As pet parents we all have one thing in common, we love our dogs like they are our children. With that parental love comes a subconscious mindset to protect them. Naturally this internal protection mechanism gets heightened when they’ve been injured, have had surgery or when they are older and more fragile. During these times, we tend to overdeliver and do everything possible to overcompensate, such as cooking them something extra-special, getting them fun new treats or toys, maybe we even splurge and get them a new comfy orthopedic bed. Yet we tend to forget about the practical essential tools that will truly play an active role in keeping them safe…specifically I am referring to a support harness.
The right support harness can be literally a lifesaver, not only for your dog but also for YOU. No matter if you have an 85-lb. lab or a 20-lb. dachshund, over time constantly bending over to help them get up or help them safely get in and out of the car, can wear on your own back. The flip side of that is the wrong support harness may do more harm than good. The biggest challenge comes when trying to navigate all of the choices that are on the market and finding the right one for your dog’s situation.
Here are the 3 questions you need to consider prior to making your purchase;
Question #1: Do you need a harness to support just the front end of your dog, just the hind end or both?
As a veterinarian who has practiced for well over a decade I know that most pet owners are looking for a support harness to help their dog with hind leg issues. This is just pure statistics, most dogs have more hind leg issues than front leg issues. Whether you have an older dog struggling with arthritis in their hips or a dog recovering from ACL surgery, a support harness is a critical tool in assisting them safely.
That said plenty of dogs suffer with front end issues or both front and hind leg issues, take for example a dog with a neck or back injury. Therefore, making sure you go into your buying decision with a clear vision of where your dog needs support is critical.
Question #2: When will your dog need this harness the most?
This is a seriously important question that most pet owners never ask themselves prior to making a buying decision. Does your dog stay home 99% of the time and you just need a harness to help them go to the bathroom in the yard? Are you going to use it to just help them get up and that is all? Do you need a harness to help them go upstairs or get into the car? Or is your dog more seriously debilitated and needs your assistance to do almost everything physical?
The reason this question is vitally important is that it will help you to critically look at each option and visualize when and how you will use it. There are harnesses tailored for hind-only support and then there are harnesses that provide more of a total body approach.
Question #3: What are you looking/willing to spend?
This can often be the deciding factor. There are a few harnesses on the market that will run well over $150. If you are comfortable spending that amount then they may be the best option for you, but in many situations it may be overkill.
At the same time, there are very simple belly slings, essentially a glorified towel, that can cost no more than $30, yet provide absolutely no control in helping steer your dog in the right direction. Often people find that these make life more difficult in the long run for both the dog and them.
My goal for you is that by answering these questions first, you will have a clearer image of exactly where, when and what kind of harness is going to be the best for your dog. As always, make sure that you find a company that 100% guarantees their product in both quality and function so that if somehow by accident you make the wrong purchasing decision you can either get a refund or switch out for a better option.
Dr. James St.Clair
Founder, TopDog Health