Thanks to Covid-19, a lot of us are spending a lot more time at home. This is the perfect time to assess your home and to address the adjustments you should make for an aging dog.
Think of the older people you’ve had in your life. Perhaps Grandma or Grandpa.
Older people may not be able to handle steps as well as they used to, and because they are not as agile on their feet with reduced reflexes, they are more susceptible to slips, trips and falls when navigating obstacles.
The same is true for dogs.
Polished wood, tiles, and linoleum are all slippery surfaces. You don’t want your dog to lose its footing ever – it only takes one slip to cause an injury. Non-slip rugs and floor coverings can work wonders to protect your dog before an accident happens.
Stairs and steps are always dangerous surfaces for dogs – even a healthy dog can have an accident on these surfaces. If you do not have a workaround for your dog using steps (such as going in and out of another door), add non-slip treads in rubber or carpet tiles to the stairs and supervise your dog when going up and down whenever possible. A harness helps greatly with this.
One of the areas I feel is overlooked when making home adjustments is the possible loss of your dog’s eyesight and the need for better lighting. Eyesight, particularly during nighttime, can diminish in older dogs.
I had personal experience of this with my English Pointer, Daisy. I noticed that she was becoming reluctant to go outside at night (where we had 2 steps leading down to our walk and yard). When I’d flip on the light, she was happy again. I was concerned not just that she could slip/trip on the steps, but also that she may not be able to navigate our garden and could bump into a bush, damage her eyes, etc. I could have installed several floodlights to light up the section (but somehow, I didn’t think this was an economical option and one that may also not please the neighbors).
While not a home adjustment per se, I chose a PupLight – a lighted dog collar that I could clip on before sending her out in the dark. Although marketed as a safety feature for walking dogs at night, the PupLight was ideal in lighting her way ahead of her.
Here’s an example of why I chose the ladder for my diagram on managing older dogs.
Remember that I said we can go up and down the management steps as we need to?
Well, I had clients with an elderly Golden Retriever. They initially made adjustments to their home which worked well for a few months. But then their dog’s mobility got worse. They were living in a modern two-storey townhouse and all the bedrooms were upstairs with a winding staircase which had a landing halfway up.
Their solution? Time for another home adjustment. Only this time they moved their own queen-sized bed into the lounge downstairs and placed their mattress directly onto the floor to reduce its height.
Their elderly Golden Retriever could still sleep with them in bed and navigate ‘jumping’ into bed with them safely!
Got questions about this post? Please feel free to post a message or contact me through my practice, The Balanced Dog.
Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand