DIY Help for Senior Pets

Nov 21, 2019   Tracey Aston   Senior Pet Care

As our pets age, they will require not only more help from us but will often have greater medical needs. Mobility and assistive devices can range from the fairly cheap to the downright expensive. Every pet parent wants the best for their beloved fur child, but rising costs of medical care or the amount of care needed can put a pinch on the wallet.  Fortunately, there are still many ways we can help our pets without breaking the bank!

For pets will hind end or rear leg mobility issues, a t-shirt, towel, sheet, scarf or even a canvas bag can be used as a lifting sling. To use a towel, sheet or scarf, simply fold it in half long ways to give more stability and make it less cumbersome for the pet. While the pet is lying down or in a seated position, place the towel, sheet or scarf around their midsection towards the back end. Be careful wrapping it too close to the middle of the chest or the diaphragm area, where you could injure a pet or “knock the wind out of them.”  Make sure the towel or shirt is long enough that it will go around the pet to allow you to grab both ends of the towel.  Once the towel, sheet or scarf is in place, gently begin to lift your pet the same way you would with a sling. With all slings, homemade or not, never rush a pet to attempt to yank them off the floor. Be patient and allow them to attempt to help, if at all possible. 

A canvas bag or sturdy reusable fabric grocery bag can be used similarly by removing the side panels from the bag and leaving the handles attached. Using this type of bag has the added benefit of already having handles, which will allow for better control. 

In addition to mobility issues, senior pets won't be able to ‘hold it' as long as they did in their youth. Taking a dog outdoors also often comes with having to maneuver steps or stairs which could be hazardous in the winter for a disabled pet. For these reasons, you may want to set up a pee station for your pet using pee pads or incontinence underpads. An under-bed-storage container or shoe tray can be lined with a pee pad or litter, for cats that are having trouble stepping over the high ledge of their litter box.  For the crafty, reusable pee pads can be made with several layers of fabric and a water resistant bottom layer of nylon fabric. Depending on the size of your pet and their needs, these homemade pee pads can be made in any size and with any pattern or fabric, even old cotton shirts! Start with the fabric you want to have showing, then added 2 layers (or more for larger pets) of fabric underneath and lastly, add the final layer of nylon fabric to the bottom. Now simply sew around the edges to complete your homemade pee pad. It's a good idea to have more than one homemade pee pad or to use them in conjunction with store bought. Not only will homemade pee pads save you a ton of money – they are machine washable! 

For pets that aren't able to make it to a pee pad, or are having issues with leaking, homemade belly bands and diapers can also be made.  For males, a belly band can be made with fabric long enough to wrap around their body, and Velcro attached to the ends to hold it in place. Insert an incontinence pad or maxi pad under the belly band and then Velcro the belly band in place. For female dogs, a pair of boys or men's underwear can be used. Turn the underwear backwards, so the tail is going out the underwear flap and then insert the incontinence or maxi pad in place. 

For pets with elbow or joint calluses, an old sock with the toe cut out can be used to prevent bleeding or provide cushion for soreness. For small and toy breeds, a baby sock or even an arm band can be used. 

Older pets often suffer from arthritis and joint conditions, a homemade cooling pad can be used to provide some relief. Cut the sleeves off an old t-shirt and sew around the sleeve and neck holes.  Divide the shirt into 3 compartments and sew 2 vertical lines, start filling the compartments with rice, and then sew 3 or 4 rows across, making pockets to hold the rice. This can be put into a refrigerator to cool and allow the pet to lie on.  In a pinch, a homemade ice pack can be made with rubbing alcohol and water.  Fill a freezer bad or Ziploc with 1 cup of rubbing alcohol and 2 cups of water. Check for any signs of leakage before putting it into the freezer for an hour. This ice pack will not freeze solid and is meant to be able to cradle a sore joint. 

If a pet is having issues eating, due to bad teeth or a health concern, and is getting more on them than in them, baby bibs, a cut t-shirt or even an old apron for larger dogs can be used an a bib to keep them clean while they eat. 

Pets losing their eyesight can risk injuring themselves by bumping into things. Pet halos or doggy bumpers are used to let a pet know they are getting close to running into something; however, they can get expensive.  Halos can be made with plastic tubing, aluminum or even a pool noodle in a pinch! 

For the extremely handy, ramps and stairs can be made from plywood and carpeting and wheelchairs can be made from PVC piping.  This DIY is only recommended for those who have experience working with these types of materials and can do so safely. YouTube and Google both have several tutorials on how to make homemade ramps and stairs. As always, make sure to take the pet's size and weight into consideration before allowing the pet to use a homemade ramp or stairs. A flimsy ramp can bow or break under a large pet's weight, resulting in serious injury.

With a little creativity and ingenuity, almost any mobility or assistive device can be homemade. It might take a few attempts and some trial and error, but helping your pet while saving time and money will be well worth it in the end! 

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