9 Ways to Make Your Home More Comfortable for a Senior Dog, According to Veterinarians
As your pet enters their golden years, home adjustments may be necessary in order to promote a better quality of life or decrease their chance of injury.
Being a dog owner is filled with a lifetime's worth of joy, but one of the hardest parts of this rewarding responsibility is watching your canine grow older. Whether your pup has been a part of your family for years or you recently adopted an older dog, it's important to make your home more comfortable as your pet enters their senior years.
If you notice that your dog has trouble performing tasks they normally complete with ease, it may be time to make some adjustments to your home. "Aging pets and people are not dissimilar. Common health concerns include mobility issues, cognitive decline, vision impairment, and incontinence," says Carly Fox, DVM, senior veterinarian at Schwarzman Animal Medical Center. "It’s best to observe your aging pet at home and see if they have trouble rising, jumping, or going on walks."
There are many ways you can make your home more comfortable for a senior dog, from installing ramps to investing in an orthopedic bed. Not only will these adjustments promote a better quality of life for your canine, but they also decrease the chance of injury and help relieve pain as your pet ages.
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Cover Hardwood Floors
If your pet has trouble standing up or walking on slippery surfaces, you may want to consider covering these trouble spots to protect your dog from muscle strain or injury. "Hardwood can be difficult for dogs to get a grip on and they tend to slip," says Gary Richter, DVM, author of Longevity for Dogs and founder of Ultimate Pet Nutrition. "A good way to manage this is to use area rugs or yoga mats. You can buy yoga mats in large rolls and then cut them to create pathways in the house for the dog to comfortably walk on."
Buy an Orthopedic Bed
Does your dog love sleeping on your bed or the couch, but now struggles to jump up? An orthopedic bed is a great alternative. "These beds offer additional cushioning and ease of entry," says Dr. Fox. "The cushion is not only more comfortable, but prevents the formation of pressure sores, which are not uncommon in aging dogs due to decreased mobility and muscle mass."
Stairs can be difficult for aging pets, but installing ramps can help make getting up and down them easier. "If your home has a short staircase that they need to use frequently, a small non-slip ramp over the stairs may also improve their ability to get up the steps independently," says Whitney Miller, DVM, MBA, DACVPM, chief veterinarian at Petco. "However, for very large staircases, this may not be practical or safe, and it is best for them to be carried (if small) or spend their golden years on one level of the house."
Buy Elevated Dog Bowls
Some older dogs have difficulty lowering their neck to eat or drink water. Elevated dog bowls will help reduce this strain. Alternatively, you can prop up their current water and food dishes. "Make sure the elevation is not too high, which can lead to similar discomfort," says Dr. Fox. "The maximum height of an elevated dog bowl should be 6 inches below their chest for larger dogs and 3 inches for smaller dogs."
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Install Gates in Danger Zones
There may be a few places on your property that are dangerous for a senior pet. Keep them safe by installing baby gates in those areas. For example, if you have stairs that you don't want your dog to walk up or down, a baby gate can prevent them from trying them alone. "You can also place a dog gate to block access to certain rooms in the home when you are not directly supervising your pet," says Dr. Fox. "If you have a pool, gating the pool or preventing unsupervised access to outside is essential to prevent drowning."
Modify Their Sleeping Arrangement
While you shouldn't dramatically change the location of your dog's preferred sleep spot, there are some ways you can make the area more comfortable and accessible to them. "For example, you can add an orthopedic dog bed, make sure there are no drafts or extreme heat, and add a water and food bowl in close proximity to where your pet is sleeping," says Dr. Fox. "If your pet enjoys sleeping on a couch or cushy chair, you can add a ramp to make it more accessible to them."
Install Dog Stairs
Like ramps, dog stairs can be helpful for getting your senior pet onto their favorite hard-to-reach areas. "Stairs can help dogs get onto surfaces that are too hard to jump onto, such as the owner's bed, the couch, or even the car," says Dr. Richter. "If the dog likes to be on these surfaces and getting onto them is becoming difficult, stairs can be a good option." Keep in mind, though, that it will require some training to get your dog accustomed to using stairs like these.
Use Night Lights
Some elderly dogs may begin to get confused in the dark due to vision and hearing impairment, but leaving a few guiding lights on can help. "As pets age, they can develop difficulty seeing due to nuclear sclerosis and cataracts," says Dr. Fox. "This impairment can be exacerbated at night. Providing night lights in the area where they sleep or frequent can be helpful to prevent injury and make them feel safe.”
Use Dog Shoes
Dogs with orthopedic or neurologic impairments can benefit from wearing shoes, as they provide traction and prevent slipping. "There are many different types of shoes available and choosing the correct ones may take some trial and error," says Dr. Fox. "Dogs are not used to wearing shoes, so it's likely it will take time for your pet to get used to them." While shoes are helpful, you don't want to leave them on all the time; your pet's feet need to get some air to prevent discomfort or infection. If your pet struggles more with shoes on, then modifications like adding yoga mats or carpeting may be ideal.