Wheelchairs for dogs can be good therapy!
We used to think of wheelchairs for animals as palliative care devices, stop-gaps in an attempt to extend the time until euthanasia was undeniably the only humane alternative. Boy did we have a lot to learn…
In May 2013 Dr. Annie had the good fortune to spend two magical days with the folks of Eddie’s Wheels. Eddie’s Wheels is a company in Massachusetts that builds wheelchairs and other therapy devices for animals. Each wheelchair that Eddie’s manufactures is custom-created for the particular animal in need. Construction of the cart takes into account the animal’s breed, size, weight AND specific physical challenge.
The wheelchairs created by Eddie’s Wheels are THERAPEUTIC devices. They help animals, even those with degenerative myelopathy, feel and function BETTER! This is because the carts made at Eddie’s are properly and thoughtfully fitted to the individual animal, and the style of cart is carefully selected based on the animal’s specific needs or medical condition.
What did Dr. Annie see during her visit? The animals placed in the wheelchairs took a few seconds (yes, we said SECONDS) to figure out their new situation. When they realized that they could once again move on their own, their roached-backs relaxed into beautiful, elongated, healthy-looking toplines. As chiropractors trained in the functional neurology of animals, we can tell you that this makes a world of difference for the animal patient! Relaxed, flattened toplines mean less muscle spasm (which is pain-producing when present,) improved nutrient absorption and waste-removal at the disc, and gentle self-induced spinal traction. (Anyone who has ever experienced back pain can confirm how nurturing gentle spinal traction can be!) What does the improved posture mean most deeply for the animal? Facilitated healing within the central and peripheral nervous systems in situations where healing would have profoundly hindered before.
Dr. Annie saw dogs with degenerative myelopathy move their “useless” rear limbs as they rolled themselves along in their carts using their front limbs. How can this be when degenerative myelopathy causes paralysis of the rear limbs? At the level of the spinal cord, there are tracts that create the gait pattern of limbs in relation to one another. When two limbs are moving properly, signal will be sent to the other two limbs to move, also. This is often called “spinal walking.” It may not mean that the animal will once again to be able to walk without support, but it does mean that joints and muscles that had been immobile are moving again. The body is built to move! Immobility by itself can be pain-generating – and mobilization can help dampen pain.
Dogs have a large portion of their brain dedicated to olfactory sense, a.k.a. the sense of smell. Stimulation to the brain is necessary to avoid a “depressed” affect in a dog. A dog that can get out, explore the world and sniff again will be a far happier dog! Dr. Annie watched a non-ambulatory pug zip across the floor to every corner of the room sniffing and exploring as soon as she was placed in her wheelchair for the first time.
She also saw a 15-year-old Doberman with a painful condition in the hock, a roach-backed posture and fatiguing / tremoring postural muscles in the rear limbs walk easily alongside its owner, able to REST on the saddle of the cart when they stopped to look around.
In short, and most importantly, she saw dogs get happy again!
Eddie’s Wheels is a family owned and run company. They have been refining their product since the day they opened their doors in 1999. They continue to make improvements as they meet new dogs with new needs. Why? Because they really care that much.
If your dog is in need of a wheelchair, we can performe the necessary measurements and provide the folks at Eddie’s Wheels with information required to create your dog’s custom-designed device.