Vets help a scrappy canine stay mobile after spinal cord injury with dog wheelchair

Published: October 4, 2008  |  Source: wacotrib.com
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When Stella goes for a walk, she draws attention. Most people aren’t used to seeing a dog in a wheelchair.

But for owner Maggie Forbes, the contraption that she calls Stella’s “wheelie” is more than a way for her 12-year-old border collie mix to get around. She considers it a lifesaver for her pet.

Stella, the oldest of Forbes’ three dogs, suffered spinal cord damage about a year and a half ago. Forbes said the dogs were playing with her in the yard when Stella, who was born deaf, saw something to chase and darted into the street, where she was hit by a car.

Veterinarians determined that Stella didn’t suffer any broken bones or organ damage, Forbes said. Her spinal cord, however, was injured and she lost control of her hind legs. The legs sometimes kick uncontrollably, she said.

“We took her to the vet every day for therapy for two months,” she recalled. “But after that she sort of hit a plateau and wasn’t getting any better. So we looked for a permanent fix.”

The answers came on a Web search where Forbes found Doggon’ Wheels (www.doggon.com), which makes a variety of custom-fitted wheelchairs for pets.

Stella now gets around just fine in what they call her “wheelie.” The dog’s back legs are placed into straps, and she uses her front legs to go where she wants.

“She wouldn’t have lived without that,” said Forbes, noting how going out for a walk is the highlight of Stella’s day.

Forbes, a research associate at Baylor University’s Center for Reservoir and Aquatic Systems, said she’s often stopped by passers-by curious about Stella’s contraption. She said she hasn’t seen any other dogs in Waco with one, but several companies make similar wheelchairs. The devices also can help older, arthritic dogs get around, she said.

Beyond the spinal injury, Stella is a perfectly healthy dog, her owner said. Forbes and her husband will take Stella out of her “wheelie” and let her swim in Lake Waco.

At home, Stella rests on a foam pad, but once she’s harnessed in and gets to walk “she doesn’t realize that she’s injured,” Forbes said.

She’ll run around like a normal dog, dragging the wheelchair over curbs and being able to go most places.

Because of all that use, Forbes said Stella has gone through at least four or five sets of the small, inflatable wheels.

“They need to make a mountain-bike wheel,” she joked.

By Ken Sury
Tribune-Herald staff writer