I’ve written a lot about using a harness, dog wheelchair, cart and stroller to move a dog with a spinal condition or injury from one point to another. But no matter how many devices you have there will be times when you have to manually lift or carry your dog.
When those times happen pet owners need to know the Dos and Don’ts of lifting so you can protect your dog’s spine. Learning the right way to lift a dog who suffers from arthritis, IVDD (Intervertebral Disc Disease), Degenerative Myelopathy, FCE strokes and other forms of paralysis will prevent further injuries.
Before we get started here’s important info to keep your dog’s spine healthy
I wasn’t aware of ways to prevent spine problems from occurring until I read an article by Peter Dobias, DVM. He wrote that when small breed dogs are carried incorrectly, they’re more likely to develop back problems. Dr. Dobias said people tend to lift little dogs with one hand and support their entire bodyweight by holding the dog with one arm. This causes an unnatural position that lets the hind legs to dangle and puts increased pressure on the lower spine. It also creates a greater than normal curve to the upper spine.
The right way to carry a small breed dog is by lifting them up with two hands and then creating a flat platform with your arms where your dog can sit in a natural position.
Here are pictures to help you see what happens with one-hand lifting
The right way to lift a dog with spinal problems
Like little dogs, your paralyzed pup should always be lifted and carried with two arms. Never jerk or pull a dog who can’t walk on their own. And keep these 3 rules in mind: hold the dog as close to your body as possible, keep the spine straight as you lift, and support the front and back end at the same time.
Here are the steps to take:
- Slip one arm around the front of dog so the head can rest in crook of your arm. Be sure to avoid the throat area to prevent choking the dog.
- Slide your other arm under the dog’s stomach, just in front of his hind legs. If this is not comfortable for the dog, you can slide your arm across his hindquarters and pick up him by supporting his rump and back legs.
- Stand up gently and slowly. Don’t jerk the dog, especially if he is injured. Hold the dog close against your chest.
- Set the dog down gently. If he is not able to stand, lie him down on your arms and gently slide your arms out from under him. Always place the dog down with his paws toward the floor, not on his back or side.
The Veterinary Specialty Hospital of San Diego put together a helpful video.
This demonstration shows you how to lift and carry a paralyzed dog from the Veterinary Specialty Hospital of San Diego:
One final tip about the right way to lift a dog with spine problems
If you have any doubt as to whether you are correctly lifting your dog or if your dog is too heavy for you to carry, please remember how a simple towel can be used as a sling. The technique is called towel walking or sling walking and it allows you to safely lift your dog so you can move them. It works in the same way as a professionally made support sling or rear lifting harness in that it provides support without putting too much pressure on organs and joints.
All you need is a large bath or beach towel that is strong enough to support the weight of your dog. The towel must be long enough to pass under your dog’s belly and be pulled up into two handles at the top for you to grab.
You can read more about the technique here: How A Towel Can Be Used For Sling Walking A Dog
Check out our list of products to make daily life easier for you and your disabled dog.