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Phoenix the French BulldogPhoenix, a French Bulldog, was surrendered to a rescue in May 2015. Here is his background story.

At about one year of age Phoenix came to us as a foster. He had been recently diagnosed with Hemivertebra after he developed rear end weakness and started dragging his rear legs.

His owners didn't want to deal with a special needs dog.

Phoenix had to be transported nine hours to get to us. During the transport the volunteers called and said he was in bad shape, he was not moving and was showing signs of being in pain.


x-rayof Phoenix


 I made arrangements for him to be seen at the vet as soon as he arrived. He got a full workup, including x-rays, which showed a 90 degree bend (kyphosis) in his spine. The vets all said it was the most severe case of Hemivertebra that they had ever seen. He also has Scoliosis.



03 xray PhoenixPhoenix was started on a course of pain relievers, muscle relaxers, and anti-inflammatories, along with restricted activity while we and the rescue evaluated his prognosis. Due to the severity of his deformity the rescue was considering that he would have to be euthanized for quality of life concerns.



After stabilizing him with meds, we started the process of weaning him off of the drugs, to judge his quality of life. Fortunately, he was able to be taken off the meds and remained stable! It was then determined that he was fecal incontinent; he can't control his bowel movements.

He is not fully paralyzed, so he is able to get around without completely dragging his legs. Since he was stable and not in pain, we were able to continue his vetting which included being neutered and we were able to start the process of getting him a cart.

 01 the dog cart

The rescue he was with uses Eddie's Wheels for their cart dogs. Eddie's Wheels provides guides and instructions for measuring, because the carts are custom made for each individual dog.

The measurements are usually done at a vet clinic that provides physical therapy, because they are more familiar with carts than regular vets, but the measurements can be done by anyone as long as the instructions are followed. This is very important since Eddie's Wheels carts only have limited adjustments and some parts are not adjustable at all.

You can find info for Eddie's Wheels on their website and if you have any questions, they have great customer service!

Phoeniz deciding if he likes his cart
So, it was the rescue that decided that Phoenix would get a cart and that it would be an Eddie's Wheels cart. After doing my own research and my experience with the cart itself, I would purchase Eddie's Wheels for my own dogs, if ever needed. The cart is simple to use, it's very lightweight, balanced and easy for the dog to maneuver.

05 Phoenix in his cartLuckily for us, Phoenix took to his cart right away, so training was quick and simple! When the cart arrived, I set it down on the ground and let him check it out. I gave him some treats while he was near the cart just to help him accept this strange contraption.

Phoenix is both food and toy motivated, so that helped with getting him to accept the cart.

I put him in the cart and at first he just froze and was unsure of what to do, so treats were used as a distraction then I tossed a ball and he took off after it without even thinking about this new cart that he was strapped into!



We tossed the ball a couple times and let him try out his wheels, he was a natural. 06 Phoenix and his friend

We didn't leave him in his wheels for very long at first, we worked up longer and longer each time. We started inside the house, then moved to the backyard. We didn't take him out in public until he'd fully adjusted to his wheels.

He was quick to learn how to maneuver, like if he'd catch a wheel on something or try to go through an area that was too narrow for the cart, he'd have to back up. We had to show him how to back up at first, just by gently pulling him backwards and guiding him around the obstacle.

We don't use the cart daily, he can move his legs a bit and get himself around the house and yard well without it. So, we use the cart for outings and for playing fetch, since that is his favorite thing to do and he can play longer with the use of the cart.



07 Phoenix outside in his cartFor training a dog to use a cart, it will vary based on the dog, Many take to them very quickly, especially once they realize how much easier it is for them to get around!

Phoenix got his cart when he was young and still had his puppy spirit and energy. That may have helped his adjustment.

Food and toys are great; whatever the dog loves should be used to help distract them from the cart and get them to move around in it.

Start slow, don't push the dog too quickly. Sometimes you can't put the dog in the cart right away. If they are really afraid of it, then they need to get used to just seeing the cart and sniffing the cart; even smear some peanut butter on the cart to get the dog to approach it and accept it.

Start slow with the amount of time the dog spends in the cart each time, don't expect them to walk around the block the 1st time.




Phoenix loves to play outside in his cart
Phoenix was our foster dog for one full year, so then we applied to adopt him and he's now been with us for a year and a half.

He loves his cart. When we move it to put him in it he'll get excited and run over to stand next to it and wait to be put into it; then off he goes running as soon as we let go of it!

A cart has changed his life for the better. We are thankful for the people who make carts for handicapped dogs.

Phoenix has two Boston Terrier siblings and he wants to be just like them, he wants to run alongside them and play just like they do, the cart has allowed him to do that.

There isn't anything we would have done differently for him or with the cart, it has been a great experience.





 NOTE:  Hemivertebrae happens when the vertebrae of the canine spine are congenitally deformed so as to fuse or otherwise develop abnormally in a manner that creates a twisting wedge in what should be a very straight spine. A deformity like this in the bony spine can mean a twisting in the spinal cord as well and, potentially, a compression of this exceedingly delicate central nervous system structure.

Hemivertebrae are responsible for the characteristic “screw tail” of bulldogs, pugs and other dog breeds for which the curled tail is considered a requisite trait. In the spinal cord-less tail; however, several defective vertebrae in a row do not present a problem. In some dogs; however, one or more vertebrae other than in the tail may be affected.

SOURCE: NAPHIA (North American Pet Health Association)


 Phoenix's story provided by: Kristin Bollinger

 Edited by: Julie Bradford

Final edit adapted by: Jan Mitchell