Pet Perambulators

Teach your pet to sit, stay, and stroll

One of my patients arrived in a stroller last week, a daily event for a pediatrician. This veterinarian’s eyebrows went up a notch. Even more surprising, the stroller-riding patient was a cat.

It was an ingenious way to get kitty to the vet and one I’ve not seen before. We’ve had plenty of pillow-cased, cardboard-boxed, pursed and even laundry-hampered felines cross our threshold, because many are wary of the dreaded plastic cat carrier. StrollerPuss was definitely travelling in the best style yet.

Not that I’m encouraging anyone to stray from proper cat carriers. They are definitely the safest way to go. StrollerPuss had to be buckled into his baby buggy because he otherwise escaped. Many cats simply would not tolerate being strapped in. We’ve talked before about how to get kitty used to her carrier, so travelling is easy and less stressful. For now, let’s look a bit further at strollers, particularly for dogs.

Not a new invention, pet strollers have been popular with dog owners for years. Unlike the co-opted baby stroller I saw last week, pet prams are purpose-built for animals, mainly small dogs.

My reaction on first seeing one was to get all righteous about dogs needing exercise not coddling. Veterinarians as a group suspect that some small breed dogs never actually touch the floor, spending much of their lives tucked in their owner’s arms and the rest snuggled in their beds. Now, when Mum’s arms are tired, there’s a stroller. What’s next, electric carts?

Dachshund driving a golf cart

But then a client mentioned how her dog’s stroller allowed her to walk much further than the little guy’s legs could ever go – a great benefit to her own health. The dog would walk for a while, then ride as needed. Another patient with spinal disease got really anxious when left at home while the other dogs went walkies. Enter the dog stroller to the rescue. Never scoff until you understand the whole story.

There are now strollers for dogs weighing as much as 150 pounds, although it may be quite a workout to push that load very far.

For dog owners who like the idea of pet strollers, I urge you to use them to the best benefit of your furry friends. Encourage your dogs to walk as much as possible. Do not assume that a fabric cover will keep them safe from larger dogs intent on fighting. Strollers may not be escape-proof, so a harness that can be buckled in is advisable.

Spend some time getting your dog used to the pram, offering treats and praise for staying in place. Move it only slowly and gently at first. Don’t attempt an outdoor journey until the dog is at ease in the stroller. And remember it isn’t a magic pass into places that don’t welcome animals. Just because he’s in a stroller, doesn’t make your dog a baby.

Dr. Fiona Gilchrist
Hillcrest Animal Hospital – Trenton/Quinte West, Ontario
July 2013