When Zuko turned 14 years old in 2012, we started to notice a gradual breakdown of his neurological system, which started with his legs intermittently collapsing under him. His rear paws started knuckling over until eventually he lost the use of his back legs. The condition, known as canine degenerative myelopathy (or DM) specific to his breed, moved forward until he was no longer able to hold his back straight, and then it affected the use of his front legs. DM is painless for the dog, but it robs them of mobility and normal functions. It is compared to ALS in humans and there is no cure.
Pictured on the left, Zuko walks again in his new Walkin’ Wheels wheelchair purchased from Handicapped Pets – Walkin’ Wheels Dog Wheelchairs.
Zuko had an incredible will and lust for life, despite the fact he was disabled. His happy face and contentment with always being near us, as he had been all his life, kept us trying to engage him, encourage him, and make him comfortable. For the last year and a half of his life when he could no longer get up, he depended on us for everything. He was happiest cradled in our arms, and we chose to help our loyal friend and family member along. Ending his life just because he couldn’t walk wasn’t an option for us. He was an important part of our family and we literally carried him to the end. When he passed away in 2016 at the age of 18, he literally took a piece of our hearts with him.
We hope the following product suggestions can help others sustain their dogs life when they are met with the same challenges we were. God bless you for trying.
The Handicapped Pets Walkin’ Wheels wheelchairs for dogs is highly recommended. It was previously and happily used by Zuko, our German Shepherd mix with long legs (35-35 lbs). He used size “medium” and needed quad bars.
I remember back to when we were looking online for a dog wheelchair, just like you. We can say from first hand experience that the joy you will see in your dog’s eyes when they realize they can walk again and the happiness it will bring you to have found a solution is beyond measure. First of all, if you have even looked this far, you should be complimented for the extra effort you are taking to help this very special member of your family.
This Walkin’ Wheels Wheelchair helped our boy live a happy and comfortable life after he lost his ability to walk. The basic wheelchair is used to support the rear legs only. If your dog’s front legs are too weak to support their weight, then quad bars can be added to support their front legs too. The wheelchair helped to extend our boy’s life for over 1 1/2 years. The support of the quad bars allowed him to walk using his front legs with the back legs in stirrups. The cart also provided a means from him to “stand,” instead of always laying down when he could not get up anymore.
*We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. We are also a member of the Handicapped Pets Affiliate Program. Many of the recommended products we have had personal experience using in aiding our disabled dog.
The Senior Dog
Written June, 2015. For an update, visit our SENIOR DOG BLOG tab above.
When we adopted Zuko nearly 16 years ago, we were sent home with a care package from the shelter. Inside was a small 4 ¼” x 5 ¼” piece of paper with tiny font that was entitled “Ten Things a Dog Asks of Its Family,” from the now out of print book, “Choosing a Shelter Dog” by Bob Christiansen. Number 9 said, “Take care of me when I get old; you, too, will grow old.” The thought made me cry. “Love me when I’m old. Of course we will, little guy.” At the time it sounded so far away. Zuko had such energy that he was never a dog you could imagine slowing down or “getting old.” Our boy is now 16, and he has slowed down. He’s not as wiry and energetic as he used to be, but his core personality is still there. Zuko is still as curious as ever. When we open a box we received, he is always there checking it out to see if there’s anything in there for him.
We are fortunate that Zuko’s blood work has been good, his xrays show little sign of arthritis, and he still wants to be included in everything we do, especially when it comes to car rides. Yes, he sleeps a lot more and has accidents once in a while, but he is actually a more mild mannered, well behaved version of his earlier youthful self, and in some ways, even a more enjoyable dog for us to handle now that he is older.
Unfortunately though, as he is a German Shepherd mix and Shepherd’s are notorious for developing hind leg and lower back problems as they age, Zuko is no different. It is heartbreaking to see him struggle to walk or get up and down sometimes. He stopped wagging his tale a year or so ago, but in other ways shows us he is happy. The vet assures us he is not in any pain, which has been our observation of him. We are still seeking and hoping for a cure. As Michael likes to say— “The front half is 6 years old and the back half is 16.” His spirit is in conflict with his body.
We try to exercise Zuko by taking him on the frequent walks he is accustomed to, which is usually four walks a day. Exercise is very important. Sometimes he can still make it around the block and other times he lets us know he just doesn’t feel like it, and that is okay too. If his rear legs start collapsing or he seems to be losing his balance, we use a backend harness to help him and guide him with his front end harness. There is a knack to it. It would be impossible to walk Zuko with just a back end harness alone. By picking up his rear end he can run again, and if he loses total control of his back legs we are prepared to have a cart made for him. We have noticed that the more we use the harness, the more he will let go and just let us carry his rear. We absolutely have to use it to take him up and down two flights of stairs. Carrying a 37lb dog in your arms is not overbearing at first, but eventually both of us starting having knee pain and looked for an alternative. The back end harness was it. One of us takes the front and the other takes the back, and it is possible for one of us to manage both if we’re very careful.
Most people would agree that 16 years is a long time for a dog to live, but records show that dogs have lived well into their 20s. When you see that your little guy or little girl still has vitality and the will to live, you will do just about anything to help them.
This information is to bring awareness and give animal mommies and daddies hope that there are good products to assist them and their aging dogs. For many of us, our dogs and cats are like children, and we want to enjoy them and enrich their lives for as long as we can.
©1998-2018 Original Zuko the Dog