The invention of the dog wheelchair has given the gift of mobility to thousands of dogs, cats and a wide array of other animals who would have been left helpless because of paralysis, disease, old age and spinal injuries. The popularity of these carts has grown so much that I thought it was the perfect time to share a review of the top U.S. manufacturers in the industry.
If you’re surprised to learn there is more than one industry leader you aren’t alone. When my dog Sophie became paralyzed in 2008 I had only a couple of choices for her wheelchair. It was a novelty and people starred at us when we took a walk. Today in 2016 the story has changed. Dog wheelchairs are commonplace and the Internet is full of adorable videos of dogs, cats, pigs, goats and even a alpaca flying around in their custom designed wheels.
Today, in my opinion, there are 5 top dog wheelchair manufacturers to choose from. Each is a quality company that cares about the health and well-being of your pet and each understands the biomechanics of animals so their carts are built to properly move with your dog’s body. My goal for this review is to share an overview about each company and give you some guidance about the cart best suited for your dog. This review should serve as a starting point in your journey to get your pet mobile again.
Dog Wheelchair Categories
There are 3 basic designs of dog wheelchairs you should know because each serves a specific purpose to assist pets with different types of paralysis or limb weakness.
Rear support wheelchair– This is the most common type of dog wheelchair. It has two wheels in the rear, a saddle for your dog’s pelvis and a harness to keep them strapped in. A dog uses the muscles in their front legs and upper torso to walk around. The rear support cart is great for dogs who have hind end weakness or paralysis in their back legs, but have good strength in the rest of their body.
Front support wheelchair – This cart looks like a backwards wheelchair because the wheels are on the front end and a dog uses their back limbs to push themselves around. It provides support to the chest of a dog. Front support carts are used most often for dogs who have problems using their front limbs. This can be due to a birth defect, an injury or after an amputation.
Full support wheelchair or Quad cart – This dog wheelchair has two wheels in the front of the cart and two in back with support in the middle for a dog’s torso. Some of them look like little beds on wheels. It provides support for all four limbs of an animal who is unable to move around or stand on their own. These carts are used most often for dogs with neurological birth defects, after a stroke or have end stage Degenerative Myelopathy. They are also used as a rehab tool after spinal surgery.
If you’re confused which dog wheelchair will best suit your dog try this little test.
Can your dog walk comfortably using their front legs if you manually support their rear limbs? Try doing it while you walk alongside your dog. You can try this by using a towel as a sling under their lower belly. Can your dog scoot or drag themselves across the floor using their front paws? If the answer is yes to both questions, your dog is probably a candidate for a rear support wheelchair.
Of course you will want to confirm all of this with the professional companies listed below.
The Top 5 Dog Wheelchair Companies
K9 Carts is the first manufacturer of dog wheelchairs in the U.S. Their design was created in 1961 by orthopedic veterinary surgeon, Dr. Parkes, after he saw a need for dog wheelchairs in his practice. The company is run by Barbara Parkes who has been in the dog wheelchair business for 40 years. Each K9 cart is built individually to meet the needs of a pet’s disability. They build rear support and full support carts that are lightweight, durable and biomechanically correct. In addition, K9 Carts is one out of two dog wheelchair companies that offer a Rental Program and Rent-to-Own Program. (You can read my complete story about K9 Carts here: Affordable Dog Wheelchair Rentals)
HandicappedPets.com offers the Walkin’ Wheels dog cart. This is a very popular dog wheelchair because it is lightweight, balanced and reliable. It is a fully adjustable dog wheelchair that expands in length, width and height so it can grow with your dog. Owners can select from a mini version, medium or large size cart that adjusts with simple snap buttons and snap-in wheels to fit your dog. The wheelchair can be used on any dog and folds flat for transport and storage. These carts are moderately priced and can be ordered in rear support or full support designs. HandicappedPets.com also offers custom carts for dogs that weigh less than 6lbs or more than 170lbs. Custom wheelchairs are offered in rear, full and front support designs. HandciappedPets.com is the second dog wheelchair manufacturer with a Rent-to-Own Program and it is the only company that offers a wide variety of other products that aid in the daily and support dogs with disabilities. You can read more about their Rent-to-Own program here: Two Resources That Financially Assist Dogs In Need of Wheelchairs
Eddie’s Wheels is owned by Eddie and Leslie Grinnell. This dedicated team has been building custom dog carts for more than 20 years. Their goal is to customize a wheelchair that meets the needs of each pet’s individual disability. Ed, who is a mechanical engineer, designs his sturdy carts for on and off-road play so pets can enjoy a good quality life. The company has won awards for their design that features a comfortable saddle and weightless harness. Their custom wheelchairs are built in rear wheel, front wheel and full support designs. Eddie’s Wheels is also known for their variable axle carts that enable owners to change the balance of the wheelchair to compensate for increasing weakness in a dog’s mobility. The company hosts a monthly list of used Eddie’s Wheels on their website for people who are interested in purchasing a previously owned cart. In addition, Eddie’s Wheels always has an array of wheelchairs that have been donated back to them. If you call the company they will walk you through the inventory. (These are not advertised online) If there is a cart that is a good fit for your dog, Eddie’s Wheels will refurbish it for a small fee and ship it to you.
Ruff Rollin’ is relatively new on the dog wheelchair scene, but it is quickly becoming a favorite by pet owners. Jason and Sierra Christofferson started the company in 2009 after they saw a way to improve on the conventional design of dog wheelchairs. Jason has 19 years of experience building and managing dog wheelchairs companies. Ruff Rollin’ dog carts are durable, lightweight and custom built to for the specific needs and size of each pet. The wheelchairs are also gender specific to make them as comfortable as possible. Ruff Rollin’ has built carts for a 1 ½ lb. Yorkie all the way to a 230lb. Mastiff and recently they built a full support cart for a miniature horse. The company builds custom rear support, front support and full support wheelchairs. (You can read my story about Ruff Rollin’ here: Inside A Custom Dog Wheelchair Company)
Best Friend Mobility offers dog wheelchairs with a universal design that are reasonably priced. Veterinary orthopedic surgeon, Dr. William Vachon, created the design of these lightweight aluminum carts that are adjustable and come in five sizes and weight classifications. The company sells only rear support wheelchairs. They can be ordered on the Best Friend Mobility website or on Amazon. Pet parent reviews suggest the Best Friend Mobility carts work well for smaller and older dogs that are less active.
Doggon’ Wheels is one dog wheelchair company you might not know about because they pride themselves in being a small company. They have the unique distinction of being the most widely used cart by veterinary teaching hospitals and canine physical therapy rehab centers. The company was started in 1994 by husband and wife team Chad and Lori after their dog Benny was hit by a car. In addition to selling wheelchairs to institutions, Doggon’ Wheels also sells to the public. Each cart is custom made and comes in rear support, quad (full) support and front support models.
The Real World
Dog wheelchairs are amazing, but don’t be discouraged if your handicapable dog doesn’t immediately warm up to them. When I strapped Sophie into her wheelchair for the first time she immediately tipped the cart on its side. Walking in a cart takes practice for some dogs. A good tip is to go for short walks on a very flat surface until your dog builds up confidence.
A second important point to keep in mind is that dog wheelchairs are best used for exercise and playtime or if your pup has to walk with you somewhere such as a veterinary appointment. They are not designed to be worn all day long. Dogs can’t sit down to rest in a wheelchair and because you are already dealing with a dog that has special medical needs, giving them ample time to rest is important.
And finally when your family no longer needs the wheelchair please consider donating it to another handicapped dog. HandicappedPets.com, Eddie’s Wheels and Red Flyer all offer programs for donated carts.
Here’s a fun video of dogs in their wheelchairs for you to enjoy!
Disclaimer: These is my personal review and I am not being compensated. I do have an affiliate relationship with Ruff Rollin’ and HandicappedPets.com.