Caring for disabled pets Part II: Equipment roundup
In Part I of our roundup of advice and resources for pet parents of fur babies with physical health issues, we looked at the types of health issues that might arise, therapy and exercise options and introduced the concept of special equipment you may want to consider to help with specific physical issues. In Part II, we look at some of that equipment and give you our Onpets picks. In Part III we will update our prior post on support harnesses and wheelchairs.
Arthritis, Pain and Mobility Issues
At its most extreme, arthritis can severely restrict your fur baby’s mobility, both because of pain and because of the arthritis induced degeneration of the cartilage between the bones. When too much cartilage wears away, the bones rub together, causing pain, joint stiffness and swelling, difficulty moving, standing up and sitting down, lameness and muscle atrophy. Anyone who has been lucky enough to have a fur baby live into the geriatric years has probably seen them suffer from some or all of these symptoms.
In addition to fur babies who suffer from pain and mobility issues due to old age, there are some who have congenital issues, such as stunted or missing limbs or who have, through accident or illness, lost the use of a limb or suffered back or other injuries which have led to decreased mobility. Here are some options for you to check out to help your fur baby deal with her mobility issues and to deal with whatever pain she experiences in connection with those issues:
We all need to get out there and move and we previously provided a detailed list of fun activities for you and your pup to engage in AND get some exercise. Your feline baby needs exercise just as much as your pup does so make sure she has a scratching post and some active games available like the Turbo Scratcher and the Ripple Rug.
If you want to have your cat do some sustained exercise inside, you may want to try a cat wheel. These are the same concept as a hamster wheel only larger. There aren’t many cat wheel options out there but here are a couple:
The One Fast Cat wheel got mixed reviews with regard to the extent to which cats took to the wheel but pet parents whose cats did get into the swing of things, generally liked this wheel. Tips: Make sure the wheel is on a level surface, have patience and use treats to initially coax your kitty onto the wheel, watch the instructional video and you may want to put the wheel against a wall or cover one side with mesh so that your cat doesn’t just jump onto and then right off the wheel.
Another option is the GoPet Treadwheel which is suitable for pets under 25 pounds. The product is advertised for dogs but can also be used for cats.
If you would prefer to have your fur baby use a treadmill, there are lots of options out there. Here are the top reviewed products, most of which are advertised for dogs but which can also be used by cats, if, of course, Her Catness deigns to use it:
The dogPACER Treadmill is suitable for pets up to 180 pounds so theoretically you could have your lion cubs run on this as well as your Great Dane. The treadmill has a 71” L x 16.5” W running surface, weighs 97 pounds, is collapsible for easy transport and storage and includes computerized dog-fitness programs and removable sides. There is also a smaller size with a 38” L x 16” W running area, variable speed settings and a dog fence training clicker whistle set. Phew! That was a mouthful!
GoPets has a treadmill for pets up to 44 pounds with a wide running area (28” L x 16” W) which can accommodate multiple pets. However, based on the reviews, this product is probably better suited for much smaller dogs (or cats). For larger dogs, you may want to get the next size up, with a 52” L x 16” W running area.
Going from high tech to low tech, we have fit/physio balls, which we previously wrote about here. Physio balls can be used to exercise your pet and increase mobility and they come in a wide variety of shapes, colors and materials. In addition to using them for exercise and rehabilitation, you can use them as a stability aid to support your pet while she is standing to drink and/or eat. Note that fit/physio balls are not generally made specifically for pet use. These are our favorite fit/physio balls which both you AND your fur babies can use:
Milliard Anti-Burst Peanut Balls come in a variety of sizes and colors and the peanut shape is very handy if you use the ball as a support under your canine fur baby.
Anti-burst Fitness Balls are the traditional round balls which also come in a wide variety of sizes and colors.
Stability and Traction
Sometimes all our fur baby needs is a bit of stability when trying to maneuver around the house. One of the simplest things you can do is put a rubber bath mat down for your pet to stand on while eating and drinking and put clear rubber runners on the floor along your pet’s most frequently traveled routes through your house. One note of caution: Some of the rubber mats and runners have a very unpleasant rubber smell (which does NOT go away even after repeated washing) so make sure to get a good quality rubber bath mat and/or floor runners. Another note: Prices vary wildly so keep your eye out for specials and buy in bulk. Here are some decent options:
This is the bath mat I use for my geriatric fur babies, both under their food and water bowls and in the shower when I bathe them. The mat is 36” long so it accommodates both my medium and large old girls.
The Epica also gets good reviews and is machine washable but it is only 28” long so make sure that whatever you get is long enough to accommodate your fur babies.
If you have wood, tile or marble floors and stairs which have become a hazardous slip-n-slide for your pets, try using a floor runner. If you are into industrial chic, try this one with black and yellow double stitched safety borders!
Another thing I’ve tried to give my pups more traction on slippery floors are dog socks or booties but, to be honest, I’ve never found any that actually stay on, don’t get all twisted up and don’t annoy my pups so much that they do everything possible to get the socks off as quickly as possible. One product you may want to try, however, is PawFriction, a kit that includes surgical glue with which you adhere “friction granules” to your pup’s feet to give him traction. The granules can be difficult to apply, especially if your pup is lying down because he is too unstable on three legs to allow you to lift one paw to apply the granules. You also need to keep the hair on your pup’s paws and between the toes trimmed so that the glue doesn’t stick to the hair and so that the hair doesn’t cover up the pads and interfere with the effect of the granules. Lastly, the product is a bit expensive for the amount you receive and you do have to reapply on a regular basis as your pup wears through the granules on his pads. However, if you are up for the challenge, the product can give your pup back some traction and resulting mobility. Also note that you can buy additional glue tubes separately.
A relatively frugal option for mobility impaired dogs is a harness support. You can find rear, front and belly harnesses to ensure that your dog receives the support required, specific to her health and diagnosis. Support harnesses wrap and secure around the rear, front or belly of your fur baby and have handles for you to help maneuver your dog. These are ideal to help your dog up the stairs, into your car, through doorways and over other obstacles. These harnesses are also useful after certain types of surgery (e.g. ACL/TPLO repair) which cause temporary mobility issues. However, support harnesses aren’t designed for constant use, and should only be worn when needed.
Just like wheelchairs, discussed below, there are different harnesses for different mobility issues. Rear, front and belly harnesses are the most common. For all three options, your dog’s legs go through the leg holes in the harness (2 legs only for the rear or front harnesses, all 4 legs for the belly harnesses). The difference between harness designs lies in the placement of the handle you use to lift your dog up. For rear support harnesses, your handle will be at the back. For front harness supports, your handle will be in the front, and for the belly harness, your handle is around the belly to offer your dog full body support when lifting him up. We will provide our support harness and wheelchair picks in Part III of this series later this week so stay tuned.
Depending on your dog’s health condition and the seriousness of her physical impairment, you may need either a full support or a rear support dog wheelchair. Full support is for dogs who have significant or complete weakness in the front legs, or who are incapable of standing or walking without support. The rear support wheelchairs are for the dogs who need help with their back legs but whose front legs are fully functional. Whether your dog is weak in 1, 2 or 4 legs, you can get her back up on her feet and moving at her own speed.
One of the easiest things you can do to ease your pet’s physical issues is to get him the right bed. When deciding which bed to buy, consider your dog’s overall health, his size and his sleeping style. Secondary considerations would include the style of bed you might want in your home, cost, components (e.g. natural vs synthetic) and cleaning convenience.
For your cat, you might want to consider whether she likes to sleep up off the ground or near a window. The Kitty Cot will give her the best of both worlds with a window perch from which to survey her kingdom.
Pet beds come in all shapes and sizes including heated, cooling and orthopedic beds. Later this week, along with the harness and wheelchair picks, we’ll share our picks of the best beds to ease your fur baby’s discomfort and help her spend some quality time in la-la land.
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