Ramps for your dog

Is he having trouble jumping on the bed or getting into your vehicle? Pet ramps or a set of steps can make life a lot easier for your senior or disabled companion.

I can sit for hours watching a puppy or kitten bounce around the house – leaping on the bed, careening onto a couch cushion, pouncing on a windowsill and bounding upstairs. I once had a dog that seemed to just fly through the open door of a car, whether invited or not.

But those days don’t last forever. As our fur friends get older, especially when they’re recovering from injury or illness, they just don’t jump as high as they used to. Getting up on a bed or couch can become almost impossible.

There are several ways you can help an elderly, disabled or handicapped animal get around more easily. These include rear lift harnesses or leashes, dog wheelchairs and throw rugs for firm footing. One of the most basic tools is a handicapped pet ramp or set of steps.

There are a wide variety of steps and ramps to choose from and each has different applications.

• Soft foam pet steps are ideal for around the house. They are lightweight, easy to move, and won’t hurt your shins if you scrape against them in the dark. Foam pet steps come in several shapes, sizes, colors, fabrics and heights. Typically, they cost between $50 and $100, so they’re very affordable. When choosing foam pet stairs, consider not only your furniture and décor, but also the size and shape of your dog. For example, a smaller dog may be better with a five-step version, with the steps set fairly close together. A larger dog may do well with a three-step version.

• Wooden pet steps and ramps can be used if the installation is going to be relatively permanent. They can be finished to match your furniture. They are often placed beside a bed or couch on a part of the floor not often used by people.

• One of the most common uses for pet steps and ramps is to help animals get up into vehicles. Jumping up on the backseat of a car, into the rear of an SUV or the back of a truck bed can be impossible for a handicapped animal. And the idea of lifting a heavy dog into a car can be daunting.

There are three primary categories of ramps for use with vehicles: folding pet ramps, telescoping ramps, and expanding (accordion style) pet steps. You need to choose the correct type based on your vehicle, where your dog rides, available storage space, and your ability to lift the ramp. Make sure the product you buy will fit in the trunk, behind the seat or wherever else there is storage space.

Telescoping and folding ramps

A telescoping ramp has an internal sliding mechanism so the bottom half of the ramp slides out from under the top part. Telescoping ramps are very easy to use and ideal for their portability.

Typical folding pet ramps are between 35” to 40” folded, and will unfold to 70” to 75”. Tri-fold ramps can fit in a space as small as 26”. These ramps have reinforcedhinges. Some will lock into place.

Compared to the folding pet ramp, a telescoping pet ramp is a bit easier to open and more adjustable because it can slide open to any length between 40” to 72”. A folding ramp has only two sizes, folded and unfolded. Some telescoping ramps, however, have more moving parts and can be difficult to open if debris gets in the mechanism.

Both folding and telescoping pet ramps weigh between 12 and 18 pounds and can support weights of up to 400 pounds. Ramps like this should not be used for heights greater than 30”, as the angle may become too steep for the dog. For larger pickup trucks with a tailgate height of up to 36”, you’ll need a ramp that extends to 85” to 90”.

A ramp works best with an SUV or pickup truck when it can be laid flat against the bumper or tailgate. Getting into the side door of a car, into the front or back seat, can be a bit awkward based on how far your doors will open. One product, PetStep, offers a side entry support strap that holds the ramp securely in place while the dog climbs into the back seat.

rampsExpanding steps

Expanding pet steps unfold into a staircase that allows the dog to easily walk up into a vehicle. Folded, the steps are about the size of a small suitcase. Unfolded, accordion style, with models ranging from three to five steps, they can be used for heights up to 40”. They tend to be a bit heaver and more expensive then folding or telescoping pet ramps, but are much more versatile and can fold into a compact 22” square.

Choosing the right ramp or steps is simple when you consider how, when and where they will be used. When your best couch companion needs help getting up, these simple devices give him the freedom to come and go as he pleases, with comfort and ease.

Pet ramp sources

HandicappedPets.com, HandicappedPets.com
Pet Loader, petloader.com
PetSTEP International, PetStep.com

When buying a ramp , pay attention to the following :

• Does the ramp have good traction on the walking surface? Your dog needs to feel a firm footing. • Is the ramp washable and rust-proof?
• It should have the ability to lock in both open and closed positions.
• Is the ramp’s height right for your vehicle?
• It should have raised sides for the dog’s comfort and safety. This is particularly important if he uses a wheelchair.