Dog Wheelchair Comparisons
I've been doing a lot of research lately on carts since realizing I will be needing one for another dog soon. Buying a wheelchair is a very personal decision and should be based on the needs of you and your dog. Each cart has advantages in wheelbase width, comfort, stability and ability to cross difficult terrain. Wheelchair manufacturers obviously say their own products are the best. Vets who are used to working with one particular product may well recommend that one product mainly because they have experience with it, not because it's the best choice for your dog.
Carts vary greatly even though they may look similar. For example, some have soft saddles, others rigid rings, some are collapsible, others not; some are suited for hindlimb problems while some support the entire dog as a quad cart, some come with special modifications. Soft saddles would be more comfortable in general to a dog with some mobililty, however rigid ones would give more pelvic support with less trauma to soft tissue in a totally paralyzed dog.
Finding the right dog cart can give your dog added strength and energy, uplifting his mood and allow him to do some of the things he loves. Whether you convert an old human wheelchair (for a big dog) or purchase a ready-made one, you'll feel good giving your handicapped dog mobility.
There are many kinds of carts - some are adjustable, while others are custom made for your dog. It pays to do a little research first before purchasing so that you find one that works for your dog. Ideally, your home will not have stairs or it will limit the amount of use your dog will get from a wheelchair. Some dogs only use them outdoors. Here is a wishlist for a cart - none have all of these qualities, but some come close.
- Broad wheels are better for outside, as they don't get stuck as easily.
- Adjustability so that you can use it for another dog if necessary
- Folds for easy storage
- Padded or fleece lined straps for comfort
- Ability to pee and poop while in the cart.
- Wheels/mechanism that allows the dog to turn easily
- Stirrups for keeping unused feet from dragging on the ground
- Washable materials that are easy to remove
- Sturdy build
- Easy in/out (velcro or other fastener) a few carts allow you to walk the dog into it by holding up his rear. Some carts you must lift the dog into and this is more difficult (especially with large dogs).
- Easy to put together and set up
- Lightweight construction - but sturdy
If the dog can use their hind legs, but can't support weight a Doggon cart with its soft neoprene saddle works well as it allows the dog to move it's legs normally as they walk. The rigid saddle on an Eddie's Wheels or K9-Kart can be too constrictive and limiting. However, if the dog is totally paralyzed in the rear, a rigid saddle may be better because it supports the pelvis without putting undue strain on soft tissue. In that case, it's more important how easy you can get him in and out of the cart.
Wheels are very important. You want something lightweight, larger, with good flexibility and deep tred. A smaller tire will get stuck easier but a bigger tire is difficult to maneuver. The problem I had with the home-made model is the small wheels would get stuck sideways and make it difficult to pull on grass. Also the narrowness of human wheelchair tires make them unsuitable for rough terrain. Ideally the tire will slant outward giving better stability.
One consideration is whether the cart is "top heavy" and has a narrow wheelbase A cart that tips over can traumatize the dog and make him unwilling to use it. Look to where the dog's center of gravity will be and how wide the wheelbase is when considering your options. Consider whether you plan to use the cart indoors or out. A wider wheel base may be more stable outdoors, but can be difficult to maneuver indoors. A majority of the dogs tend to use the carts outdoors only for this reason. Also, some carts come with optional all-terrain wheels. If you walk anywhere except the sidewalk, these may be worth paying extra for. I used a human wheelchair (adapted for a dog) for Hoover and discovered the narrow wheels were difficult, if not impossible for him to use on grass and uneven terrain, but worked just fine on cement. I ended up helping push him where he wanted to go so he wouldn't get frustrated.
There are several wheelchair manufacturers including Doggon Wheels, Eddie's Wheels, Walkin Wheels, K9 Carts. If you have a rehab center near to you, you may want to visit and ask if they have any carts that they can show you or potentially even loan you before you commit to buying a cart. Unfortunately, most promote one kind of cart and don't give you these options - but it may be worth asking anyway. Most companies rent out carts, but it's relatively expensive to do so and is only a temporary solution since rental for a few weeks would probably equal the cost of a cart.
Ideally you are searching for a cart that is robust and stable, able to stand up to an active dog running and playing on and off road. With carts for larger dogs costing upwards of $300 or more, it pays to do your research a head of time and before the dog is so disabled it is difficult to get him in and out of different carts or measure for them. Especially with a larger dog. One feature of the Eddie's wheels cart is an optional removable saddle. You can put the saddle on the dog while he's lying down, then use it to pick him up to fasten him in the cart. This may or may not work well for you.
Most carts except Walkin Wheels are custom made (and costly - especially the carts for large dogs) so you're pretty much stuck with them if you don't make the right choices and provide the exact measurements. Sometimes they can be re-fitted or re-sold, but not always. Eddie's wheels and Doggon Wheels are known for their excellent customer service but the problem with a custom cart is the difficulty of adapting it to another dog because it IS custom made.
One thing to consider is that some dogs start out pretty mobile but get progressively worse over time - such as dogs with DM - in that case you'll want a cart that adapts to his condition without having to go out and buy a new one. You also don't want a cart that can create problems by not allowing exercise of good limbs. Several carts have "add on" accessories that adapt to a progressively worsening condition. This is not necessary if your dog has a permanent injury that will not get worse. Counterbalanced carts are available that can assist dogs that have paralyzed rears, but also weak fronts. They take some of the weight off the front legs. This tends to keep the front legs from getting enough exercise so it's not recommended you only use this kind of cart when needed. On the other hand, you'll need a second cart if the dog's front legs get weak and you have a cart that can't be adapted for this.
Most carts are built and sized for one particular dog. A few are adjustable enough that they could be used for multiple dogs of similar size - some are not adjustable at all. Depending on your situation, this may or may not be important to you. An adjustable cart is much easier to sell or pass on when you no longer need it, but may not fit your current dog as well as it could. You can't expect a cart for a 30 lb. dog to be adjustable up to a 90 lb dog or visa versa. Most carts come in general sizes and adjust more specifically from there.
It's also important with some carts to order a male or female cart. The type of saddle is dependent on the sex of the dog and cannot be used for the opposite sex. For example, an Eddie's wheels cart made for a male cannot be used for a female.
Stirrups are helpful if the dog drags it's feet. Without booties or stirrups of some kind a dog that cannot use it's feet will drag them - and they will get sore and bloody. A cart that has stirrups that may or may not be used is probably the best option because you sometimes don't know if you'll need them. Other options are a band the feet are supported on. Not all dogs will leave their feet there because they have some mobility in the leg, so this doesn't always work.
Finally, with an older pet, it is important to think about what your pet likes to do. If they are content to just lay around, and only be taken out for very short periods, a handheld sling may be all you need. On the other hand, if they are bright and alert and full of life, despite a mobility problem, a pet wheelchair can give your dog a longer, happier, and healthier life. Just being able to "walk" and smell the roses did wonders for Hoover's attitude. He was a happier dog because even though he didn't use the wheelchair often, he COULD use it, and that's what mattered.
|Eddies Wheels||Doggon Wheels||
|Location||Amherst, NH||Unknown-not on website||Langley, WA||Shelburne, MA||Bozeman, MT|
|Adjustable||Height, Width, and Length Adjust without tools.||Sizes XS - XL Yes||Some Height Adjustment Possible - Tools required||Minimally||No||No, only for large dogs|
|Required to order||1 approximate height measurement needed||By weight & size category, adjustable||8 measurements required||7 measurements required||10 measurements + pro fitting specific locations||Dog must fit wheelchair - can't be adjusted|
|Time Required to Build||1 day||1 day||3 - 4 working days||2 weeks||3 days||1-2 days|
|Deposit?||None||None||Pay full amount when ordered||30% - 50%||Pay full amount when ordered||n/a|
|80% of cart cost within 14 days/ 95% if unopened||30 days||85% Less Shipping||None - All Sales Final||
70% Less Shipping on new carts, 50% on used
|If Cart Does Not Fit||Completely adjustable without tools. Support Available.||Adjustable with hex wrench||Call for Support.||"...we reserve the right to charge time and materials..."||Call for Support||You're on your own|
|Harness Type||Flexible neoprene saddle.||double rear adjustable padded leg harness||Rigid saddle||Welded Padded Saddle supports pelvis, may be uncomfortable for some dogs||Flexible saddle||flexible saddle|
|Lifting Required||Minimal||Minimal||"...lift the rear of your pet and slip its legs down through the leg ring supports..."||the removable saddle makes this less difficult for a paralyzed dog||Minimal||Difficult and hard on the dogs' back|
|Folds for Storage /travel||Yes (wheels fold up)||No||No||No||No||Most do|
|Price Range||$399 - $529 dependent on wheel size||$229-399 + shipping||$300 - $850 + shipping||$300 - $1200 + Shipping||
$220 - $950 + shipping
|$0 - $50|
|Assembly Required?||None Needed||Yes - simple & quick assembly||Some Assembly Required||Shipped Assembled except for wheels||Shipped Assembled||Yes|
|Replacement Parts & Customization available?||Yes, many parts available including wheels & snow ski attachment||No||Must contact manufacturer.||Just wheels, entire cart is custom||No||
You must find the part, may not be available
|Best area of use||Compact and narrow enough for indoor use, good tires for traction outdoors||pneumatic tires good for all terrain use, lightweight frame||Wide wheelbase, front bumper for 4 wheel version||All terrain wheels, narrower wheelbase better for indoors than some||Wide wheelbase, esp. front, not good indoor choice||Outdoors on smooth concrete or flat short lawn - may have to help push|
|Can be Resold to any size animal||Yes, to a point||Yes, to similar sized dog||No||No||No||No|
|Stirrups||Included - No Extra Charge||No||Extra||Add $45.00||Add $12.00 to $20.00||Must make your own|
|Rentals, Refurbs?||Yes, sort of. Easy return policy like rental.||No||Rentals (by week) & Rent to own programs||
Resell on site, Donations, Refurbished
|Can lie down or potty in cart?||Yes, front only||Yes, can potty (male or female)||Unknown||No||Unknown||No|
|Front, 2 wheel or 4 wheel carts?||2 wheel & 4 wheel models||
Adjustable to provide light or no weight bearing on rear - 2 only
All including counter balanced carts
|All including counter balanced carts||All||Supports rear well, but not front on longer bodied dog|