Most dogs can safely and easily negotiate the stairs in your home. They’ll happily trot up and down without much thought. But some dogs simply cannot go up stairs and shouldn't even try. If you have such a dog, prevention is as easy as fitting a baby gate to make the stairs strictly off-limits. Stairs typically pose a problem for dogs with mobility issues; depending on the severity of these issues, these dogs may also experience difficulties in other areas.
Canine body types come in a variety of shapes, each adapted for its own specialty and suited to different environments. Dogs with long backs and short legs, such as dachshunds, basset hounds and corgis, while looking quirkily adorable, are at risk of serious injury if they attempt to go up or down stairs. Because dogs with long backs are highly susceptible to ruptured disk syndrome, even the slightest jolt, such as one caused by hopping down from the bottom stair, can cause a painful injury. Due to their exaggerated dimensions, these dogs find it difficult to remain stable when descending stairs, which also puts them at risk of injury.
A variety of health problems can make climbing up stairs painful for dogs. In fact, a reluctance to go up stairs is often one of the first signs that your dog is suffering. Hip dysplasia is the result of excessive erosion in the hip, caused by a malformed ball-and-socket joint. Once the hip is sufficiently worn, certain movements become painful for dogs. Because climbing the stairs requires the hind legs to bear much of the dog’s weight, a dog with hip dysplasia will find it very painful. Similarly, arthritis makes climbing the stairs a painful challenge due to the discomfort caused when too much weight is put on an affected joint.
You may need to make the stairs temporarily off-limits if your dog has an injury, especially if that injury is one that requires rest, like a pulled muscle or lacerated paw. If your dog has had an operation on any of his limbs or his back, or has stitches, climbing the stairs could aggravate the problem. If the veterinarian fitted your dog with a cone to prevent him from chewing his stitches, this will act as both a trip hazard and an impediment to vision: that's two good reasons to shut off the stairs.
A combination of limited mobility, restricted eyesight and a general lack of stability on their feet means that some older dogs should be kept well away from stairs. It’s also important to factor in that older dogs often need to go to the toilet more frequently and are less capable of holding the urge to go, so keeping your dog downstairs will mean he can always get outside quickly. If your yard is only accessible via a set of stairs, consider setting up an indoor potty area using absorbent pads.
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