Exploring ideas for affordable, sustainable, enjoyable living.

Dog Wheelchair Odyssey

A week before his demise, our five-and-a-half-year-old St. Bernard, Dagda, suffered with hips that had deteriorated enough that he needed help to stand up but, once up, he could walk on his own, although he was a little wobbly and would sometimes fall down. My hope was that we could customize a wheelchair so that we could lift him into it and then he’d be stabilized enough to move around on his own. Dagda agreed, so I helped him post an ad on Craigslist. Lots of people responded…I hope that folks are as willing to donate used wheelchairs to needy humans as they are to crippled Saint Bernards.

Anyway, we got the chair and, due to Dagda’s unusual size, it required some additional modifications, compared to the web link that had inspired our quest. By the time we had it fitted to him, his condition had deteriorated substantially. His doctor thinks that he had a degenerative (spinal) disk disorder, in addition to the hip dysplasia. He could no longer shift himself from lying on his side (sleeping) to lying on his belly (Sphinx position) on his own. His steroid pills made him very thirsty, so he would cry at night and need to be propped up to drink water approximately once per hour. I slept on the couch next to him and helped him up many times every night during his last few days. He also lost control of his bladder and it turns out that puppy pads are no match for the amount of urine produced by a steroid-fueled 180-pound dog.

We did give him a chance to try out the wheelchair, but since it couldn’t help him with his nightly struggles, it wasn’t a viable solution for the long-term. It did work nicely, though, (with brakes on) for propping him up so we could give him a bath. See the pictures of Dagda in his wheelchair, below. This kind of chair may work well for dogs with hip issues only.

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