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Published on September 3, 2015
Like people, pets go through life stages of growth, maturity, and aging. Because their lifespans are shorter than ours, they age at a faster rate than humans, so these life stages take place in the course of months rather than years. As dogs age, they often suffer changes in mobility associated with a variety of conditions. Having your veterinarian evaluate your aging pet will help to identify problems that can affect his or her mobility. Arthritis, muscle atrophy and neurological problems are just a few of the conditions that can affect your dog’s ability to get around.
There are many things you can do at home to help an aging pet. Traction is a frequently overlooked but an important concept to consider. Providing your dog with secure surfaces to walk on is one of the best things you can do. In an era of hardwood floors and tile, an older pet may really struggle to get around his/her own home. Providing a continuous path with good traction makes a big difference. Two great suggestions gathered from our client’s are:
Older dogs will gain confidence if they have appropriate surfaces on which to walk on. This also applies to where you feed your dog. Animals are usually fed in the kitchen for ease of clean up and access to food. Most kitchens have slick flooring which makes it difficult for an older dog to comfortably support itself when eating. You might provide temporary traction, such as a yoga mat, when your pet is eating or move the area where they eat to one with carpet or similar surface.
Going up and down steps and getting in and out of vehicles often becomes more of an issue as pets age, particularly for larger dogs. Hardwood steps or open riser deck stairs are often the most difficult to navigate. Applying traction strips, available at most home improvement stores, is a good start. You may also need to begin using a different door to enter or exit the home. The use of a towel for support can be helpful for dogs that only need to get up and down a flight of stairs once or twice daily. Loop the towel under the dog’s belly/hip area and lift gently on the ends to provide a little extra support as he or she goes up the stairs. The same technique can be used when getting your dog in and out of a car or truck. You can also look into purchasing or building a ramp that enables your pet to get in and out of a vehicle. Commercially available steps can be used for pets that get on furniture or the bed. It is ideal for your pet to use steps or a ramp before they need them so when the time comes there is no hesitation. A “Help em Up” harness is a valuable item as well especially with larger dogs with mobility issues. Two handles on top – one over the chest and the other over the pelvis – makes for a convenient way to assist your dog up.
Just as the elderly make accommodations for change in mobility, your senior pet may benefit from changes in his/her environment.