Like our beloved furry friends, our hoofed family members are just as important. But unfortunately, like a dog or cat, their colleagues on the farm and in the barnyard can suffer a loss of mobility. Mobility problems can be caused by injury, old age, a congenital disability, or by a progressive condition that worsens as the farm animal ages.
Just because an animal has trouble standing or walking unaided doesn’t mean there’s no hope. Goats, cows, horses, donkeys and chickens are just a few animals that have benefited from mobility devices like wheelchairs to help them. The pig is arguably the smartest of all stable animals, but unfortunately the pig is just as prone to mobility issues as any other animal. Options are available. Understanding the benefits of a pig wheelchair and how it works is the first step in properly caring for your beloved pig.
Understanding mobility loss in pigs
There are many reasons why a pig can become paralyzed or fight walk alone. Although hind leg paralysis and weak hind legs are often the main reason a pig needs a rear wheelchair, a neurological condition, balance issues or even weak front legs can result in a pig needing a full support wheelchair.
Signs that a pig may not be able to walk or is struggling with loss of mobility include:
- hind legs tremble
- Visible signs of muscle atrophy (muscle wasting)
- Weak hind legs
- joint stiffness
- trouble getting up
- Unable to balance or unsteady on his feet
It is very easy to spot the signs in a piglet, especially if they are born paralyzed. In an older pig, mobility loss may occur slowly and progressively worsen. Any pig that has trouble walking needs to be examined by a veterinarian as soon as possible.
How does a pig wheelchair work?
Like a dog wheelchair, a pig wheelchair gives a disabled pig the support to stand and walk independently. A pig wheelchair consists of four main components:
- That wheelchair frame – The correct size of the wheelchair frame depends entirely on the weight of the pig. The Walkin’ Wheels wheelchair is available in four frame sizes to fit from the smallest piglet to a fully grown pig.
- That front strap – The front strap attaches to the wheelchair frame to provide stability and keep the wheelchair in the correct position. The harness is a three-point harness with three straps. The first strap goes across the back and over the shoulders, a second strap sits in front of the chest and the bottom strap goes behind the front legs of the pig. Each sling has two sling clips, one on each side, that attach directly to the side bars of the wheelchair. The standard harness for the Walkin’ Wheels wheelchair is highly adjustable and will easily fit any size pig.
- leg rings – The leg rings are the primary support for the pig’s hindquarters. These foam rings form a comfortable saddle that supports the pig from below. The leg rings attach to the wheelchair frame in four places and the pig’s legs pass through the back-to-back Cs for balanced support. The length and thickness of the leg rings vary depending on the wheelchair size.
- struts and wheels – There are numerous sizes of struts and wheels and the right combination for your pig depends on the height of its hind leg. For the most accurate measurement, measure the pig lying on its side with the leg in a natural standing position. Start from the bottom of the hoof to the groin to determine hind leg height.
A pig wheelchair can change a life!
Teddy from the Cotton Branch Farm Sanctuary
Teddy was rescued by the Cotton Branch Farm Sanctuary in 2018 and was one of over 500 rescued pigs! Although he was healthy at first, that suddenly changed. “A few months after we arrived at Cotton Branch, we found Teddy motionless in his pasture. He was paralyzed and could only use his front legs. Initial imaging suggested a herniated disc and a herniated disc and with treatment he should recover and be able to use his hind legs again. However, after months of treatment with no major changes, new imaging revealed that Teddy was suffering from degenerative disc disease.
Within weeks of this diagnosis, he developed an infection that required emergency surgery to reroute his urethra. The first university animal hospital that performed the first surgery told us there was no hope and tried to convince us to put Teddy down. Her biggest argument was his quality of life, but we knew he was enjoying life and was active and strong! We picked Teddy up and immediately took him to the UGA Large Animal Hospital. They painted a different picture! UGA gave us hope and saved his life. They saw that Teddy was determined, happy and successful!
Teddy has never shown any sign of giving up; He has always kept a big smile on his face and has always remained a cheerful and active man! He loves his time in his chair and lets us know when he’s ready to rest. Like any other pig, he gets to rummage around and enjoys his tummy rubs like any other pig. Teddy doesn’t think he’s any different than everyone else, but we all know he’s our hero!”
Maisie from Oliver and Friends Farm Sanctuary
As Maisie for the first time in the Oliver and Friends Farm SanctuaryShe could neither stand nor walk without help. Her rescuer tells her story: “She was diagnosed with cerebellar hypoplasia by CT and Maisie has no balance as a result and needs to be supported to sit. She has it all in her head and is the cutest girl! We fitted her wheelchair properly and a harness to protect her face when she wobbles and shakes and keep her secure in it. Maisie really loves to stand and walk around a bit, although she still needs a lot of help with her studies. But she is doing great today and is already learning how to move in the chair!”
On the subject of matching items: