Keep every surface soft, slip-free, and safe, according to veterinary experts.

Our companion animals give us a lifetime of devotion and friendship. And while our pets may still look like babies even when they've reached their senior years, our furry friends may start to experience arthritis and joint pain. "If you notice your senior pet moving more slowly or struggling to leap up to spots that she once reached with ease, it's time to make a few small changes around the house," says Dr. Amanda Landis-Hanna, DVM, senior manager of veterinary outreach at PetSmart Charities.

Animals may experience reduced mobility for a variety of reasons; however, the most common reasons are a decline in joint health and obesity. Diabetes, infections, traumas, cancer, autoimmune diseases, and more can contribute to reduced or painful mobility for our feline and canine friends. Your goal will be to make it as painless as possible for your pet to get around the house. Here's how, according to Dr. Landis-Hanna.

golden retriever laying at the top of outdoor wooden stairway
Credit: Wichit S. / Getty Images

Assess their individual needs.

When determining what you need to do to make your house more comfortable, you should start with making sure that your pet can meet their basic needs. Can your pet reach their food and water bowls without pain? For cats, can they get into and out of their litter box easily? Then, find ways to make it easier for them to do—even if you're going to have to be directly involved in manage their mobility issues.

Safety-check open areas.

Cover hardwood floors with soft rugs or runners for animals that have arthritis to cushion their walk. "Another suggestion is for pet parents to install carpet tiles instead of full rugs or runners," says Dr. Landis-Hanna. "An advantage of carpet tiles is that they can easily be removed to be cleaned or replaced when they get soiled or worn out." Install short ramps for pets to climb onto the couch or into bed with you; place non-slip stair treads on your staircases to reduce the potential of slipping and falling.

Keep relief spots accessible.

Get a special litter box—one with "lower sides to make urinating and defecating easier and more comfortable," as suggested by Dr. Landis-Hanna. "Also be sure to place multiple litter boxes on each level of the home."

Manage their diet and exercise.

If obesity is contributing to the mobility issues, work with your veterinarian to help your pet to shed the excess pounds. "Older pets can benefit from physical therapy, including underwater treadmill exercise, to strengthen muscles while decreasing stress on the joints," says Dr. Landis-Hanna.

Plus, understand why it's worth adopting a pet with mobility issues.

While it's good to adopt any animal in need, older pets or animals with special needs should not be overlooked. "Senior pets at shelters need homes just as badly as younger pets," says Dr. Landis-Hanna. "Adopting an older pet may save its life." Senior pets can become the best companions, and the love and devotion that you share will be mutual.

Before you bring them home, find out as much as you can about their health issues and their history, and get individualized advice on how you can revamp your home for your pet. "An adult cat or dog will make a great workout partner, a loyal companion, and a late night snuggle buddy," adds Landis-Hanna.


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