Watching a pet get old is not easy. My dog, George, was the first dog I acquired as an adult. He taught me how to parent before I had children, how to help him with his separation anxiety, and that loving a dog unconditionally means that you do so even when he’s stolen food off the counter or broken into the garbage (again).
Unfortunately, George has begun to show his age, and the years have taken a toll on his rear legs and back. Necessity is the mother of all invention, and I’ve had to invent a few ways to make our home less slippery for George’s feet. I would like to share them with you in hopes that they might be of use to you and your aging pet.
I will preface these tips by saying that untreated osteoarthritis detracts greatly from a dog’s quality of life. Your family vet can tell you about appropriate medications, supplements, or diet for your senior dog. You can also ask your veterinarian for a local rehab referral so you can learn exercises to promote your pet’s strength.
Slips can result in injuries such as torn ligaments, tendon sprains, or muscle pulls. Wall-to-wall carpeting is great to make our dogs secure, but many of us have lots of laminate or wood flooring. If you don’t wish to change your flooring, there are temporary adjustments you can make to both your floor and your dog!
- Yoga mats are a highly practical and inexpensive option. Our entry door is off the kitchen, and I often feared the mad dash George makes to greet me because the slick laminate floor took his back legs out from under him. We placed two yoga mats along that path to the door, and the dash was made much safer. Dogs can also slip while going from sitting or lying to standing, so a yoga mat in your dog’s sleeping area might be a good idea, too.
- If you’ve carpeted part of your home, you may have carpet remnants left over. We’ve placed a really large remnant at the foot of the bed where George sleeps so that he can get up safely. If your dog sleeps in bed with you and can still jump up on the bed, remnants or yoga mats can be used to help ensure his rear legs don’t slip while jumping. Along the same lines, rug pads can be cut up and placed around the house, too. While not really attractive, these solutions are cheap (or even free) and highly portable in the event of houseguests.
- Keep your dog’s nails trimmed. Long toenails make your dog more vulnerable to slippage. So bite the bullet and trim those nails, or pay your vet or groomer to do so!
- I tell everyone I know about Dr. Buzby’s Toe Grips. Dr. Julie Buzby invented toe grips, and they are brilliantly simple. Toe Grips are a ring of rubber that slides on over your dog’s toenails. The rubber contacts the floor behind the toenail and provides fantastic grip on slippery surfaces. Toe grips have also done wonders for George’s “OMG-she’s-home!” mad dash. Get them! You won’t be disappointed.
- If your dog is shaggy like George, you’ll want to perform regular foot trims. When the bottoms of a dog’s feet are hairy, they’re like slippery socks. I don’t encourage scissor trims by anyone who isn’t a skilled groomer; we often see pets lacerated by well-meaning owners. Instead, use a clipper for this task. Wahl and Oster are two quality brands. Of course, clippers can be expensive, but you won’t need professional grade for foot trims; mine cost $50. A #10 blade is the only one recommended for trimming the bottom of paws; keep the blade level with your dog’s foot to keep the top cutting edge clear of the paw pad.
These changes were easy ones to make and I was able to see an instant result – a dog who walks more confidently in my home. Hopefully, these tips will help you help your geriatric companion to be more comfortable and secure in your home!