Could your floor be causing your dog to age prematurely?
Over the years, I've seen a great number of dogs struggle as they negotiate tile or wood floors in their home. And many dog "parents" have no idea that their flooring choice is causing undue hardship for their dogs.
I had the opportunity to help a friend correct this common household mistake that could, over time, contribute to her dogs' arthritis, soreness and increased risk of injury.
You might want to listen in as I explain how her new flooring was affecting her dogs' health and mobility. And how she could make it right.
“Doesn’t our house look great?” my friend Kathy shouted as two barking Australian shepherd crosses tumbled into the living room to greet me. The long-awaited renovation complete, Kathy’s house was a designer’s dream come true.
But as I looked around at the expanse of beautiful cream-colored tile flooring, I couldn’t help but wonder what her dogs thought of the dramatic makeover. There was tile everywhere!
Just then I noticed another dog, 13-year-old Max, slowly making his way over to me. Stiff and arthritic, the red merle walked unsteadily across the tile floor.
Kathy, a trim brunette in her late 40’s, said, “I think Max misses the carpeting. The poor old guy has slowed down a lot since we ripped it up, but I’m hoping that he’ll get used to the tile soon.”
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.
Carpeting can release noxious fumes and harbor dirt and allergens, so many animal lovers rip out their carpeting and replace it with tile. And while tile flooring makes it easier to clean up pet urine and hair, it’s more difficult for dogs to walk on. The same is often true of wood or laminate flooring.
As her two young, energetic, black and tan dogs danced around us, I explained to Kathy that while most healthy dogs will appear to easily walk—and even run—on tile or wood floors, their leg and back muscles must still contract to stabilize themselves on the slick surface.
This means that movement will be restricted in some parts of the dog’s body, while other parts will have to work harder than normal to compensate. Over time, this inefficient movement can become habitual, meaning that your dog may move this way—to some degree—even when he’s on grass or carpet.
And when parts of the body continually work harder than nature intended, there’s an increased risk of injury and arthritis.
Simply put, if your dog often travels over slippery surfaces, he may be at greater risk for experiencing stiffness, soreness and injury.
Older, compromised dogs are especially vulnerable to the damaging effects of slippery flooring. If your dog already has mobility issues such as arthritis, a slippery floor may make walking and running truly problematic.
He’ll tense more muscles to deal with the instability, which can create a downward spiral of increased stiffness and pain. Accelerated aging can be the result.
An older, compromised dog who falls on a slippery surface may be unable to get up on his own and shouldn’t be left unattended. Dogs with long, overgrown nails also have more difficulty on slick floors, so that’s another reason to keep your dog’s nails trimmed.
What should you do if you have tile or wood floors in your home?
As I explained to Kathy, tile or wood flooring can be both beautiful and pet-friendly. She just needed to make sure that her dogs could safely travel across it.
One approach is to apply a special product to the dog’s nails or pads that increases traction. There are also booties that your dog can wear. But many people prefer to put down area rugs and carpet or sisal runners. Some do both, applying a traction product to their dog's paws and adding rugs where needed. The solution you choose will depend upon your dog and your own preferences.
Once she understood the risks, Kathy wanted to fix the problem immediately.
Rugs can provide much-needed traction and safety.
Always game for a shopping trip, Kathy grabbed her car keys. We jumped into her white Chevy Tahoe and drove to the local home improvement store. They had a wide selection of attractive area rugs and runners that we bought to place in the high-traffic areas and hallways of her home. We made sure to put one rug near the comfy sofa and armchairs that her dogs like to jump onto.
The dogs seemed thrilled with the new additions to their home. Even old Max pranced up and down the newly-carpeted hallway.
All the rugs had non-skid backing to reduce the danger to Kathy’s dogs and her human family too. Frequent vacuuming will decrease dirt and allergens, while airing them out may reduce any danger from outgassing.
Before I left, I made one last, important suggestion: never throw the ball for the dogs across the tile floor. That’s what the carpeted hallway—or the backyard— is for.
I smiled as I waved good-bye, realizing that Kathy and her dogs can now truly enjoy their dream home!
Takeaway: Can YOUR flooring be healthier for your dog?
It's important to remember that habitually traveling over slick surfaces may increase a dog’s risk of developing stiffness, soreness and injury.
Older, compromised dogs are especially vulnerable to the damaging effects of slippery flooring, so increasing traction is essential. Strategically-placed, skid-proof rugs and runners can make your dog’s life a lot easier!