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Some injures can lead to paralysis and drive our pets to a
dead-end. Fortunately, there are now options for pets that can make
their lives go on wheels again. Literally.
For animals that have lost use of their legs because of
paralysis or a disease, wheelchair devices are now available that
can restore lost motion.
"A wide variety of devices are now on the market to help
companion animals move around, and they work very much like a
wheelchair," said Dr. Alice Blue-McLendon, clinical assistant
professor at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary
Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
Blue-McLendon says a veterinarian can take measurements of the
animal's body to be fitted for the wheelchair devices, which are
custom-made for that particular pet. The veterinarian can then
contact one of several companies that make the wheelchairs, which
usually consist of a harness-like device with straps and wheels.
There are also several reliable companies on the internet that will
work directly with the clients to make a custom wheelchair.
Dogs are the most frequent users of the devices, but they can
also be made for cats, ferrets, goats, rabbits and other
pets. Costs usually range from $200 to $400, depending on the
size of the pet.
Blue-McLendon says that several medical conditions can cause a
pet to need a wheelchair device. One is hind limb paralysis which
can be due to injury, such as being struck by a car or a vertebral
disk disease. Another cause is a degenerative condition in which
the muscle or bone of the animal's leg cannot function properly,
causing the animal to drag its legs or not move at all.
Once the device is fitted to the pet it usually takes several
days for the animal to get accustomed to the wheelchair,
Blue-McLendon explains. "But animals are quick to adapt, and after
a few days, they usually can get around very well with these
devices," she notes. She stresses that it takes a commitment from
the pet owner before considering whether to purchase a wheelchair
for a pet.
"It takes extra time on the owner's part to take off the device
at night because the animals must sleep without them,"
Blue-McLendon says. "And many times if the animal is paralyzed it
still needs assistance several times a day with urination. Also,
since the animal can only use its front legs to get around it tends
to get tired more quickly. So the owner needs to be aware of
this, especially if taking the animal out for a long walk or other
Blue-McLendon adds that once the animal is accustomed to the
wheelchair, it can lead a relatively normal life.
"These wheelchair-type devices have become quite popular in the
last 20 years or so," she says.
"They give your pet an option that it might not have had
otherwise - that of regaining much of the mobility it once
had. If the owner is willing to make the commitment, they can
be wonderful aids for disabled pets."
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