You try hard to make life good for your pooch. If she can't go upstairs -- depending on the problem -- it can be temporarily inconvenience or heartbreaking to watch. If your dog's inability to get up and down stairs is new, see your vet right away.
Aging, Arthritis and Health Problems
If your dog has become hesitant to climb the stairs, arthritis is a likely cause, particularly if your pet is getting on in years. For small breeds, arthritis becomes a concern at around 10 years old, for medium breeds it's around 8 or 9 years old and for large breeds it's around 5 to 6 years old. Even without arthritis, aging, hip dysplasia and other degenerative joint conditions are concerns. If your furry friend limps, struggles to sit or stand, favors limbs, walks stiffly, hesitates to jump or run or stand, gains weight or seems less interested in interaction and activity, she may not be going up the stairs due to pain caused by arthritis and old age. Of course, any number of health problems cause dogs to experience pain, lose muscle strength of otherwise interfere with the ability to get up and down steps. Your vet needs to evaluate your pet as soon as possible.
Fear of Stairs
Some doggies are afraid of the stairs, and they may show it by steering clear of them completely or whining when you encourage them to climb. Sometimes, it stems from a traumatic experience or abuse, other times it's just hesitancy from unfamiliarity. If your canine companion is a rescued animal, the former is a distinct possibility. Patience and lots of positive reinforcement can push your pooch past her fear. Begin just by getting her to approach the steps, offering lots of praise, affection and a few treats when she does. Then, take it one step at a time, literally. Continue with the positive reinforcement, building up to getting all the way up the stairs at your dog's pace. Don't push her, yell at her or punish her; you'll only make things worse.
Managing Arthritis and Pain
Treating your pooch's arthritis or pain may enable her to get up and down the stairs again. Your vet will advise you on the proper course of treatment and provide appropriate prescriptions. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids or other pain relievers often help. Ask your vet about giving your doggy a joint supplement containing some combination of chondroitin, glucosamine, MSM and omega-3 fatty acids. Also discuss an appropriate diet and exercise regimen to manage your pet's weight, as extra pounds exacerbate joint and pain problems. Physical therapy might also help your dog regain some of her lost mobility. If your vet diagnosed another disorder that's responsible for your pooch's inability to go up stairs, obviously you'll need to follow the appropriate course of treatment.
Helping Your Dog
If your dog can't climb stairs anymore, it's up to you to make things easier on her. If you have a smaller pooch who's not in too much pain, you may be able to carry her up and down as needed; ask your vet first, though. Otherwise, the first order of business is obviously relocating all of your pet's belongings to the floor she's staying on. Be aware of isolating her, too. Make sure everyone else in the home isn't inaccessibly located on a different level often or for extended periods. Provide a senior or arthritic pet with a thick, soft bed and don't make her walk to far to eat or get her stuff. If walking is difficult, keep the floors clear of obstacles.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Eric Mohrman has been a freelance writer since 2007, focusing on travel, food and lifestyle stories. His creative writing is also widely published. He lives in Orlando, Florida.