BCIT researchers help aging dogs regain mobility with dog wheelchair

Note to media: Interview opportunities available with Ann-Marie Fleming, BCIT researchers, and Lily the Pug. Please contact Amy Chen, 778-384-7245. A video of Lily using the Dog Mobility Device and high resolution photos available for download.

There are approximately 5.9 million dogs in Canada with an estimated one in five dogs suffering from osteoarthritis. Aging dogs face many of the same health issues that people face as they get older− arthritis, ligament injuries, hip dysplasia, and degenerative diseases.

As these health issues impact a dog’s mobility, it becomes increasingly important for the dog to stay active to avoid worsening of conditions. Light exercise on a daily basis limits further muscle loss and joint stiffness or swelling associated with aging.

The challenge in helping an aging dog regain its mobility

While it’s not always easy to keep a mobility-impaired dog active, a dog wheelchair is a convenient and affordable solution. However, the problem with dog wheelchairs on the market is that they are not suitable for senior dogs.

Existing dog wheelchairs are designed with the expectation that the dog has a lot of front strength, which most seniors dogs do not. These wheelchairs work well for paralyzed young dogs but for aging dogs, these wheelchairs can’t be used to help regain mobility. Some manufactures have attempted to offset this by adding front supports but this only added to the weight of the wheelchair, which makes it even more difficulty for a mobile-impaired dog to navigate. The excess weight placed on the dog also strains and puts the dog at risk of further harm.

A solution for senior dogs with mobility limitations

BCIT Dog Wheelchair
Ann Marie Fleming worked with BCIT MAKE+ researchers to create the Dog Mobility Device an assistive mobility device for aging dogs

Seeing this, Ann-Marie Fleming, Founder and CEO of Dog Quality, was keen in finding a viable solution to improve the quality of life for senior dogs. Ann-Marie wanted to create a device that will help provide support in addition to providing mobility for senior dogs.

The BCIT MAKE+ researchers’ reputation in bringing innovative projects to life prompted Ann-Marie to partner with MAKE+ in designing the only assistive mobility device for dogs that is highly maneuverable, incredibly lightweight, and supportive for both front and rear weakness. This will ensure senior dogs continue to have an active, healthy, and comfortable quality of life.

After 10 months of extensive research, input gathered from veterinarians and dog owners of dogs with mobility issues, and multiple iterations of the prototype, the Dog Mobility Device (patent pending) prototype was finally complete.

“Our design team worked with the client to make this project succeed” says Nancy Knaggs, BCIT MAKE+ Project Leader. “The expertise we learned from dog owners and experts in the veterinarian community helped us design a prototype that is one of a kind”.

BCIT Dog Wheelchair
The Dog Mobility Device helps senior dogs like Lily stay active and healthy

How this dog wheelchair works

The dog is connected to the front support (harness), similar to any dog leash. Then the frame is placed over the dogs head (does not touch the dog) and the front support is attached to the metal frame at the front and at the top side.  A support will attach to the frame with straps allowing the tension to be adjusted while the upper arms are adjustable both vertically and horizontally positioning the support to meet the individual mobility issue of the dog. Once the dog in the frame with the front support the rear support are secured to the dogs hind legs.

This dog wheelchair is suitable for both indoors and outdoors. The versatility of the design lends itself to future versions that can be scaled in size.

BCIT Dog Wheelchair
Lily is one of the first dogs to enjoy the mobility support from this highly maneuverable and lightweight dog wheelchair

Dog Mobility Device coming soon to market

The next stage of this dog wheelchair prototype device is testing and validation which is being conducted by Ann-Marie.

“Working with the BCIT MAKE+ team has been easy from the start to finish.” says Ann-Marie Fleming. “The team truly understood what we were trying to accomplish with this device and took the time to learn about the needs of senior dogs. We’re still testing and refining—we’ll be developing larger sizes and one petite—to address the needs of dogs big and small. Our goals are also to make this affordable and easy to assemble.”

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BCIT Dog Wheelchair
The expertise gathered from dog owners and experts in the veterinarian community helped BCIT researchers design a dog wheelchair that is suitable for aging dogs Lily has regained her mobility and enjoys going on adventures with Ann Marie

MAKE+ Team Project members:

Nancy Knaggs, Program Head, Thom Bellaire, Research Analyst, Lisa Boulton, Research Associate (Industrial Design), Rory Dougall, Research Analyst, Ernie Janzen, Trade Researcher, Gordon Thiessen, Project Leader (Mechanical), Silvia Raschke, Project Leader (Orthopaedic and Assistive Devices)

12 thoughts on “BCIT researchers help aging dogs regain mobility with dog wheelchair”

      • I am truly interested in this device. I have a 15 year old shih tzu and our daily routine is exhausting. Having to put on non slip socks, locate the missing sock & repeat several time a day.
        I want him to stat as active as possible but he is sleeping more and whimpering when he does walk.

    • Hi Jaime,

      We are very sorry to hear about your dog’s situation. I wish we could help but our portion of the study has completed.

      We encourage you to stay connected with Dog Quality on the release of the dog wheelchair. Best of luck to you and your dog.

  1. My pug is 12 years and has ataxia which is getting worse with age, his hind legs give out on him and he collapses. Would this be suitable for him? Will it be available in Ontario?

    • Hi Rose,

      We are sorry to hear about your dog’s situation. Dog Quality will have information about the product availability once it’s out in market. Please connect with the company directly.

      Take care!

  2. Hi There: I was wondering if the wheelchair can accommodate large dogs. I have a 90lb. golden doodle in great need of something like this. His back legs are failing him terribly and it is breaking heart to think we have to let him go because of this. He still loves to go for walks and play but the mobility issues are making him depressed. He is currently 12 yr. 10 months old. Please can you help? Thank you so much.

  3. I am excited to hear more about this wheelchair. I bought one for my 14 year old pug recently from another company. They were very very nice to work with, but their chairs did not work for my pug at all. He absolutely refused to even try to move in it. I’m currently using a towel to leverage him so that he can go on short walks. I say short walks, because MY back gives out way before his front legs do! Can’t wait to hear more about your product!


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