It's their home too: What could you change?
On your dogs first appointment with me I will ask you what your home environment is like; do you have slippy floors, stairs, raised thresholds, uneven surfaces, bedding? All of these daily, somewhat mundane aspects of your environment are crucial to how comfortable your dog feels moving around their home.
THE FLOOR IS MADE OF ICE!!
So if i said to you, all the floors in your home are now made of ice, you would adapt your gait (the way you walk and move) to ensure you minimise your risk of slipping & falling. It's natural! No one wants to fall over, it hurts....and it really hurts if you already have muscle pain or a joint problem like arthritis too! Our dogs will be consciously adapting their gait to minimise risk of injury, so maybe they appear to move over the kitchen floor ok but actually they have changed their gait pattern and never run across the floor, but you don't notice, why would you! Perhaps your dog is the opposite and slips and slides everywhere like a toddler on ice skates, crashing into things and falling over? This poses risk of significant injury!
Either way, your dog is not always comfortable or safe when walking over these slippery surfaces. I know that when I go Ice skating, the next day my legs and back are so achy. This is because i have held myself tense and stiff, in an attempt to balance and not fall over (I always fall over!). Naturally dogs are not built to survive in our homes!
So what's the alternative to a slippery floor?
Well there are many avenues you could take....
The biggest commitment is to have carpet put down, but this can be expensive and not always suitable. So perhaps some carpet runners in the main areas your dogs moves around in? Why not form a safe pathway? This way they can be lifted up when necessary as well as washed and replaced with ease.
Restrict your dogs access where necessary in to areas of the house they are at risk of slipping on, especially if they are energetic and jumpy! One wrong twist and slip on landing and you could have a pained dog and some big vet bills!!
Ensure your dogs feeding area is non-slip and bowls are raised if necessary. The last thing you want is an elderly dog struggling to eat or drink for fear of slipping, especially if the bowls are too low! Pop a bath matt down under the bowls, easily cleaned!
Don't use cleaners that are 'polishing' your floors! It may be stating the obvious but some cleaners are designed to give a highly polished finish, making it extra slippy.
Make their paws more grippy. Ensure your dogs nails are short enough so that their paw pads are in full contact with the ground. Also make sure if your dog has hairy feet, that the hair hasn't grown in between the toes and is covering up the paw pads. You can also buy products such as Toe Grips, Rubber Boots or Paw Friction products alike to help.
Don't force your dogs on to the slippery floors, this will only develop the fear further as their need to please us humans is important to them yet their fear of the floor is a challenge for them to overcome too. Set up a calming, relaxed environment before positively encouraging them to walk over the area of floor they fear.
Stairway to pain?
Dogs are not built to run up and down stairs everyday, their quadruped stance means the transference of weight when ascending and descending is excessive on the fore and hind limbs. Over longer periods of time going up/down stairs this will have lasting effects on the joint cartilage. Not only do the stairs provide an unnatural repetitive movement for the dog they are also a huge trip and falling hazard. One wrong foot and your dog could fall down the entire set of stairs!! Or get under your feet and cause you to fall. Again a painful, expensive trip to the vets.
The best way to avoid this is to block off
your stairs with a stair gate and only allow access if really necessary, i.e. your dog sleeps upstairs with you. You can also pop a lead on your dog and guide them up/down slowly at bed time to minimise concussive impact on the joints. From a young age if you can teach your dog that the downstairs is their domain and the upstairs is yours, then you may be able to avoid having a baby gate in your house forever! Some steps in your house may just be in to the house or out to the garden. We must consider these in the same way, the use of grip tape can be effective as well as home made ramps or rubber threshold ramps.
Bedtime? Yours or mine?
Where your dog sleeps is up to you, however you must consider their access to the sleeping area. Is it the sofa or your bed? Both of these are elevated and require the dog to jump or climb up as well as jumping back down. The use of padded cushions, or set of grippy dog steps for small-medium breeds to use to gain access to the sofa or bed. Even just a footstool or sturdy, grippy box to bridge the gap can make a huge difference.
If your dog sleeps in their own bed and is challenged with their mobility, having a bed with a low stepped edge is ideal, meaning your dog doesn't have to lift and climb in to their bed. A good orthopeadic dog bed is ideal but they can be expensive. Whatever you have make sure it it thick enough so when your dog is laying down they aren't touching through to the hard, cold ground. Perhaps you could sit in it for 10 mins and see how numb your bum goes? It is also a good idea to provide a non slip surface underneath the bed and on the surrounding areas so that access in and out from different surfaces is easier.
Time to go out?
Most dogs are required to travel with their owners in a car on a weekly if not daily basis. Again this jumping in/out of the car from a height can have huge impacts on the joints and is a common cause of elbow & shoulder injuries. The impact of landing when jumping out of the car is significant, and for those elderly larger breeds this may no longer be possible for them due to the pain. There are so many different brands of dog ramps out there for all shapes and sizes of dog. They usually collapse and fold quite small to fit in your boot and it certainly saves your back lifting them in and out of the car! It can take some patience and training to get your dog to use the ramp but positive encouragement helps. As well as this, ensure the ramp is sturdy and the dog can grip all the way down, you must always assist and support your dog up and down to prevent injury.
Whatever your home is like, there are always adaptations that can be made to help your dogs joint longevity and control pain in dogs that have long term mobility issues. The CAM shop has some useful products and ideas for owners too https://www.camonlineshop.com/dog-owners/.