Wooden and tiled floors are frequently hazardous for our patients. Slipping can predispose them to iliopsoas tears or strains and flare up of arthritic joints, which eventually results in more pain and discomfort for the pet. Once a patient has slipped or fallen, it is not uncommon that they lose confidence in walking on these surfaces, which increases their anxiety and stress levels.
Dogs gain traction through their nails and their paw pads. Some of the strategies to prevent slipping involve increasing traction through either the nails, paw pads, or both.
The below strategies and tools will help you to provide owners with a tailor made solution to help their dog.
The first steps to increase traction and prevent slipping
Reducing slipping and improving traction in canine patients should start with teaching your clients to use these simple, non-invasive strategies:
- Trim excess fur between the paw pads: The hair between the paw pads can interfere with the ground contact of the paw. When the hair gets between the paw pads and the floor, slipping is likely to happen, especially in poodles and dogs with silky smooth coats. If the pet does not allow you to do this, a poodle parlour could do it easily with an electric clipper.
- Trim long nails: The pet’s nails should just touch the ground when the pet is standing. Any longer, and they will interfere with the way they walk, making it especially challenging on slippery floors.
- Put down mats or rugs: Sometimes, pet owners have smaller areas of tiled or wooden floors. If this is the case, they should get mats or rugs that their pet can safely walk on. I would recommend putting one where the pet lies. Make sure that at any point the pet needs to stand up, they can put their paws on a non-slip surface. Also, don’t forget how difficult it is to eat when your front legs keep slipping outwards. Some pets may compensate by eating while lying down, which is far from ideal for digestion. Other areas pets may struggle are when they jump off the couch, travelling up and down the steps, or when rounding corners or navigating between furniture.
- Nonslip flooring tape: self-adhesive non-slip flooring tape is great to use on steps or on a ramp.
When patients need help to prevent slipping
In some cases, patients will continue to slip and struggle to travel on certain surfaces. There are multiple products on the market that can help support these patients and provide them with the additional traction that they need.
Sticky pawz are biodegradable, reusable, and sold in packs of 12.
I used to repackage these and sell them to my clients in packs of four. They are thin enough to allow the pet to feel the ground, making them very easy to walk in. They are particularly well suited for dogs with a neurological condition or dogs that have become very weak.
There are some considerations to keep in mind when using these for patients, especially for extended periods of time:
- Sedentary dogs can experience paw swelling after prolonged use.
- As dogs sweat between their paw pads, a patient may develop dermatitis between the toes. Patients with skin issues are more susceptible to developing dermatitis when using Sticky Pawz.
One can also use a little bit of talcum powder inside the Pawz, which helps to refresh them. The back paws and the front paws can sometimes be different sizes, so the client may need to buy two different sizes.
Toe Grips are small rings fitting over the dog’s nails. They work by increasing the grip zone and helping the pet get traction in a very natural way. A significant benefit of the toe grips is that you don’t need to remove them, and can stay on the pet permanently. They are great for pets that suffer with dermatitis as they allow aeration of the paws.
There are some considerations when using toe grips:
- They can fall off of some patients, and will need to be replaced in these cases. The toe grips can be glued onto the nail for patients that have a tendency to loose them.
- Toe nail size can differ between the forepaws and hindpaws.
- Toe grips will need to be replaced more or less on a monthly basis.
We had a brilliant interview with Julie Buzby, the owner of Toe grips, about this product and how it benefits dogs. You can listen to the podcast here
You can purchase Toe Grips here.
Paw Friction involves gluing pulverised rubber to the pads of the paws, increasing the friction of the pad itself. I tested this product on my own dog, Charlie, and can share the following experience.
Paw Friction uses medical grade glue on the pet’s paw pads and then dips the pet’s paw into a bowl of pulverised rubber. This forms a layer on the paw pad, and it works amazingly. But, you should be careful if your patient has long hair. In that case, you should trim the hair between the paw pads. It’s a fantastic option for pets that don’t like things on their feet. It can be a bit tricky to put it on initially, but by the fourth paw, you will have it waxed. Charlie hates his paws being touched, but I think it’s more about his nails. The Sticky Pawz and toe grips are very difficult to apply, but the paw traction he tolerates. It rubs off quite quickly and will need to be applied again after about 2 weeks.
8. Boots or shoes
These usually come with a suede or rubber sole, which provides grip and traction. They are heavier and more cumbersome than the sticky paws, and accordingly, harder to walk in. I would not recommend these for very weak dogs or those with neurological problems. Some shoes are made for trail running, and they come with hard soles. This is great because they will last longer, but, on the down side, they do not conform to the pet’s paw and they make walking a lot harder. They can even alter the way the pet walks, which in the end will cause more problems.
Considerations for boots:
- Booties need to be flexible to allow the paw to move and shape as the dog walks.
- Do not use boots or shoes if a pet has arthritis in the digits, as this commonly makes it worse.
- Boots may slip off or twist around. I advise you to check the length of the boot, considering that the longer boots usually anchor better. I find the shorter boots that just cover the paws and don’t extend up to the metacarpals or the metatarsal area usually twist around.
Slipping, as we know, can pose a serious risk for our patients. If you want to help your patient to walk freely and comfortably and ensure their safety, help educate the owner on the different ways in which they can improve the environment and support their pet. However, if it doesn’t work and your patient still needs help, do not hesitate to try the recommended products and find out which one works the best for that animal.
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