Dogs in a stroller
Impaired mobility is a common condition in dogs. Sometimes it is due to an illness or injury, such as a slipped disc or healing fracture. Other times your veterinarian puts the kibosh on exercise following surgery or to improve the chances of a successful outcome, as in the case of  heartworm disease treatment. But hanging out in a crate for six weeks is not any dog’s idea of a good time.

For dogs with impaired mobility, finding the right set of wheels for getting around town — for fun if the doctor allows it or to necessary veterinary appointments — can require some creativity and persistence. One common solution comes from our childhood. 

Waggin’ in a Little Red Wagon

The wagons our mothers used to take us to the post office or playground — or that we now use to pull our kids or grandkids around — can be repurposed for your mobility-impaired dog. If you have a traditional low-sided wagon, you may need an assistant for your wagon trips to ensure your dog does not jump or fall out. Some of the newer models have taller, removable sides that can help to keep your dog in the wagon. One version of the little red wagon is outfitted with a canopy that is perfect if you live somewhere sunny or if you have a dog who is susceptible to overheating. There are even all-terrain wagons with heavy-duty wheels that can smoothly navigate various ground surfaces.

Wagon Features

Wagons are no longer necessarily little or red, and many offer features that make them useful for transporting a mobility-impaired dog. When hunting for a wagon, it goes without saying that you need one designed to carry the weight of your dog and also accommodate the length of your dog’s body. Since you are getting a wagon for a mobility-impaired dog, a flip-down tailgate for easy loading would be very practical. Ditto for an easily cleanable, removable floor. Because your dog is closer to the hot pavement than you are, keep in mind the ventilation of the wagon. Be sure it is adequate to help prevent overheating during the summer months. I would choose a wagon with inflatable, bicycle-style-tire wheels for a smooth ride if you intend to travel on rough terrain. If storage space is limited, consider a folding wagon.
Dog sitting next to wagon

Push Me or Pull You?

The traditional little red wagon has a pull-type handle, but there are newer models designed for dogs that have a stroller-style handle. Deluxe models have adjustable, telescoping or even removable handles. The Cadillac of wagons has both a pull-type handle and a stroller handle.

Customize Your Own Wagon

In my neighborhood, there is a handsome Golden Retriever who rides around in a semihomemade cart. One day, I stopped his person and asked about the cart. She said the cart started out as a bicycle trailer for a standing dog and she adapted it for moving her mobility-impaired 70-pound canine around. She chose this trailer because it had a stroller-type handle she could attach to the back to push it in addition to the bike attachment on the front end. She added a piece of wood in the bottom of the cart to lengthen it, so her dog could comfortably lie down rather than stand up. The take-home message? Personal ingenuity can help make your dog’s conveyance as comfortable and safe as possible.

Speaking of Strollers

I must admit I was a stroller skeptic until I talked to a friend who helped me grasp the multiple uses of dog strollers. When choosing a stroller, most of the same criteria for choosing a wagon applies — appropriate size, correct wheels for the expected terrain, a safe and comfortable place for your dog to ride and sit in, and a comfortable handle for you. One major difference between wagons and strollers though is that cats can also use such a vehicle, because you can safely and completely contain your pet inside. Many strollers have coverings that can securely zip your cat or small dog in — turning it into a kind of pet carrier on wheels.

Should you need to restrict your cat’s mobility for medical or safety reasons, such as during a party when the potential for an escape is high, consider the stroller “chariot.” Its thronelike construction may appeal to your cat’s vision of herself as a feline goddess (although make sure you never stroll her into an environment where she might be stressed or panicked). And strollers aren’t just for small pets. Strollers can be found for dogs who weigh 100 pounds or more.

Other helpful features to keep in mind when assessing strollers include height from the ground, whether it can be folded with one hand, and the overall quality of the construction. For a small, portable pet, the stroller can be either high or low, since it will be easy to get your pet into the stroller. If you have a big dog requiring assistance, however, a lower stroller may save you from back strain.

Like many baby strollers, some pet strollers now offer one-handed folding. This feature makes it possible to collapse the stroller with one hand while you hold the leash or carrier in the other hand. If you intend to use the stroller to jog with your dog, start by taking the empty stroller for a test run to see if you think it will be comfortable for both of you. And before you head out for a first spin with your stroller or wagon with your pet inside, carefully introduce him to your chosen conveyance at home and practice a bit with it.

Once you find the right one for your pet’s needs, a wagon or stroller can be a slick solution to keeping your mobility-impaired pet waggin’ while visiting his veterinarian and engaging in everyday family life. 

More from Vetstreet: