I’m just going to go ahead and say that this topic makes me a bit sad, and I’m not exactly stoked to write about sick and injured pups.
But unfortunately, many dogs suffer physical ailments that prevent them from getting around like they used to. The silver lining to this gloomy cloud is that there are products available that can help – today we’re specifically talking about dog lift harnesses.
I’ve cared for a geriatric dog with limited mobility before, but this was quite some time ago, and I didn’t realize these tools existed. In retrospect, I’d have loved to have had the opportunity to use a lift harness for her final year.
So, let’s focus on the positive and talk about the benefits lift harnesses provide.
For the unaware, a lift harness is essentially a sling that wraps around your dog’s body with a long handle.
Once you wrap it around your dog, you can pull up gently on the handle to take some of the weight off your dog’s legs, hips or spine. Dog lift harnesses give you a way to support your mobility-limited dog and help her get around.
However, different manufacturers use different materials and designs, and some work better in some situations than others. For example, most lift harnesses are completely built from flexible fabrics, but a few feature reinforced handles and other components (which may be essential for lifting a heavier dog).
Note that the term “lift harness” is usually applied to harnesses that are specifically designed to support a dog via her belly area. This distinguishes it from “amputee harnesses” or “rear-end harnesses,” among other types.
While we’ll focus primarily on proper “lift harnesses,” we’ll be using the term broadly and discuss several different harness types.
Lift harnesses are fairly simple devices that are pretty intuitive to use.
In most cases, you need to hold the strap or handle and pull up gently to take some of the weight off your dog’s hips, shoulders, legs, and feet.
However, you’ll want to adapt the specific technique used to the specific situation you are facing.
Although there are myriad ways to use a lift harness to make things easier on your dog, the following five scenarios are certainly the most common:
There are a variety of reasons that dogs can need the additional support a lift harness provides.
However, some of the most common conditions and ailments that necessitate their use include:
Hip dysplasia occurs when a dog’s hip joint fails to develop properly. This leads to the loss of cartilage, and ultimately bone-on-bone contact, which causes pain and reduced mobility.
Hip dysplasia varies significantly in terms of severity, but those with bad cases of the condition can often benefit from the extra support a lift harness – specifically a harness designed to support a dog’s rear legs – provides.
A number of traumatic injuries, including everything from sprained knees to broken bones, can limit a dog’s strength and stability.
Many times, dogs with mobility-limiting injuries will benefit from various types of supportive lift harnesses. Obviously, the best harness style for your dog will vary based on her injury.
Arthritis can occur in response to an autoimmune disease or long-term overuse, but supportive lift harnesses can be helpful in both cases. Medications can sometimes reduce a dog’s pain and improve mobility slightly, but arthritis can often be progressive, getting worse over time.
We have an entire guide detailing various dog arthritis management strategies you might want to consider perusing if your pooch is suffering from arthritis.
Some surgeries can leave dogs with mobility issues while they heal. A lift harness can not only help these dogs get around better, but it can also help prevent them from straining their muscles or popping their stitches.
Dogs who reach advanced ages often suffer from reduced mobility, and they may require the help a lift harness provides. Of course, older dogs are also more likely to have one of the ailments described above.
Most lift harnesses are surprisingly simple products, which only consist of a few key components. Nevertheless, there is a big difference between a great lift harness, which will allow you to assist your pooch and make her life a little easier, and a substandard product, which won’t provide the comfort and support she deserves.
To ensure that you select a lift harness in the former category, look for the following three characteristics when making your choice:
Just about any suitably strong and flexible fabric will work for a sling, but the best ones are made from superior grades of cotton or other materials that will not irritate your dog’s skin.
It’s also wise to look for options that feature additional padding, and don’t forget to consider the handles, either – you don’t want to develop blisters or hand cramps while using the harness.
You want a lift harness that supports your dog’s body without putting undue stress or pressure on her joints or muscles. The handle design is also important, as you’ll have to use a considerable amount of force to support large or heavy dogs.
The best way to determine if the design works well before making your purchase is to consider the experiences of other others, who have a pooch of similar shape and size to your own.
You must obtain a lift harness of the proper size to ensure the sling will securely support your dog and won’t exacerbate her injuries.
Just be sure to consult the manufacturer’s sizing recommendations and obtain good measurements for your dog (whether the manufacturer basis the sizing on linear measurements or body weight) before making your purchase.
There are a number of lift harnesses for sale on the market, but only a handful provide the type of quality and features that most owners demand.
The following five are clearly among the best options and deserve serious consideration by owners.
About: The Peak Pooch Walking and Lifting Harness is designed like a standard walking harness that many owners use during regular walks. However, it includes a carrying handle and provides more support than typical harnesses, which gives you the ability to help assist your dog into the car or over obstacles.
Features: The Peak Pooch Lifting Harness is designed with three different straps, which encircle your dog’s neck and shoulder area, rib cage and belly. Quick-release buckles on the back two straps make it easy to put the harness on, without having to wrestle your dog very much.
Breathable mesh is used in the chest and back sections to ensure your dog remains cool and comfortable, and a metal ring is included on the back of the harness and provides a place to which you can clip the leash. Reflective stitching is used throughout the vest to help make sure motorists can see your dog, even in dim light.
The Peak Pooch Lifting Harness is available in five sizes (extra-small, small, medium, large and extra-large) and three different colors: Blue, Red, and Black.
About: The Lifeunion Lift Harness is a two-piece product that is designed to support your dog’s shoulders and hips separately. It is specifically designed for medium to large dogs and will work best for dogs with significant mobility issues, who must be carried from one place to the next.
Features: The Lifeunion Lift Harness is made from neoprene for your dog’s comfort, and it features a step-in design that makes it easy to put on your dog. Each component (both the front leg harness and the rear leg harness) comes with four different adjustable straps to help provide balance and spread out the pressure on your dog’s body.
The harness features a slit in the middle of the rear-leg component so that dogs can still go to the bathroom while wearing this lift harness. Large Velcro strips are used to keep the harness secure. The Lifeunion Harness is available in small, medium, large and extra-large sizes, and it comes in three colors – Green, Orange, and Red.
About: The Labra K9 Sling Lift is a veterinarian-approved lift harness, which features a simple, no-frills design. However, it features several simple, yet helpful features that help it stand out from most similar products.
Features: The Labra Sling Lift features a wide, soft and strong fabric sling to support your dog’s body comfortably, and it has a set of adjustable straps, which allow you to adjust their length to suit your own body when lifting your pooch. The inside of the sling is covered in fleece to provide additional comfort.
Wide Velcro strips are included to keep the sling securely wrapped around your dog’s body, and a snap closure is included so you can roll up the sling and keep it tidy when not in use. The Labra K9 Sling Lift is black and comes in four sizes (medium, large, extra-large and extra-extra-large).
About: Designed for dogs who can still walk but require a little extra help, the Blue Dog Lift Support Harness is a sling-style harness that can be wrapped around your dog’s rib cage or belly. This makes it helpful for dogs with a variety of different health problems.
Features: The Blue Dog Lift Harness is made from polyester and nylon and features a fleece liner for added comfort. Unlike many other lift or support harnesses, which only feature Velcro closures, the Blue Dog Lift Harness is secured via Velcro and a snap for additional security.
Four straps are included to help spread the force out over a larger area, and a convenient, wrap-around handle keeps the straps together and provides a comfortable grip. As the name implies, the Blue Dog Lift Harness is, in fact, blue, and it comes in two sizes: large and extra-large.
About: The PetSafe Solvit CareLift is a two-part harness that allows you to support your dog’s shoulders, hips or both. This means that it is helpful for dogs who only need a little help getting around, as well as those who must be carried.
Features: The PetSafe CareLift features two different harness sections – one that supports your dog’s hips and another that supports your dog’s chest area. Each section features a padded mesh band that wraps around the body and leg loops to keep it in place. A special padded area is included to protect the boy parts of male dogs, but it can be removed for use with female dogs.
The CareLift allows you to lift your dog by using the rubberized handles, a lifting leash, or the included shoulder strap, which allows you to use your whole body to support your dog’s weight. It is only available in one color pattern (blue and black), but it comes in three sizes: small, medium and large.
While the Solvit CareLift is useful for dogs of all sizes, it is clearly the best lift harness for supporting large dogs, thanks to the included shoulder strap. It also provides greater flexibility than any of the other harnesses, and you can use it in different ways as your dog’s condition worsens or improves.
For example, you may need to use both sections and the shoulder harness to help your dog right after surgery, but you can scale back to only a single section as your dog regains mobility and heals.
The rubberized handles are also a great feature, which help you get a great grip on your pooch. In addition, the padded protector included for male dogs is another welcome addition.
Have you ever needed a lift harness for your dog? Did it make things easier? How did your dog seem to feel about it? We’d love to hear about your experiences and be sure to share any great lift harnesses we may have missed.
Last update on 2018-09-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Ben is a proud dog owner and lifelong environmental educator who writes about animals, outdoor recreation, science, and environmental issues. He lives with his beautiful wife and spoiled-rotten Rottweiler JB in Atlanta, Georgia. Read more by Ben at FootstepsInTheForest.com.