Dog ramps are an indispensable tool for dogs with mobility issues as well as in the prevention of injuries and wear and tear on the joints.
Not all ramps, however, are created equal. There are considerations to keep in mind making sure your dog’s ramp is safe and functional.
Thank you to my hubby for weighing in from a jack-of-all-trades perspective.
Why consider a ramp for your dog
When you have an injured dog, a dog after surgery, or a dog suffering from a disease affecting mobility, you need to think accessibility.
Getting in and out of the vehicle, in and out of the house, even up and down a couch, all these things can become a challenge.
After Jasmine’s knee injury, we tried towel-support but that didn’t go over well with her at all. That’s when she got her first ramp, for getting in and out of the house. She took to that immediately and it has served her well all the way to the end. It was big, wide and heavy duty. We didn’t have to worry about moving it.
Criteria to consider
For a ramp to serve its purpose, it needs to be safe, stable and comfortable for the dog.
Earlier this year, after her neck events, we were taking Jasmine to a local vet for intensive laser therapy. They also happen to have an underwater treadmill, so we took advantage of our visits there by having Jasmine get some hydrotherapy too.
Their treadmill is a different brand than the one we had previously used, and there is a drain pipe which is protruding a few inches from the door by which the dogs access the treadmill. Plus there is the normal 12-14 inch jump up into the doorway.
In the video, 0.12 mins, notice the pipe as it’s sticking out, as well as the height. The ramp is at the back; from there it made its way into the adjacent closet room.
That’s quite a jump for a dog needing the treadmill for therapy.
The dog ramp cock-up
Now, the treadmill came with a ramp to allow easy and safe access. Good plan, right? Most definitely.
The ramp looked quite spiffy, made of plastic (ABS or polyethylene) so it was light, easy to clean, and basically waterproof with indoor/outdoor carpeting well glued to it.
The ramp looked good, but there was a problem with it.
It flexed quite easily. The vet technician could make it bend just by putting some pressure on it with her hand. Not good. A dog with an insecure stance is not going to feel comfortable walking up a ramp that’s bending in all directions.
So, the ramp was put in a closet and was collecting dust, since the dogs simply didn’t like it.
Smaller dogs were lifted in and out, larger dogs had to jump while avoiding the pipe sticking out at the same time.
Dogs like ramps
From our own experience, we found that dogs like ramps.
At least they like them much better than steps. But they won’t like a ramp which is too steep, too narrow, or slippery. They also don’t like it when they bend, fold, or sag in the middle.
DIY dog ramp for Jasmine
When, after Jasmine’s first neck event, we (read: Jana) wanted a ramp to get our dogs into our mini-bus, we (read: I) built one that was simply made from a piece of 5//8” plywood with 1.5 x 1.5 x 3/16” thick aluminum angle carriage bolted to the sides. The plywood was then covered with pickup box protective coating for traction.
The reason for the aluminum angle on the sides was to stiffen the plywood along its length. The width was sufficiently rigid, but the plywood would bend along its length.
The thing to remember here is that thickness is of much less benefit than height.
I could have used thicker plywood, but that the ramp would have been much heavier and would still flex. The aluminum gave me 1.5 inches of the height along the edges and was light. I could have easily had the same strength it the aluminum had been 1/8″ thick, but I didn’t have any readily available.
It worked well, and both of our dogs readily used it.
The ramp held 200 pounds of dogs and it was stable.
Things to remember when building a ramp
There’s a couple of things to remember about a ramp like this.
You need to be able to carry it, and it needs to fit in your vehicle.
I could have built it a bit lighter, but it only weighed about 60 pounds which I can handle myself. We had the room in the mini-bus for it, so that was good for us.
Fixing the vet hospital’s ramp
Getting back to the ramp at the vet’s, the technician showed it to us, and we (read: Jana again) offered to fix it. In other words, I got voluntold once again. Do you see a pattern here?
The design of the ramp is just simple bends with lots of flat, flexible plastic. If was formed plastic, not molded. If it had been molded, it could have had reinforcing ribs built into the bottom of it to add rigidity.
As it was, something needed to be added.
Once again, weight and water resistance had to be considered. I build a simple frame out of 1” x 1” x 1/8” aluminum angle. In looking at the pictures you can see how it was welded together. This frame was then fastened to the existing ramp using ¼” stainless steel carriage bolts.
After bolting it all together I gave it the “acid test” and stood on it myself.
This proved that it will support a 100-pound dog. Okay, two 100 pound dogs. Alright, two 100 pound dogs and food for a month.
The dogs are using the ramp to access the treadmill now, and are comfortable using it. All for a few pounds of aluminum.
Whether you purchase a ramp for your dog or build it yourself, don’t forget it needs to be functional.
Ramp requirements from the dog’s perspective
- comfortable width for your dog’s size
- the angle that is not too steep
- non-slip (don’t forget it needs to remain non-slippery even when wet)
- stable (wobbly ramp does not a happy dog make)
Dog ramp requirements from your perspective
- weight (unless it’s a ramp that stays put, you need to be able to carry it)
- size (no point of having an awesome vehicle access ramp that doesn’t fit into a vehicle or other designated space)
To determine the desired length, run a measuring tape from the point your dog needs to access and pull out to the ground until you get an angle that is reasonable for your dog. Then you’ll know how long your ramp should be. You may or may not need to opt for a design that folds.
Canine Physical Therapy: Ramps!