tripping hazard.
Pet steps are another great tool to help your dog reach his favourite spot on your bed or couch. Taking up less floor space than a ramp, they are less of a tripping hazard, and can be easier to move around, especially because some even have a carry handle. Available in 2, 3 or 4 steps, they come in many different styles, designs and materials.
They are also perfect for cats who are not great jumpers, or aren’t able to reach the heights they used to.
I would imagine the thought of a dog wheelchair raises a lot of emotions for you. When my husband and I were meeting with the neurologist to discuss Jack’s paralysis, I brought up the topic of a wheelchair. Although our amazing doctor Ed was quite confident Jack would regain the use of his legs (of course it was never a guarantee), I thought it was important to discuss how we felt about it in advance, just in case.
Seeing how resilient Jack has been during his recovery, and me having a hard time keeping up with him when only his front legs were working, I have no doubt he would have adapted to rolling around, and still have a great quality of life.
I’m relieved he didn’t need the wheels, but delighted they exist as an option for other dogs who have had a different outcome. It means they can still have fun and happy lives with their families.
Another fantastic, multi-functional product are dog boots.
Hopefully your dog is more agreeable then my little 15 year old Red. I was in Canada with her one winter – heavy snow, ice and of course lots of salt. Needless to say it was too painful for her to walk, so I bought her booties. I wish I had a video of that experience!! She weighs 10lbs, but believe me when she doesn’t want to do something, she has the strength of a dog 10x her size. Long story short she was agreeable to paw wax so we settled on that.
The boots are a wonderful solution for dogs that drag their feet due to join pain, or are unsteady/slipping walking on certain surfaces.
In our case they are something Jack would have benefitted from, especially if his recovery had taken longer. Even though we did walk him with a sling, his back legs would drag, and if we went over a few stones, he would scrape the top of his paws. You can imagine how careful you have to be, but things happen and he did develop a sore.
I would wrap his paw in a bandage when we were out, then once we were home he would spend time and effort pulling it off. Boots would have been ideal, I wish I had thought of it from the beginning. Having had no experience with a paralysed dog, and thinking of booties as something only needed for salted sidewalks and roads, it’s one of those “live and learn” situations.
Splints and leg supports
Designed to support front or back legs, these splints and leg supports are a tremendous help for dogs dealing with conditions such as osteoarthritis, degenerative joint disease and soft tissue injuries to name just a few. Padded velcro straps are used for adjusting, padding on the inside ensures your dog is comfortable, and non-slip pads on the bottom keeps him stable and sure footed.
You may be familiar with glucosamine/chondroitin as a supplement for humans with join issues, and have heard a lot of positive feedback. It is also used for dogs, and while it is not guaranteed to help in every case, there are so many success stories, it is worth looking into.
So what is it?
The body synthesizes most of its own Glucosamine to form, repair and keep existing cartilage healthy. Production slows as dogs get older, which affects the body’s natural ability to repair itself. When you combine wear and tear on the joints (something that happens naturally as our dog’s walk, jump and play), with the slower repair time of the body, you start to see the development of arthritis.
Chondroitin is another substance naturally found in cartilage, and when combined with glucosamine is an even more beneficial joint supplement.
To learn more, please refer to this article “Glucosamine and Chondroitin For Dogs.”
New Zealand Green Lipped Mussels
Found only in the waters surrounding New Zealand, this is one of the largest in the mussel family, and are rich in omega fatty acids and minerals. They are known as “green lipped” because of the green tinge along the edge.
A natural anti-inflammatory because they are an excellent source of glucosamine and chondroitin, they are not only helpful for pets already suffering the effects of arthritis, but can be used as a preventative as well. They are considered to be particularly effective when combined with fish oil, glucosamine and chondroitin.
There are other supplements available if you’re interested in a more natural approach, but that is a conversation best had with a holistic vet.
Before you give your dog any supplements, please discuss it with your vet.
There are an unlimited number of success stories, told by people whose dogs have benefited greatly from acupuncture. It is not guaranteed to help every pet, but is also worth considering. It can be used in combination with other therapies, and treats a wide variety of conditions, including arthritis.
For a more comprehensive look at acupuncture, what it is, how it works and what to expect, this article called “Acupuncture For Senior Dogs: Is There a Point?” will help.
Mobility aids for dogs – conclusion
I don’t know about you, but I find this information positive and encouraging. I have personally used (I should say my dogs) almost every item on this list, and the benefits cannot be overstated. It has made life so much easier and more comfortable for all of us.
Please don’t let your dog feel pain or spend the rest of his life in his bed because you believe it’s natural. Speak to your vet about treatment options, and consider these mobility aids for dogs to help yours enjoy life again.