Assistive Technology for Disabled-Pet Owners

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A small panting dog using a walking assistance device on a grassy outdoor spot. Under the Where it's AT logo, the text reads Assistive Technology for Disabled-Pet Owners -

Pets can live with disabilities, just like us, and as a result, they can require support for many needs, including:

  • anxiety resulting from trauma or a naturally occurring condition
  • limb difference from birth, injury or medical procedure
  • nerve damage from birth, medical condition, or injury
  • pain associated with age, injury or illness
  • temporary accommodations needed to recover from surgery or a life event

They can be living with any, all of the above or many other situations, and as responsible pet owners, it is our duty to ensure they have the proper care and attention needed to address these situations. Where it’s AT is here to help with finding AT to support those needs. As we discussed in our companion blog, Assistive Technology for Disabled Pet-Owners, our lists can’t be exhaustive, because the types of pets people can have are innumerable. Disabled pets might need many differing types of support, but this is a collection of some of the more common options to make disabled-pet ownership a breeze.

*Disclaimer – please always consult with your family veterinarian when beginning new methodologies or therapies to ensure that these tools are right for you and your pet.

If you need to dispense medication to your pet in their food, you can use the soft feeders with timers discussed in our companion blog to dispense oral medication at specific times, like the Cat Mate C500 Digital 5 Meal Automatic Dog & Cat Feeder or the Cat Mate C200 2-Bowl Automatic Dog & Cat Feeder, 4-cup if you need larger portions. If you have multiple pets, but you need to dispense medication for only one or need to monitor their food intake, you can get a SureFlap Microchip Pet Feeder for soft food or the Wireless Whiskers AutoDiet Pet Feeder for kibble, they both work with either microchips or collar tags and prevent anyone other than the designated pet from eating from the feeder. If your pet eats too quickly and experiences pain, discomfort and/or ends up vomiting up the expanded kibble, you can switch over to a slow feeder that will pace out your pet’s food intake by making it take longer to eat their entire meal. If your dog has megaesophagus, which hinders their swallowing abilities, Cuteness has a cool DIY on how to build a Bailey Chair to assist them in eating propped up, so they have less trouble swallowing and avoid vomiting and aspiration pneumonia. If you have a bird who has mobility disabilities, be sure to relocate food and water dishes to easy to access locations, just because bird cages support hung food and water dishes, doesn’t mean that you need to keep them suspended.

Speaking of eating and treats, if you have a pet who is living with anxiety try out Zesty Paws Calming Bites Peanut Butter Flavored Soft Chews Calming Supplement for Dogs, Zesty Paws Calming Bites Bacon Flavored Soft Chews Calming Supplement for Cats or the entire bird calming collection from to provide your pet with some relief. Additionally, if you have an anxious bird who is self-harming by plucking their feathers out, you can partner anti anxiety treats with a Fringy Soft Neck Collar so that they have restricted access to preferred picking spots and will pick at the collar rather than themselves.

For older pets or pets with arthritis or pain, providing them with a set of Frisco Foldable Nonslip Cat & Dog Stairs or a Frisco Deluxe Wooden Carpeted Cat & Dog Ramp can aid them in getting up to areas they would prefer to be, like cuddling up right next to you. There are even ramps that are foldable like the PetSafe Happy Ride Foldable Dog Car Ramp or the PetSafe Happy Ride Dog Car Hitch Step that attaches to your hitch and swings under your car when not in use, these tools can support your pets needs on the go. Chewy has a great selection of step and ramp options to match your pets needs and your aesthetic. If you have a bird who could benefit from support for their grip needs, try out a variety of grips to see which might work best for your friend, like flat perches, which can offer the ability to relax, spread out their toes or even lie down, which could be very valuable for older birds or those with arthritis, or rope perches or ladder perches, which enable your bird to lay out and perch on a surface that provides give and can cradle them. Or if you have a bird who is living with arthritis, you can get a K&H Pet Products Thermo-Perch to help alleviate their pain.

If you have a dog or cat with a newly acquired vision impairment, you can get them a Walkin’ Blind Dog Halo that comes in a very wide range of sizes to accommodate any cat or dog, to assist them in transitioning to new and existing surroundings. The halo serves as not only a detection system but will also protect their head, face and shoulders from undetected objects as they explore. For pets with limited vision, adding bright lighting for and utilizing brightly colored objects can help a lot with making their daily lives more comfortable. Things like brightly colored food dishes or perches can make a world of difference for your friend. Remember that dogs only see blue and yellow, so if you are supporting a dog, you might wish to lean toward those colors if taking this approach.

If you have a deaf pet, please be mindful that your pet cannot hear their surroundings. This may seem very obvious, but always keep them in mind when they leave the house so they always stay on a leash, as they can’t hear traffic or a call for them, and include their medical information on their tag in case they are ever do get out on their own. Be mindful not to startle them when in your home, tap the floor heavily when you enter a room so they feel the vibration and you don’t end up sneaking up on them and creating anxiety. Use hand signals to train your pet and add a bell to their collar, this way you are both able to communicate needs and locations better to one another, which is especially important for their safety. Another great tool is a lightstick, flashlight, laser pointer, or our favorite, a traffic wand, which combines the functionality of the light stick which allows you to direct their attention to you and your signaled directions and the flashlight, laser pointer or even flashing light switch, which allows you to direct their attention away from your body and facilitates your ability to direct them to a spot.

If your dog needs ambulatory assistance, you can consider single handled harnesses or, even better for you and your dog, double-handed dog harnesses so you can support all four paws when walking. If you have a bird who has trouble coming to you, similarly to how in the companion blog, we discussed how a wheelchair user or a person who has difficulty reaching high spaces can have a hard time getting their bird to their perch and can use a long stick so that their out of reach birds can easily step on and over to them. That tool supports both way, making it easier for birds who have mobility disabilities or pain can much easier be assisted to their perch. If your bird is unsteady on his feet, you can line surfaces with flannel in order to prevent toes from getting caught and keeps the surface safely padded in case they tumble.

For pets living with incontinence due to age or illness, or those who need support covering surgical wounds or postpartum recovery, Pet Parents® Cat Diapers and Pet Parents® Dog Diapers which look like a shoulderless onesie, can support a full range of absorbance and coverage needs, or Tinkle Trousers, which is essentially a harness that is worn by your dog that uses mensuration pads to absorb any accidents that may occur. You can also check out some seriously adorable bird diapers for birds in need of this support also.

There is a great variety of adaptive wheelchairs for your pet. Doggon’ Wheels offers custom fitted, front and rear wheelchairs sized in relation to tiny, small and large dogs, and have customer photos showing them being successfully used by a variety of animals. They even have used wheelchairs available for purchase. Walking Pets also offers a full support 4 wheel wheelchair that can support your pet’s needs and even have colorful wheel add-ons to add some flair to your friend’s ride. TopDogTips has a great list of the seven best dog wheelchairs that you can look at to get a full understanding of the diverse options available for your pet’s needs. Also, if you are a bit handy, there is a pretty cool step-by-step resource also from TopDogTips that shows you how to DIY a Dog wheelchiar!