Simple home management changes
Besides the use of a variety of exercise plans and regimes, home management changes are commonly advised to benefit your dog. There are a few simple steps and changes that can be made to make your home safe and easier for your dog!
Runners, mats and rugs
Avoiding slippery floors is one of the most common tips I give as a veterinary physiotherapist. Laminate or slippery flooring can cause a lot of problems for your dog. Some dogs may be happy to walk on slippery floors, however, due to the nature of this flooring, one wrong slip can lead to injuries and pain for your dog. This one injury can then lead to muscle memory, causing a dog to worry about walking on slippery floors again, and may avoid it to, in turn, avoid the risk of pain. This may be why you could find that the one room in the house with this type of flooring, may be the only room in the house that your dog won’t go into.
For a dog with orthopaedic conditions, recovering from an operation or in rehabilitation, avoiding these slippery floors is even more essential as one slip or injury can enhance the pain and discomfort as well as setting your rehabilitation back. In elderly dogs, there is also a worry that they may fall on this type of flooring and will not be able to get themselves up due to not being able to grip anything. By providing safety against these slippery floors, this will allow your dog to feel more confident, improve their mobility and stability when moving around your house and reduces the risk of pain, injuries, slips and falls.
There are a few simple tips that you can implement, to avoid slippery floors and reduce injury and pain for your pet. One of the most common tips is using rugs and runners on the areas of slippery floor. Although this may not look the nicest, these could be placed on the areas of highest risk - for example, using a runner in your hallway if your dog commonly runs to the door. In your larger rooms of the house, a big rug that covers a large majority of the floor could be used.
If runners, rugs or mats are not possible in your house or you would rather not use them, things such as “toe grips” can be used instead. These are little rubber cylinders that simply slide onto your dog’s claws made out of an anti-slip material that grips the floor in a way your dog’s claws can’t, providing instant traction. These are simple and easy to use and avoid covering your whole house in mats and runners!
Raised food bowls
Raised food bowls are another simple home management change that can be implemented. From a veterinary physiotherapy and canine rehabilitation point of view, raised food bowls are commonly suggested as they help with your dogs posture that helps to reduce pain. For elderly dogs or dogs with arthritis, by having a raised food bowl this reduces the strain placed on the forelimbs compared to using a food bowl on the ground. For dogs that may have injured their neck or back, this also works to improve their posture and encourage some core activation.
This can also be put in place as a preventative measure - by improving their posture and reducing the strain on the forelimbs, this can work to promote a healthier posture and reduce the risk of compensatory pain and discomfort.
Selecting the best height for your raised food bowl is important in ensuring your dog is in a comfortable position whilst eating and drinking. The simplest way to pick the correct height for your raised food bowls is to measure your dog from the floor to their lower chest level while standing with their front feet directly under them. That measurement is how high your feeder should be.
There are various raised food bowls that you can purchase online or in pet stores, varying in size, price and height. However, if you don’t want to buy one or want to use the resources you have at home, you can make a makeshift one using books or those leftover chocolate boxes from Christmas!
Ramps and steps
Ramps and steps can be easily implemented into your home management changes and can massively help your dog in a variety of ways. They are particularly beneficial for:
Senior or arthritic dogs
Older dogs tend to struggle with stairs, so a ramp is most likely the favoured option. Using a ramp with a non-slip surface can be extremely beneficial for senior dogs so that they can get into and out of the car or onto their favourite furniture without pain and discomfort.
Small or energetic dogs:
There are a lot of breeds that are known for jumping around the house and wondering how they haven’t yet injured themselves with how they throw themselves around the furniture. Although it is impossible to stop your dog from doing this altogether, by implementing a ramp or steps into your home, this should hopefully limit the amount of times your pet jumps on or off the furniture which in turn will reduce the stress on your dog’s joints and therefore reduce the risk of arthritis later in life.
If you currently don’t use ramps or steps to get your dog in and out of the car or up stairs, during rehabilitation this should be the time to implement this home management change. Whether your dog is recovering from an operation or is in their rehabilitation programme following an injury, it is important to reduce the risk of re injury, pain or discomfort and this can be easily done through the use of ramps or steps. You could also use a stair gait at the bottom of the stairs to prevent your pet running up them.
We can’t just focus on the senior or injured, puppies are just as important! The joints and bones of puppies are still developing, meaning frequent jumping, a hard landing, or an awkward leap can result in immediate injury or cause possible problems later on. For puppies, training to use a dog ramp or dog stairs will be extremely beneficial, not only as another training tool, confidence building and to protect those joints from a young age.