Finding and sharing resources for affordable dog wheelchair programs has become my number one mission to help pet parents who are facing the challenges of caring for a paralyzed dog. I promised I would track down companies and nonprofits that offer assistance and this story is the first installment in what I hope will be a long series of posts.
Last week I had the privilege of interviewing Barbara Parkes, owner of K9 Carts and a woman with a wealth of information on the subject of pets with mobility problems. K9 Carts began in 1961 and is the very first company in the U.S.A. to manufacture carts for disabled pets. The idea and design for K9 carts came from Dr. Parkes, an orthopedic veterinary surgeon, who was ahead of his time when he opened one of the first animal specialty hospitals in the country. Barbara worked alongside Dr. Parkes and has been managing the company for the last 40 years.
I contacted K9 Carts because they are the only dog wheelchair (pet wheelchair) company that has an affordable rental and rent-to-own program. After talking with Barbara, I was happy to learn that her company’s philosophy echoed how I feel about helping disabled pets.
“No pets should have to drag around for lack of a cart and we do what we can,” said Barbara. “I came up with the idea of a rental program for owners that could not purchase a cart outright and also for those clients who were not sure if their pet would adapt to a cart.”
The program is great for dogs who are recovering from an injury or surgery and won’t need a wheelchair for the rest of their life and for pet owners who need a permanent cart for their dog, but can’t afford the full purchase price.
The rental plan would have been a good idea for my own dog because Sophie didn’t adjust well to a cart. By the time I found myself searching for one on the Internet, her condition had deteriorated to the point that she didn’t have the strength to move around in a wheelchair.
Here is how the K9 Carts rental plan works:
- You pay the initial 2 week rental fee plus shipping costs. The initial rental fee goes towards the full purchase price of the wheelchair.
- K9 Carts ships you a wheelchair that is fully adjustable and guaranteed to fit.
- Your initial 2 weeks starts the day your wheelchair arrives.
- Within 48 hours of the end of your initial 2 weeks, you contact K9 Carts and choose to rent for another 2 weeks or return the wheelchair (you pay return shipping).
- If you choose to rent for another 2 weeks, you pay the 2 week rental fee again (that is also subtracted from the full purchase price), and you get to keep the wheelchair for another 2 weeks.
- Within 48 hours of the end of your final 2 weeks you can either return the wheelchair (you pay return) or pay the final installment.
The goal of the program is to separate the full cost of a cart into three equal payments or allow you to return a wheelchair if your dog no longer needs it. One caveat to the program is the wheelchairs used in the rent-to-own program are made from refurbished K9 Cart parts.
Barbara shared lots of wonderful stories with me about the many pets K9 Carts has helped over the years. She was especially proud to tell me about a Chihuahua named Wheely Willy who received one of the first K9 Carts. The little dog used his wheelchair for nearly all of the 18 years of his life. Willy was the pride and joy of author Deborah Turner who shared stories about her dog’s amazing life in her books, How Willy Got His Wheels and How Willy Got His Wings.
Barbara was pleased that Deborah came to her for a cart for Willy, but she worries about other pet parents. One of her peeves is that veterinarians wait too long to recommend a wheelchair for their patients. She sees many cases where a dog could have benefitted from a cart, but became too weak or sick to use one by the time a veterinarian made the suggestion.
“A Cart should be recommended when a pet starts to have mobility problems,” said Barbara. “The cart will never stop them from walking but rather enhance their ability to continue to use the rear legs and take stress off the front legs.”
If you have any questions about a dog wheelchair for your specially-abled pet, don’t hesitate to reach out to Barbara. She is a wealth of information on the subject. You can email K9 Carts at: info@K9Carts.com.
Have you ever rented a cart for your disabled pet? I’d love to hear your story and share your resources with other pet parents in need.
Photos: K9 Carts