As I’m a proponent of physical therapy for humans and animals, I’ll now feature the monthly contributions of pet physical rehabilitator Susan Davis, PT of JoyCareOnsite.com. These articles originally appeared on DawgBusiness.com. Here’s the first, titled: Ramps! The thought of a small to medium sized dog jumping down from a sofa or bed makes me cringe! The sight of a large, older dog leaping out the back of a truck or van makes me gasp as their joints come in jolting contact with the hard ground. Am I just the “nervous type”? Well, that’s for another discussion……no, I’m just a concerned physical therapist who has had more than her share of patients who have sustained torn ligaments and injuries to the spine and extremity joints that probably could have been avoided, if not for the repetitive trauma from vertical leaps and jumps. There is an easy solution in these scenarios: placing a ramp to allow the dog to walk up and down at a reasonable incline. What about those prefabricated boxes with small stair steps for the pet to climb? Well, those are still stairs, even if small ones! Climbing up and down steps is better than jumping, but it can still produce dangerous torque forces on the joints, so the angled walking ramp is the best way to prevent injury. Ramps can be expensive, bulky, and it might be tricky to find just the right size, so I am going to offer some suggestions and guidelines for making a custom ramp for your beloved dog! These will apply to toy, small and small/medium sized dogs, for negotiating on/off furniture such as beds and sofas. Medium/large and large breeds that have sufficient limb length to climb on and off furniture without needing to jump will not need a ramp. These dogs will only need a ramp for getting in/out of a truck or van/SUV with a high rise platform. Here are some general guidelines: Ramp width should be about 11-12 inches for toy and small dogs, and 22-24 inches for medium size breeds. Rise of the ramp should allow an angle of incline at roughly 18 to 25 degrees. A toy or small dog will need 18-20 degrees and a medium size dog 22-25 degrees. That might seem steep, based on ramp specs used for humans in wheelchairs, but canines have a lower center of gravity and have a mechanical advantage as “quadrupeds”. For a sofa or bed measuring 14 to 16 inches high vertically, you will need the ramp length to be 3 feet, in order to achieve the correct incline angle. For a vehicle loading platform of 24-30 inches high, you will need a ramp length of 5 to 6 feet.
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