Buddha, a 3-year-old pit bull mix in a dog cart, takes a break in SAGE Campbell’s Physical Rehabilitation department. 

People often think of a cart as the equivalent of a wheelchair for dogs who have lost their ability to walk.  But Dr. Jill Kuhl in SAGE Campbell’s Physical Rehabilitation department uses carts in a different, more temporary way.

It all started with Buddha, a 3-year-old pit bull mix. All Animal Rescue and Friends (AARF) brought Buddha—a victim of a hit-and-run—to SAGE Campbell after he had already undergone an emergency amputation of the left hind limb and had a Femoral Head Osteotomy (FHO) on the right hind leg to remove the ball part of the ball and socket that joins with the hip. Buddha had already survived massive trauma, but he wasn’t out of the woods yet. SAGE surgeons found that his caudal cruciate ligament, which stabilizes the stifle (knee) joint, was torn so he couldn’t use his single remaining hind leg. Dr. Andy Staatz performed the integral surgery to stabilize the stifle joint and give him a chance, as a tripod, to eventually walk on three legs.

After surgery, Buddha immediately started working with Dr. Kuhl in the Physical Rehabilitation department to gain mobility and improve his comfort following surgery. Dr. Kuhl’s goal is to help him stabilize and strengthen his remaining hind leg, which is atrophied and painful.

Buddha being fitted with a test socket for a prosthetic limb.

She used the cart more like a human would use crutches or a walker to help Buddha gradually improve his ability to bear weight. Two months after his accident, Dr. Kuhl continues to work with Buddha with formal sessions at least twice a week. During these sessions, he receives manual therapy and electrical muscular stimulation and completes some land exercises. He also does gait training in the underwater treadmill to help support some of his weight as he continues to get stronger. Buddha recently started walking on his own and no longer needs the added assistance of the cart. He’s now ready to find his forever home and live out the rest of his days as a normal dog.

“A lot of people think of the cart like it’s the end of the road, and they use it in a very specific way,” Dr. Kuhl says. “When we use it like a walker, we can take some weight off the leg while we build strength in the leg and other parts of the body. It took lots of hard work and time for Buddha to walk again, but now he has a second lease on life!”