Wheelchairs can be incredibly helpful for pets with paralysis or paresis (weakness). At Walking Paws Rehab we can assist you with picking out the best custom wheelchair for your pet.
There are many types of pet wheelchairs for different conditions and delayed function. So many to choose from, we are here to help! Our therapists can help you determine which wheelchair is the most appropriate assistive device for your pet based on your pet’s history, exam, and your goals.
Our team of specialists will measure for the right size and work closely with the manufacturer to design an appropriate fitting wheelchair to match your pet’s needed function. We will also fit your pet to their new wheelchair and make any needed adjustments to ensure proper fit and movement.
Most pets placed in a wheelchair don’t take off running right away. They have to learn all the baby steps to get back to running again. Following a pet wheelchair fitting we will help your dog learn how to control movement in a wheelchair, stand, take steps, turn, back up, walk uphill, walk downhill, and clear narrow openings. Our goal is to ensure a successful outcome and get your pet back to going on walks with the use of a wheelchair.
The following are a few exercises you can do with your pet a few times a day to help them adapt to being in a wheelchair.
Static standing in the wheelchair. Your pet has to learn how to stand again. Support your pet under their belly, because often a pet will fall backwards and collapse or try to lie down the first time they go in a wheelchair. So you can do basic exercises of just placing your dog or cat in the wheelchair and hold a stand while offering treats.
While standing in the wheelchair you can have your pet do cookie reaches/stretches. Take a treat and have your pet reach forward, reach up, reach down, angle to the left or right to grab the treat.
Head circles. Have your pet learn to shift their weight in the wheelchair by using a treat to promote their head going in a circle. You can do a circle going forward and back or a circle going up and down.
Forward/backward weight shifts/rocking. Use a treat to have your pet reach forward and then reach back in their wheelchair. You will see the wheels roll forward and backward slightly. This exercise teaches your pet to control their motion going forward and backwards and how to shift weight in their wheelchair without falling.
Lateral weight shifts. Place your hand on your pet’s side and shift their weight side to side.
Proprioceptive toe drags while standing supported in the wheelchair. Take your pet’s leg and have them do an alternating walking motion while holding a standing position. When in the stance phase drag their paws on the ground. This can be done in the grass.
Steps to the left, steps to the right. Using treats lure your pet to take one or two steps to the left, then one or two steps to the right.
Forward walking. Using treats lure your pet to take steps forward. Often we have a second person behind the pet assisting with movement in their legs. Or we utilzie a second person to support your pet from falling. Remember, your pet has to regain the strength to hold a stand again and now pull the weight of a wheelchair. Most pet’s are weak at first and need support until they get stronger.
Backwards walking. Using treats, push into your dog’s nose. They will often take steps back.
Turning in a circle. Start with a large circle and then make them tighter.
Turning to the left, turning to the right. Building onto side steps have your dog start turning to the left, then right in tight motions.
Walking through a passageway or two cones. This will help your dog learn the width of their wheelchair. If they get stuck, use a treat to lure them into backward steps to reposition correctly.
Figure 8s around cones/small obstacles. This will teach your dog turning and maneuvering around objects.
Weaving around cones/small obstacles
Walking up gentle inclines/declines. First do a straight motion, then diagonal, and lastly circles.
In our rehab sessions we will teach you how to perform the above exercises. We don’t start off with all these exercises at once. We often progress through the phases based on how your pet is doing.
Walking Paws Rehab
649 South Broadway
Boulder, CO 80305