Anyone that has loved a pet through their senior years of life has probably watched simple tasks like walking and eating become more and more difficult. Just like in humans, as our pets age, they tend to acquire diseases such as arthritis and neurologic changes that make them painful or weak. As a consequence, our pets may lose muscle tone, balance and strength, and find it quite difficult to walk or stand, especially on slippery surfaces. We are experiencing a similar condition with our own dog. Despite being an athlete her whole life, our dog developed a neurologic disease in her senior years. When we noticed the first signs of her disease, they were subtle at best. She just seemed to slip a little more on tiled surfaces and that was it. We ran a handful of tests before coming to the final diagnosis. For us, it is important to know what disease we are working with to make sure we are doing the best treatment possible. To help our dog manage her illness we use everything from pain medication to physical therapy to diet changes. However, we also want her to still be able to play and run around as much as possible, and because of her disease, that is now difficult for her. It is heartbreaking to watch, but we were desperate to do everything we could to keep her feeling like the puppy she was at heart. Through much trial and error, here are a list of some of the products we tried for our own pet that allow her keep doing the things she loved.
Products to Keep Your Dog From Slipping
1. Pawz Rubber Dog Boots: These paw coverings are made of 100% rubber and therefore provide grip on otherwise slippery surfaces. They just cover the paws rather than some of the larger boots that cover the entire lower portion of the leg. Pawz were designed to prevent the feet from becoming dirty or wet as well as to protect them from exposure to extreme heat or cold, but also work really nicely for providing extra traction in our older pets. The thin design allows for dogs to still feel the ground, which makes them more secure in their footing. In our opinion they work well for providing traction and are small and fitted enough so as not to become a tripping hazard. Also, for those who are environmentally conscious they are disposable and biodegradable. However, because Pawz are waterproof they trap moisture and can cause skin irritation or infection if left on for long periods of time. They also sometimes are a little tight around the foot when first applied, so watch closely to make sure they are not too tight and causing circulation issues. It may take some wear time for your pet to feel comfortable in them, but overall they work very well to prevent slipping.
2. Dr. Buzby’s Toe Grips: These thick, circular, rubber toe covers are designed to help your dog achieve traction on hard, slippery floors. They work by allowing your dog to regain grip by using their nails (a way they would naturally gain better footing). They come in several sizes and simple measurements can be taken to ensure you order the right ones. Toe grips are designed to just slip over the nails and typically stay on between 1 and 3 months. There are multiple tutorials on the website to assist with measurement, application and removal of the toe grips. Two major advantages to toe grips compared to other products are that they do not require you to take on or off paw covers multiple times a day and there is little to no risk of irritation to the paws or secondary infections if applied correctly. In our experience, they take a little practice to get the application technique down. If your dog is already sensitive to having their feet touched, it may take even more practice and patience. Our own dog required these because of a neurologic disease where she was dragging her back feet rather than picking them up and placing them. In this particular circumstance we did not feel that the toe grips worked well. They tended to come off daily even when we used glue during the application process because of how she was dragging her feet rather than placing them. Although Toe Grips did provide some benefit on slippery floors, their traction benefits seemed less noticeable than other products we tried.
3. Paw Friction: This product consists of a special adhesive that can be applied to the bottom of the paw pad and toe pads, then covered in small rubber-like granules designed to improve traction. It’s almost like gluing a shoe sole to the bottom of your dog’s foot. Paw Friction is fairly easy to apply as you just squeeze the adhesive over the desired area, then dip the paw in the granules. We were worried at first that as some of the adhesive started to peel off, that it might cause discomfort for our dog, but she didn’t seem to notice at all that we had even done anything to her foot. As an added bonus, it may also reduce some of the heat transfer when your pet walks on hot surfaces. The traction benefits were equivalent to that of the toe grips, but not quite as great as the Pawz or Ruffwear Boots. We also found that we had to reapply weekly or even more frequently if our dog was particularly active. As an added benefit, however, Paw Friction can be used in cats and is relatively well-tolerated compared to other products for our feline friends.
4. Ruffwear Boots: This was probably our favorite all-around product for our own dog. The traction benefits were quite noticeable and the boots were incredibly durable and fit comfortably. For the first time in a while, we started watching our dog play on slippery surfaces again. The boots were small and fitted, so in the early stages of our dog’s neurologic disease, they did not pose much of a tripping hazard. Unlike the Paws, the Ruffwear boots have a mesh top, which allowed for them to breathe a little better. Of course, we still could not leave them on all day or allow them to get wet, without some risk of irritation to the paws or a secondary infection developing. However, we do not mind only putting the boots on as needed, because with the Velcro strap, Ruffwear Boots are easy to apply and take off. As a bonus, this company is environmentally conscious and chooses sustainably sourced materials with a strong focus on recycling products. One minor down-side to these boots is that they have a rubber toe, so when our dog went to jump on the couch, she would sometimes get the boots caught on her way up causing her to stumble a bit. Overall, our dog finds them comfortable and they improve her quality of life greatly.
5. Floor mats: As an alternative to putting things on our dog’s nails or paws we also simply provided a less slippery surface in the environment where she spent the most time. Large mats designed for working out seemed to work better than rugs or carpets. We preferred the Gorilla brand mats as they had excellent grip to the floor and had plenty of cushion. We put one of these in our bedroom and kitchen and found ourselves loving them about as much as our dog did. They were comfortable to walk on, easy to clean and rolled up nicely to be stored in a closet when company came over. They also provide a large space for our dog to do her physical therapy exercises without the fear of slipping and sliding. We were surprised to find how much more comfortable our dog was when eating because of this mat. Apparently, it had become a little difficult for her to stand on the tile without her feet sliding to the side while she was eating. With the mat, she would be able to stand for a long period of time and eat comfortably without moving around as she had been doing before.
If your pet is struggling with mobility and finds it difficult to walk or play, the veterinarians at West Park Animal Hospital are here to help. We will help you get to the bottom of what is ailing your pet and take whatever steps necessary to manage the condition. While some of these steps may involve things like pain control and physical therapy, others may be simply finding resources to keep your pet from slipping as much. When we treat our patients we treat them like our own pets. Play and quality of life are equally important to science and medicine. If you are looking for a vet in Keystone, Westchase, Oldsmar, Odessa or the surrounding areas of Tampa, please contact us to set up an appointment. We look forward to meeting you and your pet!