If you’re reading our blog, you are probably familiar with “Daffodil on Wheels,” the plucky and awe-inspiring two-legged Chihuahua who uses an OrthoPets Wheelie Vest. Daffodil has her own Facebook page and many friends and fans who love to see videos of her hiking, popping wheelies and generally kicking butt in (and out of!) her wheels. While Daffodil took to her wheels with a combination of sheer talent and work doing rehabilitation with her owner, not every dog is such a natural when they first receive their OrthoPets Wheelie Vests.
Meet Mocha, a 9-year old, 12 pound Chihuahua mix. Mocha was born with agenesis of her left forelimb. She also had two different IVDD (slipped disc) events in her history that were causing her pain and discomfort. Her owners found OrthoPets when they were searching for ways to help her avoid future back injuries and give her easier and more comfortable mobility.
The two options that Rachel, Mocha’s OrthoPets Case Manager, presented to Mocha’s owners were either a hoppy/wheelie vest or a carpal orthosis to support Mocha’s “good” forelimb with a possible combination of both in the future. Mocha was not a candidate for a prosthetic on her residual limb since to build a functional forelimb prosthetic, the patient needs at least 40-50% of the radius and ulna remaining. Ultimately, Mocha’s owners, veterinarian, and Rachel opted for the Wheelie Vest with an option to add a carpal support later if Mocha started to show any signs that additional carpal support was necessary.
The device that OrthoPets designed for Mocha is a fairly standard Wheelie Vest, though it was designed with the central axel a little bit to the left to accommodate Mocha’s habit of adducting her right forelimb in motion. Mocha’s device also came with an integrated D-ring leash attachment at the front in order to help teach Mocha how to turn her wheels, which can be one of the more challenging aspects for patients learning to use a Wheelie Vest.
When Mocha first got her vest, she was clearly nervous about it. Her owners worked hard with her to associate it with positive events (like treats) and in the beginning they started by just putting Mocha in it and letting her have treats for sitting calmly in the Wheelie Vest instead of trying to wriggle out. Once Mocha got comfortable with lying quietly in the device, she was able to move on to short sessions walking straight ahead on a smooth, easy surface in a controlled environment.
Eventually, Mocha started gaining confidence in her wheels and going faster, as well as learning to turn herself to avoid obstacles. Once she started picking up speed (literally and figuratively!) it became clear that her right forelimb was sometimes hitting the axel of the cart when she moved any faster than a walk. It was determined that it was partially a result of Mocha’s habitual adducting of that limb to bear weight on from before she had her wheels. Mocha’s device was sent back to OrthoPets for an adjustment to move the axel forward giving her more space for that front paw. Even with the adjustment, it was important that Mocha continued rehabilitation exercises to help learn appropriate posture and more even weight distribution with her trunk.
Mocha’s device came back to OrthoPets for one more adjustment to strengthen one of the bars of her device. Once the adjustment was completed and the Wheelie Vest was sent back home, Mocha’s owners reported that Mocha was excited just to see them come out of the box! Her owners also report that since using her wheels regularly, not only is Mocha more mobile, but she has less overall pain to the point that she hasn’t needed any pain medication for her legs or back. Wow!
Great job Mocha and family! You’re an inspirational little pup and we love seeing your success with your wheels!