Exercise For Dogs In Wheelchairs

Meet Andy. He’s an active, six-year-old Bichon mix with a herniated disc, and he loves his wheelchair.

“It took him five minutes to adjust to it,” says Mary Denys. She and her sister Patricia, who live in Long Beach, California, have cared for several dogs in wheelchairs. Andy was the youngest to get in his cart, and he didn’t miss a beat.

Andy can get around any obstacle, Mary says.

“He takes this cart everywhere he wants to take it. We live in a house that’s four steps up from the sidewalk, and I lift up the cart so he can go up the steps. But he barrels down the steps like nobody’s business.”

If your dog is disabled, and you’ve just heard the diagnosis, you’re probably worried about their exercise. One of the best parts of caring for a dog is going on walks with them. Their enthusiasm, energy, and simple joy can brighten a hard day.

You might be worried that getting a wheelchair for your dog will limit their mobility. You’ll have to make some changes, to be sure. But don’t worry—wheelchair dogs can still get plenty of exercise.

Andy has been in his wheelchair for more than three years, but has just as much fun at the park as he did before his injury. Mary and Patricia take him there with their other dogs, and Andy has a blast. He’s not limited to built surfaces, either. He can chase a smell (or a squirrel) across a lawn or through brush.

“I say he goes off-roading, because he goes off the beaten path. He rolls over the bottom of tree trunks,” says Mary.

Andy goes off-roading so much, in fact, that the Denys sisters had to put new treads on the tires of his cart. He’d roamed around so much that the wheels were bald.

There is one downside to Andy’s freewheeling style. His mobility caused one wince-inducing incident.

“He rolls over my feet all the time. He broke one of my toes one time,” Mary says, with a rueful laugh. “I was barefoot, and he ran toward me and ran over my foot right between my ring toe and little toe.”

Mary’s toe has healed, but Andy’s off-roading now comes with a warning—Mary and Patricia have to tell people he meets at the park to watch their feet. These days, Andy is so used to the chair that he forgets he’s using it.

 

Photos provided by Patricia Denys

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