Just like in aging humans, dog joints and bones wear down, making mobility painful and sometimes stressful. Our pets can sometimes hide their vulnerabilities and discomfort very well, which can make it difficult for us to realize some changes need to be made around the home to make our pets feel more comfortable. Here are some simple solutions that can benefit your canine companion as they age or recover from injury, illness, or any other life setbacks, by making your home less of daunting place when moving around:
Slick flooring (such as wood, vinyl, and tile) can be troublesome terrain for less mobile canines. One simple solution that can help build confidence and reduce further injury are runners or yoga mats over high traffic areas. When considering placement think: “where does Fido like to tightly turn at a run when the UPS delivery arrives?” or anywhere else that he or she does a quick turn or pivot. While stopping this less-than-desirable behavior is a challenge, you can easily provide some much needed traction to help avoid injuries.
Additionally there are “wearable” options to improve traction. A variety of booties are on the market which are designed to improve mobility. Paw waxes and sprays can be utilized short term to help paw pads “grip” slippery surfaces. PawFriction (pawfriction.com) takes this concept a step further by applying a non-toxic coating to the pads which lasts an average of seven days. An alternative to coating the paw pads is Dr. Buzby’s ToeGrips (www.toegrips.com) which slide over your pet’s nails to grip the floor, are generally well tolerated, and last one to three months.
Stairs can be particularly difficult obstacle for the impaired dog. Ideally, good traction should be ensured with carpeted stairs or runners to help reduce occurrence of slipping. If there is slick flooring at the top or bottom of the stairs consider placing a mat to make the transition from stairs to floor easier.
The steep inclines and declines on stairs can project more body weight onto areas of discomfort or weakness that are more easily compensated for when standing or walking on a flat surface. Harnesses can be utilized so that you may gently provide some support for your pet as they ascend or descend the stairs. There are many harnesses on the market that are designed for various pet needs. One well-known all-purpose example is the Help ‘Em Up Harness (helpemup.com). This product is particularly useful for pets with difficulty using stairs. You may provide support using one or both of two available handles – one which supports the chest and one which supports the pelvis.
High Furniture & Vehicles
Navigating furniture or in and out of a vehicle may be a struggle for some dogs, particularly if the surface is significantly elevated off the ground. Many pet stairs and ramps are on the market, though some dogs will refuse to utilize them. Wider and more gradual ramps are typically better tolerated by most dogs as narrow and steep ones can be more arduous.
Vehicles and furniture can also be made less treacherous by utilizing the above mentioned harness to “hoist” them up and gently place them back down. In the case of furniture, a wide ottoman or equivalent that breaks the height of the piece can be helpful. You can utilize a wide, lightweight, step for use with a vehicle. A wide, collapsible step can be easily stored and may be employed as needed.
Elevating food and water dishes is also something to consider discussing with your pet’s veterinary professional depending on the cause of their reduced mobility. Raising the dishes to shoulder level can decrease stress to the front legs, neck, and back and reduce compensatory discomfort. A non-slip mat placed beside the bowls can provide added traction and confidence while your pet eats.
Billowy bedding should be avoided with dogs that are affected by pain or weakness as it can increase the difficulty of rising. Slick, satin blankets can be difficult for your dog to grip with their feet. Knitted or crocheted blankets, can be troublesome as dogs will commonly snag or catch a toenail which could result in muscle or joint injury. In most cases a low, flat dog bed with firm memory foam is a safe and comfortable option for your pet.
With these simple implementations you can help keep your pet safer and more comfortable in their favorite space!