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Physical Therapy Tip Of The Month: Wheeled Carts Keep Them Doggies Rollin' (Part I)

Has your pet needed or been fitted for a cart to assist with mobility?  Susan Davis, PT of covers the topic in Wheeled Carts Keep Them Doggies Rollin' (Part I)

 These articles originally appeared on
by Susan E. Davis, PT “pull in for a helpful refuel!”   
It’s all about guiding and empowering you to help your pet avoid injury, provide practical solutions and achieve rapid restoration of health and function!   
Are there certain topics you avoid because they draw controversy each time you bring them up? For example: politics, religion, weather, the Yankees ... well, for me that topic is wheeled carts. I literally draw a deep breath and steady myself whenever I feel the necessity to address this with clients. I never know what to expect: from utter horror to joyful hugs and everything in between! I’ve even been “sacked” for daring to suggest carts to some pet owners! But that never stopped me.
Front wheel cart. Photo Eddie's Wheels
What’s the big deal, you ask? Isn’t this a wonderful gift of mobility for pets? Yes, it definitely is, but some folks feel it signals the beginning of the end, that I have no hope for their pet. Others think moving with wheels is unnatural for an animal. By no means have I given up on a dog I might suggest a cart for. After all, I’m not suggesting they be euthanized, rather offering a practical solution to keep the dog active and happy! “But it’s not natural!” is equally false, because it isn’t natural for a dog to be immobile! The cart’s purpose is to allow assisted mobility and continued “walking” after a major disability or disease causing weakness, pain, or paralysis.
Standard Rear Wheel Cart. Photo Eddie's Wheels
Cart walking can be recreational, when a pet has the ability to walk on their own power indoors or in small contained spaces, but lacks the balance or endurance needed to walk out in the open community for longer walks. Cart walking can be functional, when a pet is unable to stand and support themselves moving from room to room, using food bowls, or to relieve themselves. Cart use can be considered therapeutic when it is not practical for function, but it allows a way to help maintain muscle tone and support a level spine, allowing the joints to relax while in an upright position. In such cases, the dog may be able to use their muscles to assist while their owner helps pull the wheeled cart. Carts can be rehabilitative, providing a way to safely exercise during recovery from injury or illness. Resistance is provided by the owner or therapist holding lightly on the cart, by attaching therabands or cords, and having the pet navigate the cart up and down a hill or incline.
Counterbalanced Cart. Photo Eddie's Wheels
Here’s the latest information with my tips and recommendations to help you choose wisely in the event your dog may benefit from wheels. Components of carts include the frame, saddle, wheels, axel, yoke, slings or support straps and stirrups. Look for carts that are custom built with durable materials, and have ergonomic biomechanical design, aligned closely to a dog’s anatomy. Types of carts include
    • Standard 2-wheeled carts Either rear or front-wheeled, used when one set of limbs is paralyzed or amputated and the intact set of limbs are free of issues
    • Neutral-balanced carts When the neck and forelimbs have issues and it is desirable to ensure that no load is added to the pet’s front end
    • Counterbalanced carts Useful when all limbs are affected with significant forelimb weakness and de-loading is needed
    • Variable axel carts Allowing you to move the wheel position from neutral to counter balanced to fully counter balanced, good for progressive disorders like DM
  • Quad Carts/ 4 wheeled carts with head/ neck rest For severely compromised pets needing complete support, offering front turning wheels  and towing handle.  Note that reverse quad carts are also possible, having rear turning wheels. Cart add-ons can include extra chest and belly straps, detachable front or rear training wheels, etc.
The finest carts are made by Eddie’s Wheels for Pets. No other brand comes close.  In fairness, I will list several major wheeled cart companies in part II. They are all to be applauded for their efforts to help pets with disabilities and some make decent carts, but I am confident in my endorsement of Eddie’s as the best of all, by far. *** 
Susan E. Davis (Sue) is a licensed Physical Therapist with over 30 years of practice in the human field, who transitioned into the animal world after taking courses at the UT Canine Rehabilitation program.  She is located in Red Bank, New Jersey. She has been providing PT services to dogs and other animals through her entity Joycare Onsite, LLC in pet’s homes and in vet clinics since 2008. She also provides pro bono services at the Monmouth County SPCA in Eatontown, NJ.  Sue is the proud “dog mommy” to Penelope, a miniature Dachshund with “attitude”.  For more information see her website , or follow on Twitter @animalPTsue.Sue is also the author of a fantastic book on physical therapy, Physical Therapy And Rehabilitation For Animals: A Guide For The Consumer Physical therapy can do so many great things for your dog. Understanding all the possibilities physical therapy can offer will change your dog's life. This book definitely belongs on the shelf of every dog lover.
Thank you for reading this article.  Your questions and comments are completely welcome (I’ll respond). Please feel free to communicate with me through Twitter (@PatrickMahaney) and follow my adventures in veterinary medicine by liking Patrick Mahaney: Veterinarian Acupuncture Pain Management for Your Pets on Facebook. Copyright of this article (2014) is owned by Dr Patrick Mahaney, Veterinarian and Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist. Republishing any portion of this article must first be authorized by Dr Patrick Mahaney. Requests for republishing must be approved by Dr Patrick Mahaney and received in written format.
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