Wheelchairs give disabled pets a fresh start

Wheelchairs give disabled pets a fresh start

Vets dole out tips on caring for handicapped dogs, cats, and strays as demand for walking equipment soars

A disabled dog uses a wheelchair at a seminar on how to make wheelchairs for disabled dogs and cats at Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Veterinary Science yesterday. Narupon Hinshiranan
A disabled dog uses a wheelchair at a seminar on how to make wheelchairs for disabled dogs and cats at Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Veterinary Science yesterday. Narupon Hinshiranan

After nine months of struggling to take even one small step forward, Doraemon, a two-year-old cat that suffers from a disability, is now being offered a new lease on life through a pet wheelchair made by a veterinary foundation. 

The wheelchairs, built by the Chakr Pichaironnarongsongkram Foundation, aim to give handicapped animals greater mobility, where previously they could not walk easily due to injured hind legs.

For example, Doraemon was injured after being mauled in a fight with a larger cat, which damaged the nerves in its spine and left its entire lower body paralysed.

Since then, the cat has been unable to walk on its two rear legs and cannot control its bowel movements.

The cat's owner, Yasarun Charoenpotmanee, 47, said at first she had to pay the vet 50 baht each time to release the cat's excreta. Eventually, she learned to do it herself and now does so for Doraemon every morning.

Ms Yasarun said that since she decided to adopt Doraemon from a temple years ago— where it had been abandoned — she has remained determined to take good care of it.

When Ms Yasarun learned about the wheelchair project, she registered to seek help for her beloved animal. 

''I realised Doraemon might have the chance to be able to walk again,'' she said.

Yutthasit Junvong, her 55-year-old husband, said he and his wife always take Doraemon with them when they go to sell bread in the market. 

Mr Yutthasit said that while he sells the bread at the front of the stall, his wife looks after the cat at the back.

''Though the cat is disabled, we won't stop taking care of it,'' he said.

The couple yesterday attended a seminar held by the foundation on how to make wheelchairs for disabled cats and dogs, hosted by Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Veterinary Science.

It was there they received Doraemon's wheelchair. The seminar showed owners how to make wheelchairs and care for their handicapped animals. 

At the event, eight free wheelchairs were distributed to owners who earlier had registered to receive the equipment.

The wheelchairs can serve both disabled pets and other animals that need help, said Warangkhana Phanwanich, a veterinarian and member of the foundation.

Many stray animals live on the streets, some the victim of road accidents or if someone attacks them, Ms Warangkhana said.

''Owners of disabled pets want their pets to walk again, so we taught them how to put the materials together to create a wheelchair,'' she said.

The devices are also useful for disabled strays. They often cannot survive by themselves, and people want to help them, she said.  More than 170 people attended the seminar yesterday, which was held in two sessions during the day.

''If pet owners know how to build the wheelchairs on their own, they will not have to wait for the foundation to give them out,'' she said. ''We hope the participants can now help society by assisting disabled animals to walk again,'' Ms Warangkhana said.

Thares Bavornpras, a 65-year-old teacher, also received a wheelchair for his 15-year-old disabled dog, named Poh Poh, which he has raised since it was a puppy.

Mr Thares said his dog started to walk unsteadily about two years ago.

He said veterinarians found that his pet suffered osteoarthritis of the hip, as well as herniated discs.

But despite undergoing various forms of treatment, including medicine and walking in water as part of a physical therapy programme, the dog did not recover, he said.

After registering for the wheelchair a month ago, he picked it up at the seminar, he said. 

"I am happy that Poh Poh received the wheelchair," said Mr Thares.

"The vets said the dog's life would improve, and I agree with that because my dog will be able to walk on his own.

"The dog's physical condition and morale will improve, which could allow it to live a longer life and stay with me for longer," Mr Thares said.

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