Products That Improve the Lives of Senior Pets
It's hard to watch our pets grow older. Things that used to be easy for them
become difficult; we watch them as they try to navigate a world that's meant
for the young, the strong, and the agile. Fortunately, there are lots of us
pet-loving folk out there who have created
products that can improve
the lives of senior pets
. Here are some of the more common ones.
Car Ramps or Steps
It can be more and more difficult for older dogs to jump up into the car,
especially SUVs and trucks where are higher off the ground. A
ramp or set of steps
can help tremendously. Not only do they help the dog, but they help preserve
our backs as well - it's a lot easier to lead a big dog up a ramp then it is to try to
heft them in and out of the car. Dogs that are particularly weak or wobbly
should also be put in a mobility harness
when leading them up the ramp.
- A wider ramp is easier for bigger dogs to navigate.
- Look for a ramp that's sturdily built, without a lot of 'bounce' (this is less of an issue for
- Textured ramps are better for traction. You can also add traction on your own as well,
using anti-slip tape
or safety tread.
- The ramp should be long enough to provide your dog with a gentle incline, rather than a steep slope.
- Look for a ramp that's rated for your dog's weight (and higher, ideally).
- A telescoping or folding ramp
can help to preserve space.
Selecting a ramp for a big dog is even harder. Here are some tips on
choosing the best dog ramp for large, older dogs.
Indoor Steps or Ramps
Cats and dogs who love to join you on the couch or on the bed may have a harder time getting there
as they age. Steps
can help them to more gently and safely navigate their way there.
- Steps should be textured or have some sort of material that assists with traction.
- Measure the height of your bed or couch to ensure you get steps that are high enough.
- Wider steps are easier for larger dogs to navigate.
- Look for steps that are rated for your dog's weight or higher, if possible. One of
the most common complaints in the reviews for dog steps is that the steps feel 'flimsy',
especially for bigger dogs.
- Siderails are a good option for timid dogs who are afraid that they'll fall off.
- Some steps will fold down
for easier storage.
Mobility Harnesses and Slings
Many pets experience a weakening in their hindquarters as they age, or general stiffness
that makes it harder to get around. A mobility harness or sling
can help both you and them; for example, they can be used to help them up or down the stairs, or help take them out for
a potty break. The mobility harness or sling can prevent a lot of back-breaking lifting or
- Get the right type of harness or sling. Some are meant for hind-end lifting,
others for the front end,
and still others support both ends.
are handy for a quick assist for a bathroom break, helping into the car, etc.
- Some harnesses and slings have 'male' or 'female' versions. They should not impede
your dog's agility to urinate.
- Handles and straps should be adjustable or long enough so that you don't have to
hunch over in order to assist your dog.
- Wider, padded straps will help to alleviate any chafing issues for the dog.
- Harnesses or slings should be easy to adjust, put on, and take off.
- Harnesses and slings should be taken off when not in use.
Non-Slip Rugs and Stair Treads
Slippery floors can become too daunting for older dogs who don't have good
traction. Non-slip rugs and stair treads
can give them confidence and help to prevent injury.
- Non-skid rug runners
are great for making 'pathways' around the house on the hard floors.
- Rubber, non-slip rug pads
are another option. They're not pretty, but they're more affordable and easy to clean.
- Carpet stair treads
are a good option for staircases. They're affordable and easy to install.
Back Seat Extenders or Bridges (for the Vehicle)
Many older dogs experience some stiffness when moving about. Sitting or lying down
isn't as easy or comfortable, and the narrow seats of a vehicle don't make it any easier.
A back seat extender or bridge
gives them more room to move about comfortably, without worrying that they'll fall into the gap
between the front and back seats.
- Measure the back seat of your vehicle carefully. Make sure you also measure the distance
between the front and back seats - you'll want to choose an extender that can easily cover this
gap, with room to spare. Even a few inches can make the difference between whether the extender
or bridge fits properly.
- Look for an extender or bridge made up of sturdy material - not the soft, fabric type that's
only meant to help keep the seat clean. The soft kind can be treacherous for old dogs who aren't
so stable on their feet; they might not realize that they're not stepping onto a solid surface
and can mis-step and sprain a muscle.
- There are a couple of types of extenders: the platform type,
which simply extends over the gap between the front and back seats; and the
type with storage.
- You might need to clip a blanket (or other non-slip material) onto the extender if your dog
finds it slippery.
Creaky joints and arthritis pain isn't uncommon in aging dogs and cats. A number of
are available to help ease stiff joints and pain. Some people have even reported their pets
becoming playful and active again.
- Give it time. Supplements can take up to 1 month or more to start making a difference.
- Every pet is different. You may need to try various supplements before finding the one that
works best for your pet.
- Get the right supplements for your type of pet, eg. dogs should get
cats should get supplements specifically formulated for cats.
- Try different forms of supplements. For instance, if your pet doesn't like to take pills, try
form of supplement instead, or a liquid
- Follow the dosage instructions.
- Consult with your vet prior to starting supplements if your pet has any medical conditions.
Coats and Jackets
Doggy coats and jackets
aren't just to make them look pretty (or indulge us
humans with something cute). Various health conditions can cause pets to lose their
fur or otherwise become more vulnerable to the cold. Many become more sensitive to
cold temperatures when they older, too.
- Buy the right coat for the purpose you need it for, eg. a rain jacket, or
a warm winter coat (or both).
- There should still be enough room for your dog to comfortably wear his collar.
A hole in the coat where you can clip onto a harness is handy too.
- Coats should not be so long that they get in the way when male dogs urinate.
- Check sizing charts carefully, and read the reviews, too. Some coats run large or
small. Dogs with a thinner build may need a smaller size, while broad-chested may
need a size up.
- Coats that are machine-washable will save time.
Paw Protection and Traction
Tolerance to heat and cold can decrease as dogs get older. Boots, as silly as they may
seem, can help to protect paws from the elements. Some older dogs also find it harder to
keep their grip on slippery floors. Various types of paw protection,
dog socks or boots
can make it safer for them to walk on hard floors as well as give them more confidence.
- Buy the type of socks or boots that are designed for the purpose you have in mind.
For example, you might want socks that give your dog more traction on slippery floors,
or you might want more durable boots that are meant for walking outdoors.
- Get the right size. Look for a sizing chart and take the time to follow it carefully.
Not every brand of dog boot will require the same type of measurements.
- Look for something that's reasonably easy to put on, but that will stay on. One
thing we did to keep lightweight socks or booties on was to buy velcro straps.
Wrap them securely, but not too tightly, on the leg over the sock/boot, just above
the wide part of the paw.
- Expensive boots won't necessarily work best for your dog. I've experimented with many types of booties
(my dog had degenerative myelopathy).
The two that worked best for him were Grippers Non Slip Dog Socks
and Pawz dog boots.
- If your dog won't accept boots for his outdoor walks, you can try
Pet Waterers and Fountains
Some medical conditions (like Cushings Disease) can cause an increase in thirst.
A pet waterer or drinking fountain
are devices that help to keep the water bowl replenished so your pet is less likely to run out. You also won't
have to run around so often, trying to keep the bowls filled all the time.
Pets with many other medical conditions may struggle with getting enough water. A pet water fountain, with the sound
and sight of running water, can help to entice or encourage pets to drink more.
- Thoroughly clean the pet waterer or fountain at least once a day, and refill with fresh water.
- A removable water bowl is handy for quick clean-ups.
- A wide-mouth on the water reservoir is easier to clean.
- Dishwasher-safe is a bonus.
- Leave waterers and/or fountains in areas where your dog hangs out the most. You might need more than one,
especially if your pet isn't quite as mobile anymore.
Older dogs can't always hold their bladders for very long. They might
also have a medical condition, like arthritis, that makes it difficult for
them to make it to the door in time. 'Puppy pads' or housetraining pads
are meant for housebreaking young dogs but they're useful for older ones, too.
They are absorbent and leak-proof (under normal use) and will help to
minimize pets laying in wet conditions.
- Use them to line beds,
car seats, furniture, etc -- anywhere your pet likes to rest.
- Older cats sometimes start to have litter box problems
and may start having accidents outside the box. Line the area around the litter box for
an easy way to clean-up.
- Some pads are reusable.
- Disposable pads should be promptly discarded when soiled and fresh ones put down.
- Dogs who are unable to hold their bladders for an extended period (such as when its
people are at work), can be trained to use a specific area lined with pads.
A good, supportive dog bed
can help alleviate joint soreness and arthritis
pain in older dogs. Memory form or gel are popular.
- Get the right size and type of bed. Measure your dog from his nose to
the base of his tail, and add 6 to 12 inches. Dogs who like to curl up may
prefer a bed with 'arms' (the bolster-style beds) to snuggle up with. Dogs
who like to sprawl may need a larger bed with extra space to accommodate
running after squirrels in dream-land.
- Make sure the bed is rated for your dog's weight.
- A thick, soft bed isn't necessarily the best choice. If your dog has
trouble getting up from soft surfaces, a firmer bed may work better for him.
The dog shouldn't 'bottom up' on the bed when he's lying on it; his whole
body should be supported.
- A removable, machine-washable cover makes clean-up much easier.
- A non-slip backing is important so that the bed doesn't move if
your dog stumbles or is off-balance when he lies down on it. A
non-slip rug pad
can work as well; just place it between the floor and the bed.
- Waterproof dog beds
are useful for dogs who may lose bladder control
while they sleep. A waterproof liner
typically sits beneath the bed cover, but over the inside of the bed to protect it from urine soaking in.
- If you intend to use the bed in a dog crate, make sure you measure the
crate carefully before choosing a bed.
These are just a few of the products available that can help improve
the day-to-day lives of our aging pets. Caring for a senior pet is such
a blessing. While it's hard to watch them age, we need to remember that
pets are talented at living in the moment and we just need to join them.
To summarize, here are products that can make a big difference for senior pets: