July 16, 2024


The Intersection of Information and Insight

Helping Your Pup Heal: Using a Dog Wheelchair for a Knee Injury

6 min read

CL tears and cruciate injuries are common injuries for dogs. In fact, ACL ruptures occur more often in dogs than in humans! According to the National Library of Medicine, out of 100,000 dogs, approximately 2,610 will suffer from an ACL tear annually compared to under 75 humans in the same size group. In 73% of these cases, the dog will experience a rupture in both knees. Depending on the severity of the tear, a dog may have trouble walking or may be unable to bear any weight on its injured leg. Not only are canine knee injuries prevalent, but they can also severely impact a dog’s ability to stay active. A dog wheelchair can be used to prevent and rehabilitate knee injuries in dogs.   

Read on to learn more about canine cruciate injuries and how a wheelchair can help your dog stay active. 

vertebraVe Back Support
corgi wheelchair
Walkin’ Wheels Dog Wheelchair
German Shepherd combo harness for leg support
Walkin’ Combo Harness

Understanding Knee Injuries in Dogs 

Knee injuries are among the most common dog orthopedic injuries. Unlike human knee injuries that are generally caused by physical activity or trauma, dog knee injuries usually occur slowly over time. Most cruciate tears in dogs result from natural wear and tear rather than a specific injury or event. It is important to monitor your dog’s physical activity and provide them with the necessary care to prevent or manage this issue. 

Signs and symptoms of dog knee injuries 

There are many physical signs to look for when a dog has an injured knee, including: 

  • Lifting their back leg up off the ground 
  • Refusing to walk or bear weight on their hind limb 
  • Limping or only placing partial weight on its back leg 
  • Joint stiffness 
  • Sitting awkwardly – may have one leg out to the side or sit with legs splayed 
  • Whines or is uncomfortable while lying down 
  • Swelling – this can be around the knee joint or even down to the ankle 

Dogs showing any sign of pain or any change in how they move should be brought to your vet’s attention right away. Only a veterinary professional can diagnose and treat your dog.  

What happens to the joint when a dog tears their ACL? 

Large dog runs in Walkin' Wheels dog wheelchair

When a dog tears their ACL, it can cause the joint to become unstable. Putting weight on the limb can create a shearing force on the joint, causing the femur to slide backward on the surface of the tibial plateau. This can be painful for your dog and potentially damaging to the joint’s cartilage. The abnormal motion can cause excessive wear and tear on the cartilage surface, leading to arthritic changes in the joint.  

Canine cruciate injuries usually begin as a partial tear that gradually worsens until it becomes a complete tear. In most cases, surgery is recommended to repair the tear. During the waiting period before surgery, or while recovering dogs tend to shift their weight to their good leg, which can strain their other knee. It is important to seek the help of a veterinarian to properly diagnose the severity of your dog’s knee injury and provide them with the necessary treatment.  

Can my dog use a wheelchair before knee surgery? 

Using a cart can be beneficial for dogs as they await knee surgery. Although most dogs will need knee surgery within a week or so, the period between initial tear and corrective surgery is an important time. With a knee injury the dog will hobble on three legs, this can cause discomfort. Using a wheelchair will provide balanced support, allowing a dog to stand naturally without tweaking their spine and prevent any unnecessary joint strain. Because the wheelchair makes it easier for your dog to move and walk, they are less likely to experience muscle atrophy or cause any further damage to their knees and other joints.  

The Role of a Dog Wheelchair in Knee Injury Recovery 

When a dog is injured, a wheelchair can be a helpful aid in their healing process. The cart acts as a crutch to reduce the weight placed on the injured joint and provides support, enabling your dog to walk without causing further harm. A wheelchair’s support will allow for increased mobility, supports weight bearing, prevents further damage to the affected knee and reduces the risk of injuring the healthy knee. 

Here are a few ways dogs can use and benefit from a cart after knee surgery: 

Getting outside after surgery 

Although crate rest is necessary after surgery, you will still need to get your dog up and get them outside throughout the day. It’s important that when your dog is standing that they don’t put any unneeded stress on the suture line or put too much strain on their other knee. A wheelchair can help limit the risk and prevent this from happening. By distributing the dog’s weight evenly across their body and supporting both legs, the cart helps your dog to stand properly. Without a wheelchair’s support the dog will place its full weight on the uninjured leg which can cause further injury and strain.  

Aiding the rehabilitation process 

Dog in wheelchair stands during laser therapy

After a period of two to four weeks of crate rest following the operation, dogs usually have their sutures removed and can begin the rehabilitation process. It is essential to work on the dog’s leg, knee, and muscles as it plays a crucial role in their recovery. When a dog’s leg is unused, it can lead to muscle atrophy and loss of strength. A dog wheelchair can aid in the rehabilitation process for dogs with knee injuries, both when they are working with their therapist and at home in between sessions.  

During rehab sessions a wheelchair can be used as a stand during underwater treadmill exercises or to help a dog stay upright during massage therapy or stretching. During a rehab session, the trainer will also teach the pet parent how to do similar exercises at home. Many of which will be required several times during the day. These exercises are incredibly important to help prevent muscle cramps, rebuild circulation, and promote healing and recovery. 

The wheelchair is just one tool available to support your dog’s recovery process. During your dog’s recovery, it’s also crucial to have regular veterinary check-ups to monitor progress and follow instructions from your vet and rehab specialist to ensure proper healing.  

Cart Use as an Alternative to Surgery 

Not every dog will be a candidate for corrective surgery. Dogs that are deemed at risk due to their age, general health, or even because their knee is too far gone for corrective surgery may have to rely on alternative methods. Without proper support it’s highly likely that a dog may struggle to get around or even tear their other cruciate. In these cases, a dog wheelchair can be used for continued mobility.  

Not only will the wheelchair encourage your dog to continue to use their back legs, but it will prevent your dog from straining its back or overcompensating on the remaining healthy leg. Over 50% of dogs will tear their other cruciate within a year of their first ACL tear. A cart will provide balanced support to prevent your dog from straining their other leg and to prevent injury. Even without surgical intervention, your veterinarian needs to stay apprised of your dog’s progress. Check in regularly to make sure your dog is following protocol and staying as healthy as possible. 


Dogs with a knee injury can significantly improve their mobility by utilizing a wheelchair throughout their recovery process. Like a human would use a crutch or a walker, a dog wheelchair is a great way to lessen the pressure on a dog’s injured knee while providing the stability and support needed to continue to walk. Staying active lowers your dog’s risk of muscle atrophy and helps prevent any further knee injuries. Provide your furry companion with the best possible care and mobility during their healing process with an adjustable dog wheelchair. 

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