(This story is an update to our original review of harnesses for handicapped dogs in 2014.) Our latest update was made February 2019.
If you have a dog that is paralyzed or has hind end weakness, one of the specialized harnesses for handicapped dogs listed below will undoubtedly become your favorite tool to keep your pup mobile. The proper harness will make life easier for you and your dog when you move them from one part of the house to another, take them outside to relieve themselves and when you lift them in and out of the car. A harness gives your dog a sense of independence because it allows them to move about freely while it relieves the stress on your back as you assist them.
When my dog Sophie became paralyzed in 2008 there were three companies that made dog harnesses for disabled pets, but today there are more than a dozen to choose from. What was an easy choice has become an overwhelming decision for pet parents. To help simplify the process, I’ve put the different types of harnesses into categories and I’ve listed my 5 favorite brands of harnesses for handicapped dogs. I hope it helps you determine which product is the best fit for your pet.
Dog Harness Categories
When you first look at the various dog harnesses on the market you might feel like you’re learning a new language so let me translate for you
- Rear end harness or hind end sling – These products are meant for dogs with hind end paralysis or hind end weakness that prevents them from walking on their own. The harness fits around a dog’s back end and hips to support and assist them as you help them walk with their front paws. It allows you to lift them up high enough so their legs do not drag on the ground.
- Lifting harness – This harness typically fits around a dog’s mid-section and supports a dog that is still able to walk on his own, but needs help climbing stairs or assistance getting into a car. Dogs with severe arthritis or those recovering from back surgery are good candidates for this harness.
- Full body harness – This product supports a dog’s hind end and their shoulders. It’s good for a dog recovering from surgery, a dog with end stage paralysis and dogs that need front and back support when you lift them.
- Amputee harness – This type of harness is especially made for tripawd dogs who have lost a limb. It gives added support to the torso where three-legged dogs need it the most.
- Back Brace – This isn’t actually a harness, but it’s a brace that gives support to dogs with Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD).
My 5 Favorite Harnesses for Handicapped Dogs
Many new companies have entered into the disabled pet product marketplace. I’m going to discuss my personal favorite harnesses and slings.
Walkin Pets by HandicappedPets has a large selection of harnesses, slings and full body support products.
I like the Walkin Rear Lift Harness because it is made of soft but durable materials. It is reasonably priced and dogs can pee while they wear it. (That is truly a big deal). The harness is machine washable and the little pants on the Rear Harness are easy to put on and take off. I also appreciate the long nylon straps on the harness because it allows owners to lift and guide their dog as they walk without straining their back. My only suggestion to improve this harness would be to add padding to the straps because the nylon handles can be a little rough.
HandicappedPets.com also offers:
Walkin’ Lift Combo Harness that provides complete lifting assistance and support for a dog’s front and rear legs.
Walkin’ Support Sling for dogs that can walk, but need support to their mid-section.
Walkabout FRONT Harness that supports a dog who needs help standing and walking.
GingerLead makes a variety of heavy-duty, quality slings for dogs of all sizes. They are great for dogs that have issues with balance, suffer from arthritis, Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) and hip dysplasia. They’re also beneficial for dogs recovering from a back injury or orthopedic surgery.
The company is named after a Golden retriever named Ginger who was diagnosed with severe hip dysplasia when she was 6 months-old. Ginger underwent a triple pelvic osteotomy (TPO) on her right hip and her family was given a sling to help her move about during recovery. The sling didn’t provide adequate support when the dog tried to play like a puppy and it didn’t give her owners a way to control her movement. They were afraid Ginger might injure the repair to her knee so they developed a harness that attached to her collar and leash. The product started a whole line of slings that has become the focus of the GingerLead Company. And if you’re wondering what happened to Ginger the Golden retriever; well she lived to be an old girl who passed away in 2015.
WalkAbout Harnesses was the first rear-lifting harness used in the veterinary rehab industry and the first harness introduced for home use. It is the brand I used for my dog Sophie. The harness was developed by veterinary physical therapist, Cathy Erwin, who has worked in the field for more than 30 years. The Walkabout back end harness is made from durable, but soft materials that cushion a dog’s body and protect from pressure sores. The handles make it easy for owners to move their pet around. WalkAbout makes a variety of mobility products for disabled pets with each product being clinically tested before it is released to the public.
WalkAbout also offers:
The AirLift One breathable support harness
The Walkabelly Support Sling
The Hoistabout for dogs recovering from surgery
The company also custom designs a harness for dogs and other pets with special needs.
Help ‘Em Up is a sturdy full body dog-lifting harness for canines that need assistance with standing and walking, climbing stairs or being lifted into a vehicle. It’s a complete shoulder and hip harness system with handles that enable pet parents to lift a dog or provide assistance with mobility. It’s a great harness for aging dogs, dogs with arthritis, DM and those recovering from surgery. I personally know a fellow animal writer who used this harness extensively during her German shepherd’s battle with Degenerative Myelopathy.
Help ‘Em Up is unique because it is designed to stay on a dog for extended periods of time. It also alleviates the need for additional equipment like a doggie ramp because the design makes it easy for pet parents to lift and transfer their handicapped dog. The harness also comes in a design with a moveable pelvic pad that gives additional support for dogs that have problems with their spine.
AST has been creating individually designed harnesses for senior, injured, disabled and amputee dogs since 2006. Their most popular harness is the Pet Support Suit which is built to fit your dog’s specific body shape and measurements. The company also offers the Get-a-Grip harness for dogs who need assistance for a short period of time. They’re great for canines recovering from surgery.
While AST works with individual dogs, they’re best known for their professional capabilities. The company supplies harnesses and slings to rehab centers throughout the US. One rehab center uses the Pet Support Suit as a winch to comfortably get dogs in and out of their hydrotherapy pool. You can read more about AST on their website.
WiggleLess is a unique veterinary approved back brace for dogs with IVDD (Intervertebral Disc Disease). Thousands of dogs live with the pain of IVDD and the WiggleLess back brace can greatly lessen their discomfort. The one-piece brace is made of a breathable, lightweight material that is designed to stabilize the spinal column. It relieves stress on a dog’s back while providing firm back support.
There are many other brands of harnesses and slings for handicapped dogs. If you’re thinking about one of these products be sure to consider if they are made of a durable material that anatomically works with your dog’s condition. The product should be comfortable for your dog and allow you to have control of your pet’s movements.
Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian. These products are my recommendations after reviewing many different harnesses for handicapped dogs. If you are considering the purchase of a harness, sling or brace be sure to discuss it with your dog’s vet before making buying one. I do have an affiliation with HandicappedPets.com.