Support harnesses for paralyzed dogs

Where can I find a wheelchair for my dog? It’s the first question pet owners ask me when they find out their dog is losing their mobility. Dog wheelchairs are a wonderful invention and I understand their popularity, but in my opinion, a support harness for your paralyzed dog will become your favorite mobility device.

Support dog harnesses make it easy to lift your pet off the floor and safely help them move around the house. I used our harness to get my dog, Sophie, in and out of our car and to take her outside for bathroom breaks.

If you’re just starting your life with a paralyzed dog, you’ll be surprised at how many times a day you bend down to help your dog off the ground. The right harness will save your back and protect your dog’s spine while you help her move.

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The harnesses in this post are my personal favorites after reviewing many support harnesses. Check with your veterinarian before making a purchase for your pet.

Sophie the paralyzed dog wearing a support harness

Sophie wearing her support harness.

Dogs lose their ability to walk for a variety of reasons so there are different types of support harnesses to meet their needs.

The list below will help you determine which is the right choice for your pet.

  • Hind end or back end harness – This product is commonly used for dogs with paralysis or weakness in their rear limbs. It’s also used for pets with arthritis, hip dysplasia, spinal injuries and senior dogs. The harness fits around an animal’s back end and hips to provide stability. Dogs walk with their front paws while pet owners support the back end.
  • Lifting harness – This sling harness works well for dogs with early stage hind end weakness, Degenerative Myelopathy, arthritis and for dogs recovering from spine surgery. It provides balance and support to the rear limbs, while allowing them to bear weight and walk somewhat independently.
  • Front end harness – Similar to the hind end harness, this product is designed to assist dogs with limited mobility in their front limbs.
  • Combination harness/Full Body Harness – By combining a hind end and front-end harness, this combo benefits dogs who are rehabilitating after surgery or a spine injury and have problems using all four limbs. It’s also a good option for dogs with advanced Degenerative Myelopathy. It provides total support while enabling a dog to maneuver on their own.
  • Amputee harness – Many dogs lose a limb to bone cancer or an injury. The amputee harness fits around the front or rear part of the torso to give added stability.
  • Back brace – While not actually a harness or sling, this device fits snuggly around a dog’s spine to keep it from shifting. It’s used by dogs with Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD).

My favorite support harnesses

Walkabout Harnesses

This is the brand Sophie and I used and loved. We always had two of the Original Walkabout Back End harnesses on hand so one could be in the washer while we used the other. My dog wore it all day long.

Walkabout Harnesses was the first rear-lifting harness used in veterinary rehab and made for home use. The company’s been making harnesses and slings for disabled dogs for more than 30 years.

Founded by veterinary physical therapist, Cathy Erwin, all of the products from this company are clinically tested.

Here’s their list of products:

Walkabout Harnesses back end support harness

Original Back End Harness

Original Walkabout Harness – This harness is made from durable, but comfy materials that cushion a dog’s body and protect against pressure sores. It fits around a dog’s back end and hips, like little shorts. Handles are attached to make it easy to lift a dog. Dogs are able to relieve themselves while wearing the harness.

Walkabout Front End Harness – Dogs with mobility problems in their front limbs get great support from this product. It can be paired with the Original Walkabout Harness for complete control.

Airlift One

 The Airlift One – This featured harness has adjustable handles and is made from a breathable material called Airprene, which is great in warm climates. There’s a rear harness, a front-end harness or you can pair the two for dogs who need full support.

Walkabout Amputee Harnesses  For dogs who’ve lost a limb, but need assistance with mobility, there’s a front and back end harness. Both are designed without a leg hold on the side of the amputation for comfort.

Walkabelly and Hoistabout – These are hand-held economically priced slings. Walkabelly is made dogs who are able to walk, but need some assistance. Hoistabout is a hand-held version of a towel sling many pet owners use after spine surgery. It’s great for quick trips outdoors.

Walkin’ Pets by Handicappedpets.com

HandicappedPets has a large selection of harnesses and slings that are priced for every budget. One interesting aspect of these products is that many can be used with the Walkin’ Wheels dog wheelchair.

Here are the highlights:

Walkin' Lift Rear Harness
Walkin’ Lift Rear Harness – This harness provides rear lifting support for dogs with hind end weakness or paralysis. It’s a popular harness made of durable, fleece-lined canvas.

Walkin’ Up-n-Go Leash – An easy to slip on sling for dogs up to 20lbs. that gives rear support. It’s great for quick trips to the bathroom.

Walkin’ Lift Combo Harness – This is a full body support lifting harness for large dogs 30lbs and up. It’s also compatible with the Walkin’ Wheels wheelchair.

Walkin’ Lift-n-Step Harness – An economical harness that provides front and rear support. It’s a good product for post-surgical care.

Walkin’ Front Vest – This harness is compatible with Walkin’ Wheels and is ideal for dogs with a barrel chest. A leash can be added to provide balance and support for walking.

GingerLead Dog Support & Rehabilitation Harness

GingerLead makes one product and they do it well. Their support harness gives much needed stability to dogs who have weakness in their limbs, but can still bear-weight and walk on their own. It assists with climbing stairs, getting in and out of vehicles and going for bathroom breaks.

The padded sling is comfortable, has adjustable handles and attaches to a leash for easy walking. It’s machine washable and comes in sizes to meet the needs of every dog.

GingerLead is used widely for dogs after spine or orthopedic surgery and during physical therapy.

The company is named after a Golden retriever named Ginger who was diagnosed with severe hip dysplasia when she was a puppy. The sling given to her by the veterinary hospital after she underwent three surgeries didn’t work well and her family worried that she might reinjure herself.

They decided to design a new type of sling that protected Ginger’s back and allowed them to control her movements so she didn’t hurt herself when she played.

Animal Suspension Technology (AST)

Animal Suspension Technology dog harness

Similar to GingerLead, AST is a company that makes one product and they do it impeccably. The company specializes in custom-made support harnesses for injured, senior, disabled and amputee dogs. They’ve been doing this since 2006. Called the Pet Support Suit, this harness is designed to fit an individual dog’s body shape and size.

It’s a great device for dogs who are recovering from surgery. AST is best known for their work with canine rehabilitation centers throughout the USA.

Help ‘Em Up Harness

Dog wearing Help 'Em Up support harness

This support harness is loved by pet owners with large breed dogs. Help ‘Em Up is a strong full body harness for dogs who need assistance with standing, walking, climbing stairs and being lifted into a vehicle.

It’s one-piece unit that fits from a dog’s shoulders to their hips. It makes it possible for pet parents to lift their dog off the ground and provide support while walking.

The harness is used by dogs with arthritis, Degenerative Myelopathy, senior dogs and canines recovering after surgery. A fellow animal writer and friend relied on the Help ‘Em Up harness system during the months her German shepherd battled Degenerative Myelopathy.

Click here to read What Pet Owners Should Know About Degenerative Myelopathy.

Help ‘Em Up designed their support harness to be worn by a dog all day long. It’s also made with a moveable pelvic pad to give added stability to the spine.

WiggleLess Dog Back Brace

Dachshund in WiggleLess dog brace

WiggleLess is not a support harness. It’s a veterinary approved back brace for dogs with Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD).

Tens of thousands of canines live with the pain of IVDD. The WiggleLess back brace can lessen their discomfort. It’s a one-piece brace made of a breathable, lightweight material that’s intended to stabilize the spinal column.

Checking other brands?

There are a lot of support harnesses on the market. If you’re considering one please keep these tips in mind:

  • Be sure the harness is made of comfortable, durable materials.
  • Check that it’s anatomically designed for your dog’s medical condition.
  • Make sure it maximizes the control you have over your pet’s movements so they won’t reinjure themselves.