Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Japanese Know-How Applied to Dog Wheelchairs

Kyoko, whose story of her Pembroke welsh corgi Cookie is in this blog, gave me links for dog wheelchairs made in Japan.  I found these fascinating and wanted to share the innovations available there.

Not only can the Japanese import most of the same carts we have available here, but they are designing their own.  Here are some notable examples.

This cart is made from aluminum tubing.  Here it is shown with front wheels for a corgi.

Another company offers the above cart, plus several others.

This first is apparently a close copy of an Eddie's Wheels cart.

Another four wheel cart from Animal Ortho Japan:  Note the front swivel wheels.  Also note the colorful carts.  One US maker told me that they began offering colors at the request of Japanese customers!

While my Japanese isn't good enough to tell you whether this next cart is available for corgis, I found it very interesting!  From

Somewhat remniscent of the UK's Dogmobile, which also allows dogs to lie down.

This company's cart has a little spring action.  Click through to see the video on their Facebook page.

The next cart isn't anything too innovative- but check out the colors.

And finally, this one from

Cookie, a DM Corgi in Japan 2000-2014

Cookie:  2/22/2000-6/15/2014

Editor's Note:  Through Kyoko, Cookie's owner, I first learned of the prevalence of DM in Pembroke Welsh Corgis in Japan.  Later, I read in a DM research publication that Japanese researchers have been able to study DM at a far more advanced state because dogs with DM there are maintained up to four years (as Cookie was.)  I am very grateful to Kyoko for being willing to share her experiences with Cookie in this blog.

I sent Kyoko the usual questions that I send for "Merlin's Friends" and also a few more that were specific to Japanese corgis, and then wrote Cookie and Kyoko's story based on her answers and when I could,  in her own voice.  My own comments are interspersed in italics in a few places, but the rest is my rewrite of Kyoko's words.

Cookie's Story, as told by Kyoko, follows:

Corgis are very popular in Japan.  The popularity peaked at about 31,000 registered corgis in 2002 and is now at about 5800.  They became popular about twenty years ago when a tea company featured a corgi on a TV commercial.  (See it here: )

Japanese breeders originally imported many corgis from the US, so it is not surprising that testing in Japan shows just about the same incidence of the DM genes as in the US.

I obtained Cookie (C.C. Cookie, or Chocolate Chip Cookie!) from my friend, who bred her female corgi Chappy to a male from a breeding kennel.  Chappy and her two other female pups died of unrelated causes, and Cookie's only brother has DM.

Four years ago, when Cookie was ten, she began showing signs of what I now know was DM.  It was not easy to get a diagnosis.  The family animal hospital first diagnosed her with a herniated disk, and prescribed steroids and quiet rest.  This did not help, and Cookie got worse.  My friend who owned her mother did some internet research and found out about DM.  The vet then referred her for an MRI, which showed that it was not a herniated disk.  Her blood was then sent to Gifu University, where Dr. Kamishina is studying the genetics of DM, and it showed that she had the genes for DM.

Within about nine months, by April 2011, she needed some support, and I got a sling for her.  Cookie hated the sling.  When I put it on her she gave up walking.  As soon as I put her hips in it, she said she couldn't walk.  So I had to carry her to the park.

  As soon as I put her down in the park a miracle would happen; she could run and play with her ball and Frisbee.  She forgot she was unable to move so she could move.  Of course, this didn't last for long.

A video of Cookie February 2011, playing in the snow with her ball:

 Cookie was very puzzled that she could not walk.

 I ordered a wheelchair  in June 2011, and Cookie was very happy to be able to run and play again.  She loved to play soccer.

 She used the rear-wheel cart for one year and four months.  For the last one year and eleven months she used a four-wheel cart.  During the last months she had her front feet supported in the cart.

There are now many choices for dog wheelchairs in Japan.  Cookie had a Doggon Wheels cart which was imported.  Other brands are also imported, and increasingly carts are being designed and built in Japan.  

Editor's note:  I was going to post some links and pictures, but I'm intrigued about the variety of new carts and ideas coming from Japan, and wanted to do a blog post on those separately, so see the previous entry.

For supplements, I gave her antioxidants such as blueberries and blackberries from the home garden, Rooibos no-caffeinated tea, cranberry juice to prevent cystitis, and a turmeric supplement.  I also used a supplement called Hepaact and another called Neuroact (editor's note:  I was unable to identify these supplements, which are available from Amazon UK.)

Her appetite remained good until the last six months.  She wanted to eat but became a pickier eater.  I made homemade foods, cooked and raw, and also made liquid food that could be fed with a syringe.  Cookie also liked to get water from a syringe.

Dogs with DM often lose weight.  My friend's corgi became very thin, going from 14 kg to 9 kg.   Cookie was a large female, and she lost some weight as her muscles atrophied from DM, but she maintained much of it.  It was important to keep her physically strong.

Cookie's Weght

2009 Autumn 14kg
2010   DM first time summer 13kg→Autumn 12kg
2011 12kg→12.6kg  
2012  13kg→14kg 
2013 January13.8kg→may 14.5kg→August 12.5kg
2014  march~June  12.4kg

About one year into her wheelchair use, Cookie became incontinent.   I designed a way to add a collection device to Cookie's cart.

When Cookie could no longer hold her head up in the four-wheel cart, I designed a support from a hanger and an oven mitt.  

For sleeping I used a product designed for humans called Breathair- a bedding that helps to keep a body cool or warm and free from bedsores.  

The material comes in many sizes and thicknesses. It is very convenient, and can be cut to fit and is washable in water.   Many people use it while caring for their pets.  I used it in the cushioning of this wheelchair as well.  It is also used for people, for example in the cushions  of the Japanese railway Shinkansen.

In January and April of 2014 she developed diarrhea and wouldn't eat and was in critical condition.  The vet gave her antibiotics and medication for her stomach and intestines, and I gave her a powder of lactic acid bacteria (the same bacteria found in yogurt and sourkraut) to help her immune system.  

Since immune strength falls when the body temperature falls, in Japan, the belly of a DM corgi is often kept warm.  This is a "Haramaki", or stomach band, knit from wool or acrylic yarn.

I wanted to find more information about the care of a corgi with DM.  I found some blogs, and became friends with the owner of one DM blog.  We shared and exchanged information and offered support in times of trouble.  I also found a bulletin board for owners of Japanese dogs with DM.  

I was able to attend a meeting for owners of DM corgis that was held in Kyoto.

I also met Bobbie through Facebook and Wheelcorgis and am thankful to her.

Cookie died from DM itself, when it compromised her ability to breathe.  Over her last six months her breathing became weaker and she mainly used her abdominal muscles to breathe.  However, she did not seem distressed until the end.

When she became sick with diarrhea, her breathing seemed painful.  The vet took X-Rays and found that one of her lungs was somewhat compressed, but she did not have pneumonia.  Her blood was tested at this time and the oxygen level was high enough.

Since DM is not physically painful, most owners and veterinarians in Japan would not consider euthanasia.   Since a wheelchair is available for a dog with DM, owners will use one and not euthanize their dog because it cannot walk.  They would not, however, do a life-saving procedure if a DM dog became ill, but they would treat any pain so that the dog was comfortable.

In Japan, a personal oxygen machine can be easily rented, and offers comfort to both humans and dogs with breathing difficulty.  This provides 35-45% oxygen.  But the vet did not think Cookie needed this.  I borrowed a Yamaha Oxycool 32 from a friend whose DM corgi had died last summer.  It provided about 30% oxygen.  Cookie used it from September of 2013 to June of 2014.

Cookie changed suddenly one day before the last moment.  She was unwilling to play and would not eat.  We went to the animal hospital immediately.  I felt it was the final stage of DM.  But she had signs of cystitis and the vet gave her an antibiotic.   She improved, but her breathing did not return to normal even with more oxygen.

I lost my father to pneumonia about a year and a half before Cookie died.  As he lost consciousness, to keep him comfortable, the nurse helped me to wash his hair and wipe his body with a warm towel.  

I asked my friend Naomi, who had DM corgi Ira, to show me how to do T-Touch.  When Cookie was dying I remembered, and wiped and massaged her body with a hot towel moistened with chamomile tea.

At the last: her breathing appeared to be stable.  It was time to carry out the pressure urination (expression of the bladder.)  

I have embraced her.

14:12.  Cookie died.

She was conscious until the last moment, her face smiling.

How did Cookie's DM affect my life?  I quit my job to care for Cookie.   I have no regrets about doing this or caring for her.  I became much closer to Cookie over these four years.  It is like caring for a baby- as I cared for her she only became more dear to me.

I was impressed by Cookie's ability to enjoy whatever she was able to do.  People would see her in her wheelchair and think it was pitiful, but she was by no means unhappy.

I was shocked when it got to know that life expectancy is about three years. 

However, worrying about the shortness of life is wasteful. 

It is not a face of sadness.   I  swore to spend the remaining time with her with a smile and happily.  I was four years caring for her.   It was always saved by her smiling face. 

Fortunately I could be very much together with her.  The next picture is from just before she died.  She was going to live until her death.

 For videos of Cookie, 


 2014 corgi's world cup   ★