If you have ever tried to talk to your physician about getting claims paid on your health insurance, it may not surprise you that most veterinarians, like myself, are equally ignorant about how pet insurance works. Over 45 years ago, when working as a veterinary surgeon at the Animal Medical Center in New York City, I had several dogs that, despite giving them the best care in the country, were unable to walk due to intervertebral disc disease (IVDD). That was my inspiration for creating K-9 Cart dog wheelchairs. Never did I imagine that I would start the first private veterinary orthopedic practice in the US and sound like McDonalds with over 30,000 K-9 Cart Company East patented dog wheelchairs sold. However, whether dog wheelchairs will be covered by pet insurance is unclear – especially since most wheelchairs are not manufactured by vets. Indeed, many veterinarians are told about dog wheelchairs by owners rather than the other way around.
You may wonder why your dog may need a wheelchair or a mobility aid. Hand-held slings like our K-9 EZ Sling or a Walkabout harness can help your dog get around without putting too much strain on a recently repaired knee repair or total hip. While the vast majority of dogs that use wheelchairs either suffer from IVDD, fibrocartilagenous emboli (FCE), or degenerative myelopathy – all of which cause hind limb weakness or paralysis, dog wheelchairs come in a vast number of flavors now. Dogs with hip dysplasia that develop forelimb problems or amputees as they age may also benefit from a hand-held sling or wheelchair. And some owners just like the idea of being able to still walk a paralyzed dog using a sling.
Since dogs and cats come in so many sizes, having your dog cart built specifically for your pet and ideally with adjustability for a perfect fit are important. Most dog wheelchairs look like bicycles as they are made out of aluminum and plastics. When you get down to it, the $450 average price tag of a custom dog wheelchair seems like a bargain compared to a custom bike. However, after paying thousands of dollars in veterinary emergency care for a dog with a bad back, pet insurance coverage can mean the difference between restoring mobility to your pet or next month’s mortgage or rent payment. At K-9 Cart Company East, we work closely with many veterinary specialists to customize each wheelchair for your pet’s specific needs. When we investigated pet insurance, we were pleased that Trupanion was the only pet insurance that came forward to say that they would cover dog wheelchairs. Unlike people, most pets immediately take to their wheelchairs and don’t have any hang-ups about “how they look.” We congratulate Trupanion for doing the right thing and making the decision of whether to buy a pet wheelchair about quality of life rather than finances.