Dog in a Wheelchair at the Beach | Taste of the Wild

In a world of designer dogs, there’s a special beauty to those who are, well, less than perfect. That includes the dogs with visible disabilities, who may have lost a limb or an eye, as well as those with less obvious impairments, such as deafness, anxiety or phobias.

Time and again, these dogs show us how to rise in the face of adversity and eschew self-pity as they clear off every item on the coffee table with one sweep of their happy tails. Thankfully, veterinarians and other animal health specialists are hard at work to help these dogs maintain mobility and live their fullest lives.

Canine prosthetics

Dogs may lose a limb for any number of reasons. With some types of cancer or leg fractures that are beyond repair, limb amputation can be life saving. Other dogs may simply be dealt the short stick genetically, resulting in birth defects that make walking a challenge. Still others, unfortunately, suffer from neglect by their owners.

In one instance, neighbors in South Carolina called the police to report that the Great Dane next door was tied up outdoors and emaciated. When the police arrived, they discovered the dog had chewed off the lower portion of his right rear leg to try to get away. After treatment and care from a local animal rescue organization, the dog regained strength but had trouble walking.

Enter Animal Ortho Care, a company in Sterling, Virginia, that creates custom-made thermoplastic prosthetics. Although many dogs adapt to three legs without a prosthetic, the company has created braces or prosthetic limbs for 20,000 animals, from dogs and cats to horses, sheep, birds and elephants, since it began in 2004.

Have wheels, will travel

Some dogs lose the use of their legs because of spinal cord injuries, degenerative conditions or other problems. In these cases, smaller dogs can be carried in modified infant slings or backpacks or even pulled in a wagon. If the dog has lost use of its rear limbs, the back end can be supported with portable slings or wheelchairs to help maintain mobility.

No sight or hearing? No problem

Pets may lose their eyesight because of trauma, cataracts or other conditions such as glaucoma (high eye pressure). Most adapt quite well, as long as you don’t move the furniture too often and don’t leave them unsupervised around stairs. Blind pets may be trained to follow sounds such as claps, clicks or whistles.

Loss of hearing is common in older dogs but may occur earlier from chronic ear infections and other causes. These dogs can also learn to follow hand signals in lieu of verbal commands.

With the help of dedicated health care professionals and patient owners, dogs with disabilities can maintain their mobility and live long, satisfying lives.

The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.