Dog in a homemade wheelchair

My best buddy Ozo(10 years old) has degenerative Myelopathy, and hasn’t been able to walk unassisted since February of this year. It took him almost a year to get that way from the first time we saw he was having problems walking in smooth surfaces. We have done about everything we can for him medically.

 

The difference here is that I saw a news program several years ago about people building wheelchairs for dogs. It stuck in my mind and when Ozo got to the point of not walking by himself, I looked into one. I found (like you) that the $400+ price tag was more than I could now afford. I talked with several friends about helping out with the cost (actually they tried to convince me) and was about to do it, when the thought came to me to try and build one myself.

I looked at every photo I could find of any kind of dog cart. I found things I liked, and things I didn’t and designed one that I thought I could make. I could write pages about this process as it was quite an ordeal to get to the point where I actually got one I liked.

Ozo has been using his cart daily, and he hasn’t missed a single walk since February. You should see his face when he goes out………what a smile! We go out for an hour a day, seven days a week……..and have logged over 400 miles in that time! In the beginning, he could still use his rear legs with the support of the cart.

Then it became necessary to make him boots to keep his feet safe from him dragging them. About a month ago, I finally had to attach straps to hold his feet off the ground because he just couldn’t get them to step a full step anymore.
do it yourself dog cartIt was very hard to do because it showed me how this disease was progressing, and the muscles weren’t going to get the use. To my surprise………he actually goes faster now, and ventures off places he wouldn’t before. He still kicks his legs in the straps as he walks, so he is still getting some exercise as he walks.

Sorry this post turned out so long, but it feels good to share this info with someone in a similar situation. I would also like to make a few suggestions about the cart you are having
built.

Make sure there is plenty of padding in the places where the cart contacts the body. I bought the closed cell foam insulation that you put around water pipes to keep them from freezing. It is very inexpensive, and has a split in the side so it is easy to install.

After some experimenting, I put several layers where the cart contacts the neck, then wrapped it with electrical tape to keep it in place.

Next, really put some thought into the saddle where your dog will sit. You need to make sure it is cut away enough so he can do his business (front, and back). It also has to be soft, and or padded. I first used neoprene (from a wet suit that the local dive shop donated when he heard what I was attempting). It worked well, but you have to watch the front of the saddle as it has the most chance of rubbing and causing irritation. My wife finally made up this figure eight sort of a saddle that is very padded and soft.

I found that the height of the saddle is very important, as Ozo would refuse to walk unless I had it just right, not too high, not too low. In fact be prepared for your dog to possible not like the cart for the first few days. Ozo would lay his ears back and look upset at first. I had to lead him with a leash at first, but after about three days (make it as fun as possible, lots of good boys!!) he figures out that this was his “walkin’ machine”.

Another thing…….I would highly recommend large wheels. I used 16 inch rear wheels from an old lawn mower at first, but they are hard and heavy. I next used 16 inch wheels from a baby
jogging stroller. They are lighter, and since they have air in them, I think a softer ride. Smaller wheels just aren’t stable enough for a large dog.

One last thing that I can think of……the balance point of the cart is also important. If his saddle is directly over the center of the wheels the balance is pretty good. The further forward you put the saddle, the more the cart will press on his shoulder area, too far back, and the cart will want to tip over backwards. I settled on having the saddle several inches in
front of the center of the wheels. That way the cart doesn’t want to go over backwards, and there is just enough weight on his shoulders to keep the cart from wiggling around too much, but not so much as to be uncomfortable.

You will probably have to have some sort of strap to keep the cart from moving around on his neck. One final thought and I’ll close. I had the illusion (and many people I meet do) that I could build this cart and let my dog go and be a dog all by himself. I would highly recommend that he is supervised while in the cart, because…….they can tip over when the dog gets too
excited, or finds a ditch to go into, a small bush to drive over, etc.

I hope this of some help to you or anyone else that is in a similar situation out there. If I can answer an of your questions while the cart is being made, or when you do the first fitting, please let me know. Take care………..best of luck,
Randy

OZO’s Homemade Cart

I had a dog ten years ago (his name was Si) who lost the use of his rear legs rather suddenly at the ago of 14. The vet gave him some med’s for the pain, etc, but his age was prohibitive to any permanent fix. We helped him get around the best we knew how, but saw that the quality of his life was getting poor. He was extremely independent and didn’t like any assistance. Before very long, he had worn off most of his fur on his rump from dragging himself around the lawn.
make a cart for a dogMy wife made the appointment three times to have him put down…….but I just couldn’t do it. He was so much there mentally. I remember saying “if he was a human, we would go get him a wheelchair, and he could continue on for at least a little while more.”

The thought never occurred to me that just “that” could be done. I finally gave in, not seeing anything I could do and after seeing so many of our friends quietly shake their heads. I didn’t need to hear them say it out loud to know that they wondered if I was just keeping him alive for me, and not him.

Even though I have had to have pets put down before when they were incurable, it was the hardest thing I have ever done to take Si for that final trip to the vet. As a showing of respect I asked the vet to come out to our truck where I hugged him in a place where he liked to be as breathed his last breath.

As sad a story as that is…………let me continue with the present time.

I looked at every photo I could find of any kind of dog cart. I found things I liked, and things I didn’t and designed one that I thought I could make. I could write pages about this process as it was quite an ordeal to get to the point where I actually got one I liked.

Ozo has been using his cart daily, and he hasn’t missed a single walk since February. You should see his face when he goes out………what a smile! We go out for an hour a day, seven days a week……..and have logged over 400 miles in that time!

In the beginning, he could still use his rear legs with the support of the cart. Then it became necessary to make him boots to keep his feet safe from him dragging them. About a month ago, I finally had to attach straps to hold his feet off the ground because he just couldn’t get them to step a full step anymore.
do it yourself dog cartIt was very hard to do because it showed me how this disease was progressing, and the muscles weren’t going to get the use. To my surprise………he actually goes faster now, and ventures off places he wouldn’t before. He still kicks his legs in the straps as he walks, so he is still getting some exercise as he walks.

I would also like to make a few suggestions about the cart you are having built.

Make sure there is plenty of padding in the places where the cart contacts the body. I bought the closed cell foam insulation that you put around water pipes to keep them from freezing. It is very inexpensive, and has a split in the side so it is easy to install. After some experimenting, I put several layers where the cart contacts the neck, then wrapped it with electrical tape to keep it in place.

Next, really put some thought into the saddle where your dog will sit. You need to make sure it is cut away enough so he can do his business (front, and back). It also has to be soft, and or padded. I first used neoprene (from a wet suit that the local dive shop donated when he heard what I was attempting). It worked well, but you have to watch the front of the saddle as it has the most chance of rubbing and causing irritation.

My wife finally made up this figure eight sort of a saddle that is very padded and soft. I found that the height of the saddle is very important, as Ozo would refuse to walk unless I had it just right, not too high, not too low. In fact be prepared for your dog to possible not like the cart for the first few days.

Ozo would lay his ears back and look upset at first. I had to lead him with a leash at first, but after about three days (make it as fun as possible, lots of good boys!!) he figures out that this was his “walkin’ machine”.

Another thing…….I would highly recommend large wheels. I used 16 inch rear wheels from an old lawn mower at first, but they are hard and heavy. I next used 16 inch wheels from a baby jogging stroller. They are lighter, and since they have air in them, I think a softer ride.

Smaller wheels just aren’t stable enough for a large dog. One last thing that I can think of……the balance point of the cart is also important. If his saddle is directly over the center of the wheels the balance is pretty good. The further forward you put the saddle, the more the cart will press on his shoulder area, too far back, and the cart will want to tip over backwards.

I settled on having the saddle several inches in front of the center of the wheels. That way the cart doesn’t want to go over backwards, and there is just enough weight on his shoulders to keep the cart from wiggling around too much, but not so much as to be uncomfortable.

You will probably have to have some sort of strap to keep the cart from moving around on his neck.

I had the illusion (and many people I meet do) that I could build this cart and let my dog go and be a dog all by himself. I would highly recommend that he is supervised while in the cart, because…….they can tip over when the dog gets too excited, or finds a ditch to go into, a small bush to drive over, etc.

Updated 11/01/04

I haven’t checked in for a while…………..thanks for posting a page for Ozo! He is still doing fine in the cart and walking every day. I guess he is getting world famous with the web page now. He has had his picture taken by people from many places while on his walks, so no telling where they all end up. He has figured out that there are people in parking lots that make a fuss over him, so we have to make a pass through the local parking lot after every walk. He really lights up when people come over to him to say hello. I can’t tell you how often people tell me that he makes their day. Thanks again from me and Ozo.
Randy

Updated 10/25/04

Posted By: Randy
Date: Monday, 29 August 2005, at 1:37 p.m.

Hello, I haven’t been at this web site very regularly lately. Thought I would post an update on my dog Ozo. This site has given Ozo a space under the photo gallery page which I really appreciate. I had a look today and it made me feel very good to see that at the bottom of the page it says “This page has been responsible, in part, for a donation of $50.00 to www.Bestfriends.org”.”. Maybe this post will convince others to donate.

Now back to Ozo. He is still hanging in there, but his condition has progressed considerable from the last post. He has been incontinent since about September of last year. He has a large water proof bed in the house and one outside so we can keep him as comfortable as possible when not in the cart. Since he can’t roll over by himself anymore I have been getting up several times a night for about a year. Don’t even need an alarm clock……just habit now. Change his bedding if necessary and roll him over so he can be more comfortable.

He hasn’t used his rear lets in over a year, and now the front legs are very much affected by the degenerative Myelopathy. I started seeing symptoms in about the end of January. By March he was struggling to walk in his cart, so I made him a new one (number 6) that was a counter balance to take any weight off of his shoulders. That helped allot.

He went from looking like the walking days were over to getting along very well. I had to help him up the hills with a strap I attached to the bar that goes over his shoulders. When he would stumble I had to catch him. This became quite regular, so I could no longer just let him walk off on his own.

We went with this arrangement until July when the stumbling became so regular that I was afraid that either he might get hurt, or my elbow, shoulder and neck would give out. I then built him a quad cart. Basically the same as his last, but I added castor wheels on the front, with a strap to go under his chest. No more chance of falling, or problems to me from catching him all the time.
make a cart for a dogWe still take our daily walks, and have not missed a single walk since the first day in the cart. That was a year and a half on August 17 2005! I have a bicycle meter on his cart and we have logged 1100+ miles in that time.

It is sad to see him going so slow and needing my help, but he still wants to go for walks. The walks are much slower now. I have to help him on any incline, or in the thick grass because the caster wheels create some resistance, and because of the loss of function in his front legs. He gets very, very excited when it is time to go for a walk.

Some days we have to make the walks short, and other days we go our usual 2 and a quarter miles. I am told almost daily how much of an inspiration he is when people see his spirit and love for life. Especially people he has met who are in wheel chairs, or who have MS. They say they feel a bond with him.

That’s about all I can think of to write. I hope this is of some aid to anybody who wonders if a dog in this condition can have quality of life in a wheel chair. I feel that although he can’t do the things other dogs can, he still enjoys walking, sniffing, and meeting all the people and dogs who have made his life full even though this disease has taken so much from him. I have been trying to use this time to say goodbye to Ozo, but the end will never be easy. We will continue to walk for as long as he is willing and capable. It is the least I can do for him. Well……..that sure got long winded, but hopefully someone out there can benifit from the information.

Take care, Randy

P.S. I recently met with a local man whose dog also has DM and needs a cart. I was able to take the one usable cart I had and modify if to fit his dog. The first test ride was great. He got in the cart and used it right away. Once he gets the wheels he ordered another dog will be trucking along in a wheel chair cart.

On October 24th 2005 Ozo lost his battle with Degenerative Myelopathy.

He started showing symptoms of this disease around June of 2002, and by February of 2003 he had to depend on a wheelchair (cart) to get around.

By August of 2003 he lost the use of his rear legs, and they had to be strapped up to prevent injury from dragging.

From August, until October 6th Ozo walked every day, rain or shine. During the 20 months he was in his cart, Ozo missed only one walk, and logged an amazing 1257 miles total!

From October 6th until his passing, the disease progressed very rapidly, and he was only able to take four short walks during this time.

His spirit was strong until the very end, and I couldn’t be more proud of him! One of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make was that final trip to the vet.

Ozo didn’t show any symptoms of pain, but it was obvious by the severity of the final decline that it was time to let him go. Our vet is very compassionate and caring, and I can say that Ozo went very peacefully and quickly in my arms.

The last few days have been a blur of feeling vacant and emotionless, and then flooded with emotions.

I have often wondered what I might tell someone who had a dog that was just diagnosed with this disease. Would I tell them to end it now before they had to see the effects of this disease in the final days? I got my answer while gathering all the pictures I have of Ozo for a slide show to remember him with.

There are the pictures of him as a baby, then as a young dog reaching maturity, then an adult, and finally the cart years. The cart years gave me my answer. In every one of the pictures I see joy and a zest for life on his face.

To think that I might have robbed him of this time, just so I wouldn’t have to witness his decline is more that I can stand. It does take a lot of time and commitment that not everyone has the ability to do. I was fortunate to have a schedule flexible enough, and a wife understanding enough to make this something I could do. He was always a people dog who loved attention, but in the last year and a half he turned into a ham.

He wanted to greet anybody he saw, friend or stranger, adult or children……….especially children. We were lucky enough to live close to a beautiful off leash field where we could walk daily. Although Ozo was happy so see anybody, there were a few regular walkers that he formed a special bond with. He would get a burst of energy, and that famous Ozo smile when he spotted his special friends. It was almost comical to watch him scan the horizon looking for people.

Admittedly, the last month wasn’t the best for either of us, but if asked if I would do it again……………..Most Definitely I would!

Ozo was usually a clown, always loving, sometimes stubborn beyond belief, and sometimes just a pain in the ass, but I wouldn’t have traded him for any other.

Thank you, to all who read this story and feel touched because that is how I felt every day I watched this beautiful friend of mine make people smile, and appreciate life.
Take care,
Randy Foster
P.S. The picture below is in the first few months of him using his cart, with his friend.

how to make your own dog wheelchair

My best buddy Ozo (10 years old) has degenerative Myelopathy, and hasn’t been able to walk unassisted since February of this year. It took him almost a year to get that way from the first time we saw he was having problems walking in smooth surfaces. We have done about everything we can for him medically.

The difference here is that I saw a news program several years ago about people building wheelchairs for dogs. It stuck in my mind and when Ozo got to the point of not walking by himself, I looked into one. I found (like you) that the price tag was more than I could now afford.

I talked with several friends about helping out with the cost (actually they tried to convince me) and was about to do it, when the thought came to me to try and build on myself.