How to Best Help Canine Mobility Challenges
Most puppies don’t experience mobility challenges, but as dogs get older, disease, injury, or just plain aging can take its toll. Fortunately, there are many tools to help keep your canine companion moving – which ultimately increases your dog’s comfort and life satisfaction.
Causes & Early Intervention
Some breeds are more susceptible than others to rear leg mobility issues, but any type of dog can take a bad fall or sustain an injury from an accident. If this happens, the obvious course of action is to take your dog to the vet for medical advice. Canine rehab may be advised, which may include healing modalities such as physical or hydrotherapy, acupuncture, or massage.
Here are a few of the most common causes of disease-based mobility problems:
Degenerative Myelopathy (DM)
If a dog begins to drag its back legs or knuckle under on the back paws, an underlying disease like degenerative myelopathy (DM) may be the cause. This progressive disease eventually leads to paralysis, but early intervention may slow the progression of the disease. Providing excellent nutrition, keeping the dog active and providing rehab services to maintain core strength and balance can help.
Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD)
Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) is another culprit that can rob a dog of its mobility by affecting the spinal cord. IVDD is a degenerative process but can appear to come on suddenly, because an unfortunate fall or jump can rupture an already weakened disc. Symptoms include obvious pain, stiffness or paralysis, lowered head, impaired gait, and back spasms. Early intervention is critical with IVDD, which may include medication, confined rest, and possibly surgery.
Canine arthritis often causes older dogs to slow down. This may begin to become most evident in the rear legs, especially when your dog gets up from a lying down position. Keeping excess weight off your dog, providing nutraceuticals like chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine which can be found in coconut oil, and making sure there are soft and supportive places to sleep are key.
Assistive Mobility Tools
Harnesses are a great way to give your dog a gentle lift. With so many harnesses on the market to choose from, it is easy and affordable to lend a hand to your furry friend. There are comfy slings to slip under and around your dog’s belly, or rear or front harnesses for assistance up and down stairs or in and out of the car. A variety of harness designs hold up the rear or front end of a dog while walking, allowing your dog to continue to get essential exercise.
Ramps are another way to make life easier for you and your pet. A simple ramp can help your dog navigate stairs, or cushioned steps can make it easier for a pet with weak legs to get onto the couch or a pet owner’s bed if that has been part of the dog’s routine.
Dog wheelchairs can make it possible for your dog to remain mobile, even when legs become weak or paralyzed. Rear or full support wheelchairs can help tone weakened leg muscles because they are still being used with the support of the wheelchair. If the rear legs are paralyzed or too weak to walk, they can be held up in stirrups. Front leg paralysis, which is much less common, is best served with the use of a custom-made cart.
If a dog is injured or has had surgery, a dog wheelchair can be used as a rehabilitative tool, allowing the dog to gradually strengthen his legs. The wheelchair allows dogs to build strength and rebuild muscles at their own pace. Even dogs who are born with congenital abnormalities that impair the use of their legs can live long, happy lives with the use of a cart.
Dogs can continue to do the things they love with the use of a dog wheelchair, like run, play, romp on the beach, or hike in the woods. They can do their business while in the wheelchair and most of the things any other dog does in its day to day routine. There are a variety of dog wheelchairs that can be easily ordered online, from custom-made to adjustable models.
A loss of mobility need not be a death sentence for your canine friends! Early intervention and the use of assistive mobility devices can give your dog a lot more time to spend happily by your side.
Author bio: Lisa G. Murray is the blogger and marketing director for Walkin’ Pets by HandicappedPets.com.