We have two articles coming out this month featuring dogs that have severe disabilities. (The first, A Halo for Lacie, was published on April 5th.) Despite the odds, both these pets have recovered and are able to live happy lives with their owners. A severe disability isn't a death sentence for a pet; there are many assistive devices that an owner and pet can use that can improve quality of life for both.
Here at the Ann Arbor Animal Hospital we have found that our most popular devices for helping dogs climb stairs and get into and out of cars is the Ruffwear Web Master Harness. This harness is effective for dogs that can support some weight on their rear legs. Another harness option for helping a dog get up is called the Help 'em up Dog Harness.
If a pet is paraplegic and unable to use its rear legs, there is a cart offered through K9carts.com that assists with mobility. This cart acts as a wheelchair and supports a dog's rear legs while it walks with the front.
To help assist young cats with exploration, visibility and scratching, consider buying a vertical cat climber. These are available at Pet Smart or online from websites like CozyCatFurniture.com.
To help with your older cat's aches and pains, heated cat beds are available at many local pet stores.
In addition to the aforementioned article on Lacie, we have another one to come on a dog named Yogert. Both dogs in these articles were blind and benefited from an assistive device called a Halo. The Halo has a harness that Velcroes around the neck and torso of the dog, with “wings” that come up behind the animals head. Attached is a circular piece of plastic that will bump into hard surfaces, alerting the dog to the location of objects in its environment. Visit Muffin's Halo for more information.
With the focus of our blog this month on pets with disabilities we are hoping to encourage pet owners to think about all options when a diagnosis is made that will dramatically alter a pet's physical abilities. There are many options out there to help a pet continue to live a happy, full life. However, we also realize that this is a hard decision to make and that many factors are involved when thinking about caring for a pet with severe disabilities. Hopefully the personal stories we publish and the information included in this article will help an owner make a more informed decision.