Thankfully the weather where we live is FINALLY starting to improve, the dogs can go for longer walks and I can start planting flowers.
Except for a random three days it was pretty miserable, but those three days got all my neighbours out and going DIY crazy!!
My new neighbour created a whole garden, complete with paving stone lined paths and wooden boxes she built to hide things she didn’t like the look of. She wasn’t going to let some heavy rain stop her, so she put up a gazebo in order to keep working.
Others have been building decks, fencing, planters and so much more.
Watching all this constructing going on has in no way inspired me to learn how to do it (I’m happy to remain an observer), however it did inspire me to write this article.
I’ve written about them before in the mobility section of my website, because along with the pet stroller they are a marvellous invention. Whether your dog is too big to lift, or you have mobility issues that make even picking up the tiniest dog difficult, a ramp is a wonderful thing.
They are available in lots of different sizes, and can be put alongside a bed and used for getting in and out of cars, suv’s trucks and vans.
With so much selection you’re probably wondering why I’m even talking about building your own. After all, you can get a reasonably priced one delivered straight to your front door!
Reasons to build your own
You or your loved one may be looking for a new project
You have an awkward space standard ramps don’t fit
The inclines on store bought ramps are too steep
You can build one to your exact specifications
Your dog is quite unsteady and you’d like higher sides to protect him from falling
My experience with ramps
The first time I used a ramp was when a neighbour gave me a wooden one she no longer needed. It folded, which made storing and transporting very convenient, and was carpeted so the dogs were steady. I used it next to the bed because that’s where our dogs sleep, and they can’t jump up on their own.
The second time was out of necessity.
We had adopted a puppy mill rescue who, literally, had no idea how to use stairs – she would fall up them or fall down them. I knew the best thing for Saffy would be a homemade ramp so I started “mentioning” it to my husband. When she hurt her leg (don’t worry she was fine!) he finally started building, and even though Saffy is no longer with us, poor baby, we still use the ramp and it’s perfect.
Are you handy with a …. (whatever tools you use to build a ramp!!)
If you’re handy or are keen to learn, it could be a really fun project to start. If you want it built but are unable to do it yourself, for whatever reason, hire someone to do it for you. If you’re going to hire someone, I speak from experience when I recommend you do a lot of shopping around…unless of course you know someone who could easily knock one up for you.
When I first started looking I called companies that specialised in ramps, but boy were they crazy expensive! Local builders also wanted a fortune because they wouldn’t build anything less than a super duper jaw dropping ramp. Hey I get it, pride in craftsmanship and all that, but all I needed was a simple ramp! It didn’t have to hold 300lbs of weight and last a century!!
Things to consider
Before you head out to your local home improvement store, you’re going to need some questions answered first.
Indoor or outdoor use
Getting on and off the couch? In and out of bed? A car? Replacing steps to your front door?
Naturally with outdoor use come other considerations like non-skid surface, materials that will hold up to the elements…
How long and wide does it need to be? Don’t forget to factor the degree of the incline into your calculations.
Ours is made of wood, with rubber non stick squares nailed on top. Is there another material you’re thinking about?
Does it need to fold for storage?
Raised sides to prevent your dog from falling sideways off the ramp? How high would you like the sides?
Fixed or portable?
Types of tools
Do you have the necessary tools or do you have to borrow or buy? How much would they cost?
Questions answered…now what?
You’ve answered all the above questions, and you’re ready to go ahead with this “build your own ramp” project. Do you create your own plans? Wing it? Follow instructions/watch a video?
My husband decided what he wanted to do, had a plan in mind that he knew not to bother sharing with me, and just got on with it. Not a written plan in sight! If that’s the direction you want to take, have fun I’m sure it will be gratifying to create something from a vision in your head.
If you need, or prefer something a bit more structured, here are some detailed plans you’ll want to have a look through. You may find “the” perfect ramp in the bunch, or you can mix and match to create the one that best suits your needs.
Build your own dog ramp
I found Pinterest to be the best source of plans, so here a few links I hope you will find helpful.
I would love to see your finished product, so by all means send in a picture and I’ll be happy to post it.
I would like to invite you to join Senior Dog Care Club, my Facebook group for senior dog parents. There you will find lots of helpful tips and advice, a place to ask questions and share experiences. I look forward to welcoming you.
In this post I would like to talk about dog mobility aids – what they are, how much they have helped us, and what they can do for you.
What are dog mobility aids?
As the name suggests, they are items or products that help your dog get around. A pet stroller, dog ramp, pet stairs and slings are just some of what we will be talking about in this post. We’re also going to look at other options that may help including: hydrotherapy, acupuncture, supplements and medications.
recovering from surgery or injury and have to take it easy
finding it harder to climb/jump for any number of reasons
who are having trouble or are simply unable to lift their dog
who would like to involve their dogs in more of their family activities
Is your dog…
Staying in his bed longer?
Having trouble getting out of his bed?
Lying down really slowly?
Going for shorter walks, or doesn’t want to walk at all?
Not as interested in playing?
Unable to climb or jump onto the couch or bed like he used to
First things first
Many people assume changes in behaviour are a natural part of the aging process, and ignore them. If you have noticed any changes, no matter how slight or subtle they may be, I highly recommend you make an appointment to see your vet as soon as possible. Catching a condition early increases the chances of a positive outcome.
The pet stroller
The pet stroller is the one item that has been the biggest help, in ways almost too numerous to mention. Let me say that they aren’t only perfect for senior dogs, there are so many situations where a dog stroller will come in handy for dogs of all ages.
The reason I decided to buy a dog stroller is because of a favourite vet. We moved, and without a car getting to him had become quite an ordeal…or adventure if you want to put a positive spin on it!! Anyway, my dog weighs about 9 lbs, but 5 minutes of carrying her and she feels more like 50. She is able to walk but very slowly and not too far, so when I needed a break I would let her walk. The worst part was the overpass that took 20 minutes to cross, and was too hectic for Red to walk on, and that was the backbreaking part. Hence the stroller!
When I want to join my husband and other dog Jack for a walk to the beach on a beautiful day, I don’t have to leave Red behind, I pop her in the stroller and off we go. If it’s hot and Jack has worn himself out running, I put him in there so he can hitch a ride home until he re-charges!
Jack was paralysed
One day in August 2016 Jack suddenly lost the use of his back legs. A very long story short – our dog stroller was a lifesaver when it came to bringing him to and from hospital and vet appointments. Confined to a cage for weeks with limited time allowed outside, the stroller became invaluable in fighting boredom and depression that was a real concern. After his 5 minute walk time was up, I would put him in the dog stroller and walk around the neighbourhood. This allowed him to see his 2 and 4 legged friends, and give him much needed breaks from the crate. As he improved and was able to walk with the support of a sling (I will talk about that next), I would bring the stroller with us and when his allotted walk time was up, back in the stroller he went.
Whether you have a senior dog who can’t walk as far as he used to, a dog recovering from illness or surgery, or you want to keep your dog safe in crowds, you can’t find anything better than a pet stroller. Many people use them for cats as well!
Dog support sling
The sling is another mobility aid you will find useful if your dog is having trouble walking for whatever reason.
When Jack was recovering from spinal surgery a sling was essential to help him walk. At the beginning it was because he was unable to move his back legs, but even as he started to regain movement he needed the support it provided.
You will see in the video our sling was homemade. Because Jack is a small dog weighing around 9 or 10 lbs, the neurologist didn’t feel we needed to buy a “proper” one. He thought a scarf or something similar would be worth trying to begin with, so we cut up an old t-shirt and used that. It worked wonders in our case, but I doubt our improvised version would work in most situations. For bigger dogs a real sling is recommended.
Sadly lots of dogs get left back from family car trips because it’s too hard to lift the dog in and out of the car, and he’s unable to walk much once they arrive at their destination. No worries, that’s why we have dog ramps to help get in and out of cars and boats, and even onto the bed or couch.
Styles and sizes galore, some are telescoping so their reach is far, others fold, some turn into steps and I’ve even seen one that rolls. Pay attention to how much traction the ramp you’re considering has, you don’t want your dog slipping if it gets wet. Steepness of incline is also key. Too short and too steep, your dog may not be able to use it. A longer more gradual incline is best.
Doesn’t this sound perfect, teamed up with a pet stroller? They both fold for easy storage in the car, one helps your dog in and out, the other when you arrive.
By the way, there are also ramps that can be used alongside the bed or for joining you on the couch. If you are thinking of indoor use, be aware of the amount of floor space it will take up and how far out it will reach. You don’t want to create a tripping hazard.
Pet steps are another great tool to help your dog reach his favourite spot on your bed or couch. Taking up less floor space than a ramp, they are less of a tripping hazard, and can be easier to move around, especially because some even have a carry handle. Available in 2, 3 or 4 steps, they come in many different styles, designs and materials. They are also perfect for cats who are not great jumpers, or aren’t able to reach the heights they used to.
One added note – jumping can put a lot of pressure on puppy and kitten bones, so getting them used to pet steps may prevent joint problems later in life.
I would imagine the thought of a dog wheelchair raises a lot of emotions for you. When my husband and I were meeting with the neurologist to discuss Jack’s paralysis, I brought up the topic of a wheelchair. Although our amazing doctor Ed was quite confident Jack would regain the use of his legs (of course it was never a guarantee), I thought it was important to discuss how we felt about it in advance, just in case.
Seeing how resilient Jack has been during his recovery, and me having a hard time keeping up with him when only his front legs were working, I have no doubt he would have adapted to rolling around, and still have a great quality of life. I’m relieved he didn’t need the wheels, but delighted they exist as an option for other dogs who have had a different outcome. It means they can still have fun and happy lives with their families.
Another fantastic, multi-functional product are dog boots.
Hopefully your dog is more agreeable then my little 16 year old Red. I was in Canada with her one winter – heavy snow, ice and of course lots of salt. Needless to say it was too painful for her to walk, so I bought her booties. I wish I had a video of that experience!! She weighs 10 lbs, but believe me when she doesn’t want to do something, she has the strength of a dog 10x her size. Long story short she was agreeable to paw wax so we settled on that.
The boots are a wonderful solution for dogs that drag their feet due to join pain, or are unsteady on certain surfaces.
In our case they are something Jack would have benefited from, especially if his recovery had taken longer. Even though we used a sling, his back legs would occasionally drag causing sores on the tops of his paws if on small stones or pavement. I wrapped his paws in gauze when we were out, then once we were home he would entertain himself by pulling it off. Boots would have been ideal, I wish I had thought of it from the beginning, although something tells me he would not have worn them. That’s just the way he is!! Having had no experience with a paralysed dog, and being from Canada where you think the only use for booties is protection from the salt… This was one of those “live and learn” situations.
Splints and leg supports
Designed to support front or back legs, these splints and leg supports are a tremendous help for dogs dealing with conditions such as osteoarthritis, degenerative joint disease and soft tissue injuries to name just a few. Padded velcro straps are used for adjusting, padding on the inside ensures your dog is comfortable, and non-slip pads on the bottom keeps him stable and sure footed.
You may be familiar with glucosamine/chondroitin as a supplement for humans with joint issues, and have heard a lot of positive feedback. It is also used for dogs, and while it is not guaranteed to help in every case, there are so many success stories, it is worth looking into.
So what is it?
The body synthesizes most of its own glucosamine to form, repair and keep existing cartilage healthy. Production slows as dogs get older, which affects the body’s natural ability to repair itself. When you combine wear and tear on the joints (something that happens naturally as our dog’s walk, jump and play), with the slower repair time of the body, you start to see the development of arthritis. Chondroitin is another substance naturally found in cartilage, and when combined with glucosamine is an even more beneficial joint supplement.
Found only in the waters surrounding New Zealand, this is one of the largest in the mussel family, and are rich in omega fatty acids and minerals. They are known as “green lipped” because of the green tinge along the edge.
A natural anti-inflammatory because they are an excellent source of glucosamine and chondroitin, they are not only helpful for pets already suffering the effects of arthritis, but can be used as a preventative as well. They are considered to be particularly effective when combined with fish oil, glucosamine and chondroitin.
Before you give your dog any supplements, I recommend you speak with your vet. If you’re interested in exploring natural pain relief, speak to your vet or a holistic vet.
There are an unlimited number of success stories told by people whose dogs have benefited greatly from acupuncture. While it is not guaranteed to help every pet, it is at least worth considering. It can be used in combination with other therapies, and treats a wide variety of conditions, including arthritis. If your veterinary practice does not offer it, find a holistic vet and make an appointment to learn more.
We recently returned from a four month stay in Spain, and I took Red to a holistic vet there. I had long been curious about how alternative treatments could benefit her, so in addition to a home cooked whole food diet, and supplements to replace 3 of her medications, he recommended acupuncture. Although Red does not suffer from joint pain it was part of my vet’s overall wellness plan for her. She had twice weekly treatments for 3 months. At the time I found it difficult to know whether or not it was making a difference because it wasn’t to help a “visible” issue. We’ve been back five weeks and now I see acupuncture helped with her immunity and yes, overall wellbeing.
I hope you find this information as positive and encouraging as I do. I have personally used (I should say my dogs) almost every item on this list, and the benefits cannot be overstated. It has made life so much easier and more comfortable for all of us.
Please don’t let your dog feel pain or spend the rest of his life in bed, now that you are aware of all the amazing mobility aids for dogs.
Have you used any of these products? How much of a difference have they made in the life of your do? Sharing helps others so please leave your comments in the section below, or on my Facebook page.