Age-related mobility issues can significantly impact your senior pet’s quality of life. For example, arthritis and degenerative joint disease that can limit your pet’s ability to engage in family activities can lead to depression.

Manage your senior pet’s health and chronic pain with regular examinations at our Walnut Creek Veterinary Hospital. Then, make your home senior pet accessible with our eight-step guide.

#1: Floor routine: Boost your senior pet’s confidence with non-slip flooring

Senior pets suffer from decreased strength and balance, which can make standing on smooth floors challenging. Some senior pets will avoid tile, hardwood, and concrete flooring altogether, to prevent slipping and falling. Hesitant pets may become discouraged and disconnected from household activities. Include your pet in household activities by creating a path with non-slip rug runners or yoga mats. Alternatively, consider a paw treatment that improves their grip, such as PawFriction or ToeGrips.

#2: What goes up must come down—safely: Provide pet ramps and stairs

Painful or weak pets will still try to get on the couch, and then severely injure themselves when jumping up or down. Invest in a ramp or pet stairs to give them safe access. Most pets prefer ramps, because they require less joint bending and less exact foot placement for visually impaired pets. Select an appropriately sized ramp with a textured surface, first introduce the new surface to your pet on the ground, and then encourage them with treats and praise. Gradually increase the incline, so your pet stays confident while they learn.

#3: Handle with care—Outfit senior dogs with support harnesses

Medium- and large-breed dogs may find rising or moving across uneven ground difficult. Lifting or manually moving your dog can be dangerous, as well, as painful and frightening. A support harness, such as the Help ’Em Up or Ruffwear Web Master, makes providing even, balanced support when lifting or guiding your senior dog much easier.

#4: Walk-in wonders—Lower litter boxes for senior pets

At least 90 percent of cats older than 12 years of age have some degree of arthritis or degenerative joint disease, although you may be unable to tell by simply looking at them. Arthritic felines may begin house soiling to avoid the pain of climbing in and out of a high-sided litter box. Introduce a low-sided litter box, or create a recessed entry where they can walk in. Also, add more litter boxes to your home, to ensure your senior cat never has to travel far to a box. 

#5: An elevated palate—Raise your pet’s food and water dishes

Senior pets with neck, shoulder, or elbow conditions may experience pain or loss of balance when lowering their head to drink or eat. Place their dishes on a thick book or low platform, to create a more natural angle.

#6: Superior sleep—Select an appropriate senior pet bed

Ensure your senior pet has a comfortable and restorative night’s sleep by providing an appropriate bed. Look for a bed with orthopedic foam to provide even joint support, and avoid too-cushioned beds, which may pose a struggle for your pet when getting up. A flat or couch-style bed with a low profile entry will be easier for your pet to walk in and out, instead of climbing or stepping over a cushion. Use a waterproof cover to minimize the mess if your pet has an accident. 

#7: Downsize—Creating a home base for your senior pet

Your senior pet may be experiencing dementia (i.e., cognitive dysfunction syndrome [CDS]) or vision loss that makes familiar locations a navigation challenge.  Restrict senior pets to your home’s central area during the day with baby gates or closed doors. This confinement prevents your pet from wandering, house soiling in a spare room, or falling on stairs or smooth floors. A smaller space with a familiar layout will help your pet feel more comfortable and secure as their CDS progresses. Always keep their bed, food, water, and toys in the same location, and avoid moving or adding furniture to prevent confusion or injury.

#8: Homing beacon—Illuminate the dark for your senior pet

In addition to cataracts and other pre-existing ocular conditions, a pet’s eyes undergo a natural age-related change known as lenticular sclerosis, which affects their night vision and depth perception. Turn on your porch light, or install solar-charged yard lights, to brighten your dog’s nighttime outings, and use night lights indoors, to help them find their way with confidence.

Your senior pet has been a comforting companion throughout your life’s changes. Now, you must be there for them by creating an environment where they can feel safe, secure, and included. If you suspect your senior pet may be suffering from arthritis, chronic pain, or CDS, let us help—schedule an appointment at Walnut Creek Veterinary Hospital.