The Virginia Maryland Washington DC Dog Fall 2017

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Happier at Home Simple steps to keep aging or disabled dogs safe and comfortable around the house By Ashleigh Fairfield, LVT, CCRP

All pets are special, but if you’ve been lucky enough to have a senior pet, you know all of the wonderful things they bring to home life. You also know that pets deserve a high quality of life and dignity—even in their golden years. Unfortunately, as pets age and battle pain, weakness and other mobility issues, home can suddenly become a daunting place. And because pets are very good at hiding their vulnerabilities and discomfort, we often are slow to make the necessary environmental changes to help them feel more comfortable and get around better. Here are some simple solutions that can benefit your canine companions as they age or recover from injury, illness, or another of life’s setbacks.

Mind the Floor Slick flooring, such as hardwood, vinyl and tile can be troublesome terrain for our aging canines. One simple solution that can help build confidence and reduce further injury is to use runners or yoga mats over your home’s high-traffic areas. These products are fairly inexpensive to purchase and can be easily rinsed in the sink or with a hose to keep clean. When considering where to place the mats, think this: Where does your dog do that tight turn at a full sprint when the UPS man arrives or the doorbell rings, 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 in these areas and help avoid injuries. Additionally, there are wearable products on the market to help improve traction. You may consider booties for your pup’s paws, which are designed to improve mobility. Some products can even be worn outside in inclement weather. There also are paw waxes and sprays, which offer short-term solutions to help paw pads better grip slippery surfaces. One example, Paw Friction (, takes this concept a step further by offering a non-toxic coating that can be applied to the paw pads and lasts an average of seven days. Another option is Dr. Buzby’s ToeGrips (, which slide over


your pet’s nails and provide instant traction and confidence. Several of the patients at the facility where I work use these, and they are generally well tolerated and last one to three months.

Watch Your Step Stairs also can be a particularly difficult obstacle for the impaired dog. As much as possible, stairs should be carpeted or covered with runners to prevent slipping and to give your pet good traction going up and down. If there is slick flooring at the top or bottom of the stairs, consider placing a mat in those areas to make the transition from stairs to floor easier. When pets have aches and pains in certain areas, it’s much easier for them to mask those symptoms when they are standing or walking on flat surfaces. But the steep inclines and declines of stairs can force pets to project more body weight onto these areas of discomfort or weakness. That may be why some pets try to avoid stairs, or they bunny hop or tip toe up or down to ascend or descend as quickly or slowly as possible. One way to provide some gentle support is by using a harness. 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 (

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