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Caring for a Paralyzed Pet

Hearing your dog or cat is paralyzed is scary, but it doesn’t have to be. Euthanasia is no longer the only option. With proper mobility assistance, veterinary care, and regular exercise a paralyzed pet can live long and happy lives. 

When a dog’s limb or limbs become paralyzed, the dog’s reflexes, sensation, and ability to move are all affected. In many cases, a paralyzed leg will drag or knuckle under as the dog walks.

What Causes a Dog to Become Paralyzed?

Dogs experience paralysis when there is a disruption in communication between the spinal cord and their brain. What leg is affected, as well as the severity of the paralysis, is determined by the location of the traumatic injury in the brain, spine, nerves or muscles. A dog may become paralyzed for many reasons. Some of the most common causes of canine paralysis include:

Paralyzed dog can walk and run in dog wheelchair
  • Traumatic injury
  • Degenerative Myelopathy
  • Tumor or cancer in the spine or brain
  • IVDD or slipped disk
  • FCE or Spinal Stroke
  • Spinal inflammation
  • Neurological problems
  • Polymyositis or polyneuritis
  • Blocked blood flow in the spine or brain

Front Leg Paralysis – A dog experiencing paralysis in a front leg likely has a nerve injury at the neck, shoulder, brachial plexus, or in the leg itself.

Rear Leg Paralysis – Paralysis in a dog’s hind limb is usually associated with nerve damage in the lower back or tailbone.

Treatment and Paralyzed Pet Care Tips

A dog’s treatment plan will depend on the location and severity of the nerve damage. Dogs experiencing any form of paralysis need to be seen by their Veterinarian as soon as possible. Vets may recommend crate rest, applying heat to the affected area, gentle massage, and gentle stretching. 

Crate Rest and Taking it Slow

When your dog first becomes paralyzed, many Veterinarians will recommend crate rest. Crate rest helps a dog to heal safely and gives time for any inflammation to subside. This gives your dog and their Vet time to develop a safe treatment plan and decide on what the next steps will be. How long your dog will need to stay on crate rest depends on their diagnosis. If surgery is recommended to treat a pet’s paralysis, their crate rest will likely extend into their post-operative care as well.

Physical Therapy

Physiotherapy is an important part of the healing process for paralyzed dogs. Follow your Vet’s guidance and start slow. Canine physical therapy helps pets regain strength, increase muscle mass, prevent atrophy, and improve a dog’s passive range of motion. Although physical therapy may not help a paralyzed dog walk again, it can greatly aid in their overall recovery. Possible therapies include: hydrotherapy, stretching, laser therapy, acupuncture, as well as structured exercises.

Rehab therapy can take time and patience. Physical rehabilitation improves a paralyzed pet’s mobility and also their mental health. Keeping your dog active and mobile improves its overall quality of life and keeps paralyzed dogs happy.

Keep Them Active: Mobility Assistance for a Paralyzed Pet

Wheelchair for dog with hip dysplasia

It’s important for all pets to stay active and exercise, even paralyzed pets. Dogs want to run and play, when they can no longer enjoy these activities, they become depressed.

Getting your paralyzed pet up on their feet and moving again can make an incredible impact on their mental and physical health. Dog wheelchairs are key to improving your paralyzed dog’s mobility. Wheelchairs are designed to support your dog’s weakened or immobile limbs and help them to stand on their own again. With the support of their cart, a disabled pet can get back to enjoying all their favorite activities and get back to leading a normal, active life. 

Dog Wheelchair Benefits:

  • Allows your dog to pee and pee
  • Increased mobility while in the wheelchair helps encourage dogs “to go”
  • Improves blood circulation
  • Reduces pressure on painful joints
  • Combine wheelchairs with physical rehab sessions
  • Allows dogs to enjoy their daily walk
  • Prevents muscle atrophy
  • Help maintain muscle tone and strength 

Lifting Aids for a Paralyzed Dog

Harness to help dog up stairs

There are countless challenges your dog will face. Paralyzed dogs can struggle to use the stairs, jump into a car, or stand up on their own. A lifting harness provides the support they need to get around when they aren’t using their wheelchair. Different harness styles exist depending on the type of support a dog needs.

A dog who is paralyzed in the rear requires a rear lifting harness that supports their hind legs. The Warrior Rear Harness creates a comfortable saddle for a dog to sit in and can be used in or out of their wheelchair. When only a quick boost is needed, and your dog needs to get outside fast, the lifting harness is a quick and easy solution.

Larger paralyzed pets will benefit from a harness designed to support their bigger build. The Buddy Up Harness is available in both front and rear harnesses, which can be worn separately or as a set. Additionally, the harnesses are compatible with the Walkin’ Wheels dog wheelchair.

Indoor Activity for Handicapped Pets

Keeping a special needs pet active indoors can be even trickier. For bigger dogs, a wheelchair may be difficult to maneuver in tight spaces. Many pet parents will use the wheelchair for outdoor exercise and switch to a drag bag for easy indoor mobility. Indoor scooters make it possible for paralyzed dogs to easily move around corners and furniture. The scooter’s low profile makes it possible for dogs to lay down and rest when they need to, something they aren’t able to do in a wheelchair.


Hearing your dog or cat is paralyzed can be a shock, but there are plenty of options available. With a little extra care, the right mobility tools, and a treatment plan, your pet can live a long, active life.

See All Walkin' Pets Products Ritchie Mini Wheelchair

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