This page is for those dogs out there that are in need of a wheelchair, yet whose owners either can't afford a store bought one, or would prefer to make it themselves, but have only got limited tools. I've seen some excellent designs which are very well thought out, and improved on with time. Unfortunately many of them require welding, materials, or other expenses. You can view a 15 second movie, if you have a fast connection, by clicking here. (2 Mb)
This cart was made from a baby stroller, purchased from a second hand store, for $15. Nearly all the bits and pieces, the plastic catches, the straps, the padding, all came from that stroller. I also utilized a harness, bought years ago from a pet shop, they don't cost much, and you may already have one. I also used a spare nylon strap from a bit of old luggage, it had clips on either end. The boots to hold her rear legs up where also hand me downs from previous days when she was still able to walk. The only purchased parts needed were a dozen 3\16" bolts and wing nuts, about $3 worth. You'll need a large needle and some heavy thread, a sail palm helps sewing but can be done without. For less than $20 Lizzie is now mobile again and very happy.
I will admit that I replaced the front plastic catches with metal ones, because for a large dog who sometimes goes tearing after wallabies in uncertain terrain, I preferred to beef it up to the point where I knew it would take all breaking loads. I left two of the prams plastic bits on, however, just to test their durability. After 10 miles (16 km) they are still going well.This cart weighs in at just 2.7 kgs, that's 6 lbs. It took me about 8 hours to make it, but most of that time was spent figuring it all out, moving this and that until I got it right. With the help of these instructions, you'll have the cart built in 2or hours, and another 2 to sew up the harness, saddle and stirrups. I got a lot of satisfaction out of it, knowing very well that it would give her a life again, as all she could manage was to drag herself around by her front legs, a sad sight.
That old adage about a picture being worth a thousand words is going to either shorten my words, or make it easier for you to not have to fill in the detail; hopefully save you some time, and get your dog into a cart that is most comfortable with minimal adjustment. If you look at the stroller below, you'll see instantly the beauty of this construction, it's all there already.
It's almost too simple to believe, but after you've stripped off all the cloth from the pram (save all the plastic bits as they'll come in handy later), you should be able to see the backbone of the wheel chair. Of course prams will vary somewhat in design I guess, if your creative you can try a different design and adapt it, but if you acquire one similar to the above it will make the job easier. Just make sure the horizontal bar is long enough if you have a big dog, but then babies are pretty much standard size, so that should not vary. I had to straighten out the crooks (left side in image) to get enough length so her bum wouldn't rub at the back.
To begin, you need either a hack saw, an electric drill with a 1\4" (6 mm) bit, or a small 4" (100 mm ) angle grinder; to remove the rivets. I prefer the latter tool, it's quicker, but you'll need to take care not to grind into the tube. Just take the peened ends off the rivets, not the heads. The rivets that needed removing on this pram are marked with vertical arrows. A 1\8" (3mm) pin punch will make getting the rivets out easy, so will a nail with the end ground flat. You'll also need to remove any rivets or screws that hold the mechanism together (centre arrow), as this will enable removal of the U shaped tube that once was the back rest for the baby, (horizontal arrows point to this piece) and will become your rear strut from the wheel axle up to the horizontal. You can cut the main strut off at the solid white line, cut it as high as you can, you can always cut it down more.
I couldn't believe it could be this easy, to get to this stage took half an hour, but then I don't believe in fooling around. Life is too short. I had to drill new holes in the larger main (forward) strut, to get it up to the height of the centre line of the dog. These two bolts were 2" (50 mm) x 3/16", all the others used were 1". You should take some measurements off your dog, the height from the ground to the centre line of the body, the length from rear end up to midpoint on the shoulders\front legs, and the height from the ground to the underside of the belly between the rear legs, this is to position the height of the saddle.
These two holes mentioned above should be positioned so that the horizontal bar, or yoke, is at the height of the centre line of your dogs body. You can always drill new holes higher or lower later if you have to. Put your bolts in, then take the rear strut and fix it to the traverse part of the main strut (see the larger arrows) with anything, hose clamps, nylon sash cord, or a couple of strong electrical cable times, I used the latter, two on each side, but four would probably be fail safe. Leave these slightly loose for now. Note that I did not fix this directly to the axle itself, but to the parallel part of the traversing lower part of the main strut, see the large arrows in the below left hand image. Also note that I later removed the cross piece (marked with X's).
This rear strut can then be moved forward or back on the horizontal yoke to just get everything right to match up with your dog. Make yourself a cardboard cutout if it helps, it'll probably save you taking it a little apart later to drill new holes. The rear strut came with a slot, which allows adjustment. It went together so easy I couldn't believe it. The plastic bits shown on the right made the rest of the job easier too, the part of hooking the frame to your dog with strapping (flattish pieces). The pieces on the far right were used to fill the space between the horizontal and the main strut, see the finer arrows in the above image. These all came off the pram, although the top pieces were not used.
I should mention, I did have to do one backup. If your dog can still stand on his back legs you can ignore this paragraph and keep the wheels as far aft as possible, out of rear leg action, if not consider this. Originally I had the wheels facing with the brakes at the rear, same as in the pram. At this point with the chassis assembled I started to think about balance. I realized that the dogs rear legs could be used as counterweights to lift the forward ends of the yoke, thus placing no weight on the dogs front legs. So, I then reversed the wheels, after these shots were taken, to get the wheels further forward, say (150 mm) 6" in front of her bum. It was just a matter of undoing the bolts, reversing the yoke, and swinging the rear strut over the axle to the opposite side. Good thing I left some play in those electrical cables, but after tightening up the bolts, these too were pulled tight. The brake levers now pointed forward, which were then promptly cut off unless you feel that you'd prefer to set the brakes on your dog sometime, maybe when they try chasing wallabies eh.
Now that you've got your rig ready to roll, you'll need a way of attaching the front of the dog, the back, and the legs if required. Some wheelchairs are designed with a top, front and bottom strap. However that arrangement still seems to me to allow the dogs body to make contact with the metal frame, and that couldn't feel too good. By using a harness, as pictured, either store bought and doctored, or all home made; I believe this arrangement keeps the dogs body suspended in the centre of the yoke with no contact. The harness can be fitted and adjusted to the dog before placing the dog in the wheel chair, and it makes what could be a tricky bit simple, you just clip the upper and lower clip on either side and it's done.
Some elaboration may help. I used a standard harness from the pet shop. To this I added a top strap ( T shaped arrow); a front strap to take the pull of the cart (green nylon going onto blue nylon buckle, vertical arrow); and a plastic D ring (horizontal arrow) The D ring I intend to replace with a metal one, but it was salvaged as were all the blue bits and pieces, from the pram. The D ring should be a couple inches below the dogs horizontal centre line, also where the front ( green) strap T's off. These can be done just with the dogs body to fit snug to. The top strap (which was salvaged off an old soft suitcase) however needs to have it's length adjusted, while the dog is in the cart, so that the carts yoke is horizontal, and just above the D ring, and then just clip on fairly snug. Once this length is right, you can then put a few stitches at the top centre (just below T arrow). If you don't stitch it there, or if you have to much slack, the cart frame will rub the dogs shoulder blades. Note that once you fix it with that centre stitch, you lose the ability to adjust the strap on one side or the other.
The rear saddle, you guessed it, was also from the cart. Where it was cut, it will become a little ragged, but I intend to cover this eventually with either a bit of sheepskin, or foam rubber (from A\C insulation). The green nylon cross link was stitched on. If your dog is a male, you may find this needs to be moved more rearward, or perhaps two pieces, fore and aft. He might not be too happy with squashed cajones. I had to play around a bit to find the most comfortable position on the cart to fasten the four ends. Initially I had tried a piece of the prams seat that just happened to snap on and off, under her belly. This didn't work too well as it didn't hold her rear end up enough. The cross piece shown above is, I believe, the best solution, but care needs to be taken in it's placement, otherwise you'll be pulling the dogs legs out of the sockets sideways. Depending on the width of your dog, and the width of the frame you can move the straps around on the frame to get it so the dog just hangs there nicely. You want a bit of depth too, don't have the straps too flat as I found this contributes to a side to side movement of the dogs rear end. More sag in the saddle prevents this and minimizes any unnatural outward stresses on the hip sockets.
Spreading the rear placement of the straps is important to allow the dog to do it's duty, but I still emphasize the care needs to be taken not to place the straps in a position that result in too much lateral outward stress. Lizzie seems completely comfortable with the arrangement as shown. I fastened down the bitter ends of the green straps attached to the buckles after I got the adjustment right. Note that the little plastic saddles pictured in the close up several images up, were used to clamp the saddle unto the frame. You can use either screws, or a bolt and nut if there is a hole already handy. The tops of the main struts could do with a couple of rubber tips, just to tidy up; and the saddle could use improved padding, but I took her out in it today for a very long walk, and she didn't want to get out of her cart, that tells me she's comfortable in it. You should break them in to it in increments, a few minutes the first day, short walk the next, longer and longer each day. I would not recommend leaving them unsupervised in a cart however, and unfortunately they can't just lie down when they get tired. Update: I've just located, for the sum of $6 AUD, about $5 USD, seat belt pads from the auto parts store. They tidied up this little detail. Chose sheepskin or plastic, as your dog prefers. Velcro fastening, no sewing.
One last little detail. If your dog has DM, you'll need some stirrups to keep her feet up and forward of her bum. I had a pair of dog boots I got for her when she was still walking but dragging her feet. However I did throw out unused parts of the prams canvas that would have made into stirrups with a little improvising. To these boots, I sewed on a couple of nylon loops which where fastened to the plastic buckles salvaged off the pram. In fact, two sets of ex pram webbing\ snaps\buckles were needed for each paw, but the good thing is that it makes it much easier to get her into and out of the cart. The boots and front harness go on the dog, pick up her rear end and drop the legs through the unbuckled saddle, the cart is then snapped on at the front, buckle up the saddle, then buckle her boot straps up to the frame straps and you're away. Velcro on the axle and the under side of the boots would probably work well too.
Oh yes, better save the front wheels of the pram, I don't know how long these wheels will last, or what they have for bearings. I'll keep this page updated with any improvements or suggestions. Although I'd prefer to see you figure something out than ask me to, I'll put my email in here if you get stuck, or if you have any thing you may want to add to help others. firstname.lastname@example.org
I'm not holding my hat out for donations, this was done purely for love, and with the hope that it will make it easier for more people to help another in it's time of need. My thanks to Randy Foster with Ozo's Story , which I'd recommend reading, his wheelchair design is a work of art. If this helps to keep someone's dog happy and in this world a little longer, then that's all the thanks I need. You will get a lot of satisfaction out of doing this with your own hands, that fact keeps me going as a sculptor. If you really want to express your self and help all creatures great and small, consider a piece of my art next time you need a present for someone, or yourself. I've made the animal friendly organizations of this world the ultimate beneficiaries of all of my artistic efforts and your purchases. Vesting day will eventually see your good will and mine going to the RSPCA, The Guide Dogs for the Blind, or others yet to come with similar purposes. These creatures that love us so much, they bring out the best in us in their time of need, and they've sure made my life a lot happier.
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