Ambulatory Carts


There’s a new hope for paraplegic dogs who can lead a normal life…thanks to the ambulatory carts developed for them!

A paraplegic dog…
A variety of disease conditions affect the spinal cord, resulting in severe neurological deficits, disability and paraplegia. The most common causes are fractures of the vertebrae, disc prolapse and degeneration of the spinal cord. Dogs with acute spinal cord injury are unresponsive to medical management alone. The key to treating such cases is immediate medical stabilization followed by surgical intervention at the earliest. Dogs who are paraplegic at the time of surgery have a poor chance of recovery than non-paraplegic dogs and hence need to be rehabilitated and have a reasonable chance of being a functional pet. However, most often it is difficult to undertake such procedures as facilities for diagnosis and technical expertise for surgery is beyond the reach of most pet owners in our country.
The problems…
Affected animals have a very low quality of life, suffer from bed sores, wounds on the skin due to urine contamination and do not have any control over their bowels and urination.
The care…
Paraplegic dogs require considerable nursing care, including keeping them dry and clean, making sure that they receive proper nutritional and fluid intake and rehabilitation. Managing such cases is extremely difficult and involves a lot of time, effort and supportive care by the owner.
In India, many of these dogs are put to sleep on sympathetic grounds.
Ambulatory carts…a solution
Walking carts are available in developed countries to aid in ambulation of paraplegic dogs and help in improving the quality of life of these patients. However, patented non-ambulatory carts are not available for use in India as these carts are expensive and are beyond the reach of common pet owner. But indigenously developed ambulatory carts using locally available materials have been developed to improve their quality of life.
The basic requirements…
Animals considered for the fittings should meet the following criteria:

  • Owner compliance to instructions.
  • Body score ranging from fair to good.
  • Bladder control management with medical therapy/manual evacuation.

The pet parent role…
It is emphasized that owner compliance is absolutely essential for the care and maintenance of these carts. For patients fitted with a cart, food and water should be available in an elevated position because they cannot eat from a bowl on the floor. These dogs must also be restricted from use of stairs unless assisted, because of the risk of falling. Dogs should also be provided with unobstructed space to have a free run. They should be checked routinely for evidence of any pressure sores. Carts can be removed easily during the night and refitted in the morning. The dogs need to be provided cage rest with soft bedding when he is non-ambulatory. Passive physiotherapy such as a kneading massage and hydrotheraphy is encouraged to promote muscle development.
Dogs adapt to the carts very well and fit in to the philosophy ‘Life is movement, Movement is life’.
(Dr S Ayyappan (M VSc, PhD, Post doc (USA)), is an Associate Professor of Small Animal Orthopaedic and Neurosurgery, Madras Veterinary College, Chennai. He possesses 19 years of clinical experience in small animal surgery, intensive care and emergency medicine.)