Home Environment Adaptations
It is a known fact that features within a home or a person’s local environment can positively or negatively affect their ability to move safely and independently. Handrails, modified steps and adapted furniture are commonplace in the homes of people that have a physical disability. They are logical additions to minimise trips, stumbles and falls all of which can aggravate and progress arthritis and other musculoskeletal diseases.
Occupational Therapy is a distinct discipline within the field of human medicine dedicated to assessing an individual with their own unique challenges, in the context of their own home, and then finding solutions by either modifying the environment or the task to ensure they are protected from accidental harm.
Our pets are also vulnerable to harm from obstacles of daily living that were once easy to navigate, but with a physical impairment become a risky challenge. Simple inexpensive modifications are hugely beneficial to assist our companions achieving a comfortable life well into old age.
These interventions are often overlooked as there is a belief that a dog is more agile and stable than a human because they have four legs. Unfortunately this is not true. With diseases like arthritis, that cause pain and reduced function, the dog will offload that limb and use it less. Muscle mass and function reduces, as if you don’t use it, you will lose it. This functional loss also includes strength, balance, reaction times and agility. They lose their physical coping mechanisms, and what was once easy becomes hard. A few steps from the living room to the kitchen become a balance challenge. The stairs to the bedroom become hard work for weak wobbly limbs leaving them liable to falling.
Through adapting your dog’s environment you will not only improve their physical comfort levels and reduce the risk of injury, you will likely slow the progression of the disease, and positively influence their emotional state through reducing stress and anxiety.
Owners must remember dogs are incredible at coping with the world that we surround them in. They will continue as best they can no matter the circumstance. A dog with painful, weak limbs will continue to cross a slippery floor to reach the resources that are important to them such as their food and water, or their exit point to the garden, or to simply be with their owner/friend. This does not mean that that activity is not painful or dangerous to them. Comprehending their capability, being aware of the risks and adjusting to improve safety and comfort is an essential part of a chronic pain management plan.
OBSTACLES AND ADAPTATIONS
Here is a non-exhaustive list of common potentially harmful obstacles dogs face in homes around the world and how they can be adapted.