Household Adaptations and Exercise Modifications for Older Pets

Household Adaptations and Exercise Changes


There are many low cost, effective and simple changes we can make for our pets in the house, that can help ease symptoms and advancement of many musculoskeletal conditions. We have compiled lists for our canine, feline and small furry animal friends, some of which will overlap with each other as there are many common adaptations that can help them all.



  • Hardwood, tile or laminate flooring can make gripping and walking difficult for our dogs. Using carpet offcuts or rugs on these floors can help older dogs walk around without slipping and causing themselves more discomfort, or new musculoskeletal issues.
  • Using steps or ramps to aid dogs getting on/off furniture, or in and out of cars. Jumping on and off things can increase damage to joints and cartilage with increased force from the impact of landing.
  • Orthopaedic or padded bedding will help cushion and pad older dog’s joints, making it easier for them to get up after a prolonged period of rest or sleep.
  • Raising food and water bowls for dogs with neck or spinal arthritis to prevent them bending down to eat or drink can help minimise discomfort.
  • Where possible, avoiding long flights of stairs (especially for dogs with forelimb arthritis), using ramps or carrying smaller dogs upstairs will help prevent additional impact on their joints
  • Going on smaller, more frequent walks, instead of lengthy ones. Arthritic dogs need regular exercise, in shorter quantities to help keep them supple, mentally engaged and moving.
  • Driving your dog to their favourite destination instead of walking there can help engage them mentally, and reduce impact on their joints
  • Reversing cars up to banks to prevent dogs jumping out the car is another trick to help prevent the damage from impact of jumping out of the car. This tip is especially useful for dogs that won’t use ramps



  • Much like dogs, laminate, hardwood or tile flooring can prove difficult to grip, using offcuts of carpets or rugs can help older cats walk around without slipping.
  • Moving food bowls down onto the floor, instead of leaving them on counter tops or tablets. This prevents them jumping up and down, which could prove difficult in arthritic cats, it also puts increased pressure and strain on joints, much the same as in dogs.
  • Invest in horizontal scratching posts or scratching mats, instead of vertical scratching posts. This is especially helpful for cats with hip or hindlimb arthritis.
  • Orthopaedic, padded bedding or beds hanging from radiators will help cushion and pad older cat’s joints. Making it easier for them to get up after a prolonged period of time.
  • Using steps or ramps to aid getting cats on or off furniture will help reduce impact on joints.
  • Cat flaps should be easy to get through if your cat still goes outside, so minimal force is required to push through and open the flap.
  • Ensuring litter trays have a low lipped entrance rather than higher sides, this will help cats get into the tray to toilet and could prevent accidents occurring


Small Furries

  • Make sure floors of a hutch, cage or run aren’t slippery. Either use towels or blankets underneath normal bedding, or increase the amount of bedding used to prevent it moving around so they could slip on plastic flooring.
  • If your rabbit is litter trained, ensure the there is one low lipped side to allow easy access.
  • Consider bringing outside small furries inside during colder weather, or provide heating devices (with caution to avoid thermal burns) in their sleeping quarters to keep them warm and help keep their joints supple and mobile.
  • If your hutch or cage has levels, consider ensuring there are non slip ramps available for them to go up. You could also consider keeping them to one level rather than multiple to avoid accidents or possible further injury.
  • Ensure your small furry is on a balanced diet, supplemented if needed.


Most arthritic animals will need veterinary prescribed pain killers, joint supplements and additional therapy techniques (physiotherapy, hydrotherapy or acupuncture), however it is important we consider the home environment also. Some of these small changes can make a big change on our pets quality of life.


© Rowly House Vet 2023