If you're here, chances are you have been watching your older dog start to struggle with stairs. Old dogs might stumble, or seem unsteady; or they may seem too weak or too stiff to climb the stairs. A senior dog having problems going up stairs is very common... but provided the dog still has a good quality of life otherwise, it's a problem that the family can work around to help make life easier for their aging furry friend.
When going up the stairs, dogs need to be able to "power off" their back legs to help propel them upwards. Weakness in the hindquarters makes this much more difficult and the dog may balk when faced with stairs, or refuse them entirely.
It's not just climbing up the stairs that can cause problems for senior dogs. Many older dogs also find going down the stairs to be daunting as well. Dogs who have balance issues in particular can find it scary to head down the stairs, when they could wobble to one side or lose their balance and fall.
A good, supportive orthopedic dog bed can help an arthritic dog feel better, too, even if it doesn't directly affect his ability to climb stairs.
Eventually, most of us have to accept that stairs and jumps are simply something the dog can no longer manage. Short of lifting and carrying the dog up and down the stairs or lifting them into or out of the car all day long, here are some adjustments that can be made around the house to make your dog's life easier:
Note the words gentle incline... the ramp needs to be long enough that it's not too steep for your dog to climb. If, for example, you're using the ramp to help your dog get into the car, and your vehicle is fairly high, try to back up to the curb or near the door so that the incline isn't so steep for your dog.
It's also very important to steady the dog as he climbs the ramp. Ramps generally don't have sides or railings, so dogs could potentially slip off if they're not particularly steady on their feet. Make sure the ramp has a good, grippy surface (not slippery).
If you're handy you can build a wider ramp so you don't have to worry as much about the dog accidentally falling off the sides.
Ramps should also be anti-slip. A textured surface is better than a smooth one. You might also be able to add anti-slip tape to help with traction.
A small senior dog having problems going up the stairs is much more easily manageable than a large dog. Either way, though, it can be difficult for both the owners as well as the dog. So long as the dog continues to enjoy life (minus those pesky stairs), there are ways us pet owners can work around the issue and help our dogs continue on their happy way.