British Columbia

B.C.-made dog wheelchair aims to keep old Rovers roving

A B.C. company, focused on helping dogs as they enter their golden years, is working on special light-weight wheelchairs to allow dogs to continue to move around as their mobility declines with age.

Wheelchair designed for senior dogs has 4 wheels and is made from lightweight material

The design features four wheels, as opposed to two, which is what most dog wheelchairs currently on the market use. (Ann-Marie Fleming)

A B.C. company is developing a special lightweight wheelchair to help dogs get around as their mobility declines with age.

Dog Quality, based in 100 Mile House, B.C., already sells dog diapers, strollers, pads, ramps and socks, all with the aim of improving life for senior and special-needs dogs.

Owner Ann-Marie Fleming said dog wheelchairs were a natural transition for the company. 

"So many senior dogs are capable of moving but they often have challenges around conditions such as arthritis, hip dysplasia, just overall muscle weakness ... We found the existing wheelchairs that are out there just aren't appropriate for their needs," she told Shelley Joyce, host of CBC's Daybreak Kamloops. 

Dog Quality's prototype, which was developed with the help of a team of researchers at BCIT, is a lightweight, carbon-fibre apparatus that uses four wheels instead of two. Dogs using it can still walk, but with extra support.

It's adjustable for dogs as they age and develop other conditions, and has a unique chest harness that protects internal organs, while supporting the dog's front. 

Ann-Marie Fleming, owner of Dog Quality, has been testing a wheelchair prototype for senior dogs on her own 17-year-old dog, Bamboo. (Ann-Marie Fleming)
The Dog Quality wheelchair is made of carbon fibre, making it light enough for older dogs to use. (Ann-Marie Fleming)

It also packs up flat to save space for shipping, and it's easier to assemble than other dog wheelchairs. 

Silvia Raschke, BCIT project leader and an expert in medical devices, said she's a "serial adopter" of senior dogs and has brought many Dog Quality products in the past.

Designing the wheelchair took about a year of research, including meeting prospective customers and talking to experts like veterinarians about what was required. 

"What you'll see is a lot of stuff based on two wheels," Raschke said. "On uneven terrain, it can be unstable. A senior with compromised mobility, what they need is four wheels."

Fleming said the wheelchair is the first of its kind, and it was developed specifically for senior dogs — not necessarily young dogs with mobility issues. 

"People forget that seniors are a completely different type of dog compared to a young dog," she said. "You may have a young dog that's paralyzed, and the devices that are out there right now are wonderful and life changing for those dogs, but there's never a one size fits all."

Dog Quality owner Ann-Marie Fleming of 100 Mile House wants to make mobility easier for all senior dogs. (Submitted by Ann-Marie Fleming)

Fleming has been testing the prototype on her own 17-year-old dog, Bamboo.

"[Bamboo] has been just another great example of a dog that just needs a little help but has so much fight and spirit that if you can just give them that help it's just wonderful to see them take off and continue to enjoy life the way it deserves to be enjoyed," she said. 

The wheelchairs are manufactured in 100 Mile House. Fleming hopes to have the wheelchairs, in sizes ranging from extra extra small to large, available by the end of 2020.

Daybreak host Shelley Joyce talks with Dog Quality owner, Ann-Marie Fleming, about a prototype wheelchair she has created to assist senior dogs. 8:00

With files from Daybreak Kamloops

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