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Evaluating My Pet

Forelimb Strength & the Towel Test

Your pet must be able to walk strongly on its front legs, with its back held in a level position. Use the “towel test” to determine whether or not the above is possible. If you have a small dog or cat we suggest you take an old towel, cut two holes in it, and place the legs through the holes. Remembering to keep the back level, see if your pet will walk normally. This action simulates our cart support system. If you have a large dog, a towel under each hind leg is an easier way to do the "towel test".

Signs of Forelimb Weakness:
  • Stumbling or knuckling with one or both front paws.

  • Short, choppy steps or crossing over of the front paws.

  • Splaying front legs out wide to maintain balance.

  • Taking a few steps and stopping or lying back on the front legs.

Wheelchair Design Recommendations:
  • Rear Support Wheelchair - Your pet walks strongly with the front legs when using the towel test.

  • Full Support Wheelchair - Your pet has some weakness or is unable to walk with the front legs and must be supported in both the front and rear legs.

Overweight Pets

Paralyzed, obese, pets sometimes have a harder time adjusting to a cart. This is usually because of their forced period of inactivity. Dragging themselves along the ground is not considered an indication of front limb strength.

If your pet is able to walk, when supported with a Handheld Harnesses, this indicates that your pet will probably be able to handle a cart. Use of a cart will help with weight reduction and take the stress and strain off the back and limbs.


When fitted with a pet wheelchair most mobility impaired pets, with few exceptions, will tear or walk off in their carts. Their tails will be wagging and there will be a new brightness in their eyes.

With an older pet, it is important to think about what your pet wants to do. If they are content to just lay around, and only be taken out for very short periods, you may want to consider our Handheld Harnesses. On the other hand, if they are bright and alert and full of life, despite their mobility problem, a pet wheelchair can provide your pet with an extended, happier, and healthier life.


It is extremely rare that a pet will fight or refuse to use a pet mobility chair. Try the towel test to see if your pet will tolerate this type of help. If it walks readily with sling support then it will do well in a cart.

Medical Conditions

  • Degenerative Myelopathy

    Degenerative myelopathy is the second most common condition for which pets need a cart, and is likened to MS in people. It generally starts off with knuckling of one hind paw, leading to both paws, and a swaying gait in the rear, very often with legs crossing.

    There is no pain associated with this condition. Unfortunately, it usually travels up the spinal cord and affects the front legs. To delay this process, we recommend placing your pet in our Rear Support Wheelchair as soon as you observe mobility impairment in the rear of your pet. This will take stress and strain off both the rear and front legs and keep your pet active and happy. Your pet can still use its rear legs as long as it is able. Our Handheld Rear Harness is also useful for helping pets in and out of cars and up stairs.

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