Photo courtesy Helpemup.com
Erin Troy, DVM, CCRP, CVPP
Muller Veterinary Hospital, Walnut Creek
Mobility can be a challenge that faces all of us, two legged and four, following injury, surgery and with age. Humans are fortunate to have a multitude of devices to prevent falling and aid in moving safely about our homes. Did you know there are many options for your dog as well?
The first step is to determine where your dog needs help. Wood or tile floors can be dangerous to a dog with mobility challenges. A slip and fall injury can cause muscle tearing and bruising, increased pain, and decreased comfort and confidence. Providing good traction on slick floors can be very helpful to your dog when he is moving about. Yoga mats work great for this purpose. Provide pathways for your dog to get from point A to point B and be sure to include a path to the door that leads outside. Good footing in front of the food and water bowls can also be helpful. It's not fair to make him work to stay up while eating and drinking. If you have a larger dog that has to bend down to eat and drink, think about raised bowls to ease neck and shoulder strain. Hardwood or tile stairs can also be treacherous for a dog. Many dogs lose their confidence if they stumble, and a fall down a flight of stairs can cause injuries. There are several options of non-skid tread covers that are quick to install and do not damage the stairs. If floor coverings are not an option in your home, then consider something for your dog’s feet or toes. Pawks, Pawz and Dr. Buzby's Toe Grips can be very helpful to give your dog traction and prevent slipping. They can be worn indoors as well as out. Most dogs adjust easily to wearing them.
Another great assistance device is the Help Em Up Harness. It’s a great option for dogs that need help rising and walking. It's designed to provide support for the front and the rear legs and allows you to walk in a more normal position as you assist your dog. Once it has been fit properly to your dog it is easy to take on and off. Another choice in mobility assistance is The WalkAbout Harness. These are made of a soft neoprene type material and are safer and more comfortable than a belly sling. They can be custom made for amputee patients. If you need help getting your dog in and out of your vehicle, a ramp can be very effective if your dog is acclimated appropriately. Start by lying the ramp flat on the ground and walking your dog back and forth until he is comfortable with the width and the texture of it. Slowly raise the end of the ramp up and help your dog adjust to the change. Gradually work the ramp up to the height of your vehicle. It's never too early to teach your dog to use a ramp and become comfortable with it. This can minimize the stress on your dog of adjusting to a ramp if your dog becomes injured or is recovering from surgery.
Our dogs can't tell us when they need help carrying out their activities of daily living. It's important to try to foresee any challenges they may face if surgery is planned. As our dogs age we can help preserve their comfort, mobility and dignity by finding opportunities to help them through their golden years.