Mobility Assistive Devices for Dogs 

By Julia Spade, DVM, LastWishes.com

A handicapped Staffordshire Bull Terrier Dog in a wheelchair looking at the camera.

As our pets age we can commonly see them decline in their ability to get around the house.  This can affect all sizes of dogs, but we have the most trouble with helping our larger dogs get around due to their size and weight. Symptoms of mobility decline can include: difficulty getting up from lying or sitting positions, paws slipping on the floor, falling, or difficulty going up stairs and/or jumping.  Listed below are some of the recommendations we make daily at Senior Paws-Last Wishes to aid pets with mobility decline.

  • If your house has tile or wood floors (as most houses do), adding extra rugs throughout the house can help to increase traction for our pets. This can include runners, bath mats, full sized rugs or even yoga mats (which are also easy to clean if accidents happen). Some newer brands of rugs even have an outer lining that is completely removable and machine washable, making it easy to clean up any mess left behind. And don’t forget about the stairs! An easy solution for extra traction on the stairs is to buy rug squares that have adhesive on the back. These are easily placed on each stair and can later be removed if needed.  
  • Another way to help with traction is to apply material directly to the paw pads.  Baby socks with grippers on the bottom can be used if they will stay on your pet’s feet. There are also many different styles and types of socks branded just for dogs.  Dog shoes are available, but some of these are bulky and many dogs do not like them.  Paw pad stickers and anti-slip grips are applied directly to the paw pads to help with traction.  Since these are stickers they do not last as long as the socks and typically will fall off after 3-5 days. However they can work well and are mostly well-tolerated.  Toe Grips are placed directly on the nail and allow extra grip between the toe and the floor. 
  • Assistive devices such as harnesses can be life-changing for some larger dogs. Owners use these harnesses to transfer some of the weight for pets when getting up, going down stairs, walking, getting in the car, and using the restroom.  There are many different brands of harnesses, but we prefer a whole-body harness to allow support of the front and the back ends.  There are many sling devices that are used around the abdomen for helping a dog get up from a seated position. While short-term usage works well, these slings can put excessive pressure on the abdomen over time and can become uncomfortable for the back and/or belly.  While there are many brands on the market, our favorite is the Help’EmUp Harness™ and can be purchased through the company’s website or through a distributor.  
  • Wheelchairs are another option to help with some age-related mobility issues.   These are not a solution for all medical reasons for mobility decline. We recommend discussing with your veterinarian whether purchasing a wheelchair is the right option for your pet.  

While this list is not exhaustive, it can be a starting point for you and your family when you notice mobility decline in your pet.  If you need any further assistance in deciding what will be best, contact your veterinarian or our staff at Senior Paws-Last Wishes for a consultation.