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Mobility slings and lifting harnesses can be used to help pets with physical challenges stay active, whether it’s assisting a dog to go outside or helping him maneuver up the stairs. Before using a harness or sling, it’s essential to follow your veterinarian’s recommendation on any procedures, medication or other physical therapy which could benefit your dog and ease his level of discomfort. Only use a sling or towel for mobility while under the direction of your veterinarian.
If your veterinarian recommends a sling, it’s important to ask what type of lifting harness would be best for your pooch. There are a variety of options: Some harnesses lift near the dog’s chest to alleviate pressure on the front end, while others lift in the middle of the dog’s belly or at the rear end of the dog. Another option is a harness that lifts both the front and rear to give the dog full-body assistance. Whatever harness you choose, it is important your dog be comfortable with the fit. Look for a harness with padding in areas that can chafe, such as between the legs, and at the pressure points where the harness will be lifting.
Towels can temporarily serve as improvised slings for less extensive injuries or for short-term assistance. To create a temporary sling, roll up a soft towel a few times lengthwise and fit it underneath the dog’s belly, being careful to avoid sensitive areas underneath, especially for male dogs. Attach a leash to your dog's collar, and use it to lead him; use your other hand to grasp the towel and gently lift the dog up. A towel is not nearly as comfortable for a dog as a harness, however, and doesn’t fit as securely, meaning that your dog may slide or fall out. A mobility harness is the method of choice for long-term assistance.
When you fit the harness, it’s helpful to have someone sit facing your dog's head, to speak reassuringly and deliver treats or petting while you fit the dog in the harness. Giving your dog tasty treats during the fitting will help him to have a positive association with the harness and may help him relax while wearing the equipment. Be sure the harness fits snugly around your dog while still providing enough room to allow natural movement.
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