Just because a dog can no longer walk by herself, doesn’t mean that the party is over. Today, many pets have rich and joyful lives with the aid of a wheelcart. “The biggest thing is to understand how disabled they are,” says Leslie Grinnell of Eddie’s Wheels. “Wheelchairs for people have them sitting down so they can feel infantilized. A dog wheelcart has them standing normally, and we figure it out from there.”
Some carts are simply rehab tools. Dogs with disc disease or spinal cord injury are usually able to walk again. One Eddies Wheels’ client was a Bernese Mountain dog who, after spinal surgery, was un-cooperative with rehab and unable to walk. They provided a quad cart (supports the dog whilst allowing him to use his legs to move the cart as much as he can,) and within 6 weeks he was walking on his own.
Other animals are not so lucky. Paralysis through accident or disease prevents them from full use of their limbs. “But that doesn’t mean the action has to stop,” says Leslie. “Something like degenerative myelopathy is not painful. The dogs are mostly confused as to why their legs won’t move. When we fit them for a cart, they often turn around, look at the wheels and then take off.”
A mechanical engineer by trade, Eddie Grinnell built his first cart for his Doberman companion Buddha, who lost the use of her back legs due to spondylosis and disc disease. Ed and Leslie were faced with either spinal surgery or euthanization. Surgery was too expensive, and Buddha was still pain-free and happy so Ed decided there was a third option – to build Buddha a cart. It gave her spine the support it needed to heal. After a couple of months, her paralyzed legs began to move and a few months later she could walk again by herself.
Impressed with Buddha’s recovery, their vet began referring people who needed wheelcarts for disabled animals. What began as essentially as a hobby, Eddie’s Wheels now has fifteen employees and makes around 1500-2000 carts per year.
Though they see a lot of breeds known for spinal and degenerative issues such as Dachshunds, Basset hounds and Shepherds, they’ve fitted everything from a 2lb Chihuahua to a 14lb rabbit. Along the way, they’re always learning and adapting. Shala, a rescued pup with two missing front legs, inspired the first front wheel cart, while dogs that love to swim may get a pool noodle strapped on!
There’s counterbalanced carts for arthritic dogs, counterweighted ones for amputees, and upgradeable carts for dogs with degenerative myelopathy – who need increasing support as their disease progresses and disabilities worsen. Still, not every pet with mobility issues should have a wheelcart. Whilst they work with vets all over the world and carts can be ordered online, it’s not as simple as just handing over a credit card.
Leslie and Ed have lived with disabled pets for over 20 years and currently have three of their own – Chiweenies Willa and Webster plus pittie boy, Beau. They want what’s best for the dog, so there are questions about pain, appetite etc. “The dog has to be showing that it wants to live,” concludes Leslie. “I’ve had some difficult conversations with people. It’s been a learning curve for me that the quality of a dog’s life is how much they are capable of being engaged in their person’s life.”
Slideshow of many pets enjoying their wheelcarts from Eddie’s Wheels:
You’ll find more inspiring stories on special needs pets in Something Special Pets – only on TPM.