My parents have a 10-year-old female German Shepherd that has hip arthritis, which is especially bad on one side. She limps pretty much everywhere, and even has trouble getting up off the floor. The vet has already provided medication, but it's still quite an effort for her to move around.

The real issue comes from her having to walk down 2 steps to get outside. She has slipped a few times and hurt herself. Though she hasn't broken anything, her pain was clearly worse for several days after each incident.

How can we get her down the stairs more easily and comfortably? I have a feeling that in a year she won't be able to make it down them at all unless we do something... I have read this question about a cat with arthritis but there was no helpful information pertaining to this situation.

These are the stairs, for clarification:


  • 1
    I hate to say this, but I fear that you have a very difficult decision to make soon, in the interest of your pet. It's very, very hard, but it sounds like you may have to make it. Commented Jul 28, 2018 at 18:14
  • @MartinJames My parents are definitely aware that they will probably have to make that decision within the next year or so. But in the meantime, they want to make her as comfortable as possible. Commented Jul 28, 2018 at 18:15
  • I had a boy a carried in and out for last year of his life.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Jul 28, 2018 at 22:15
  • Related though covers a broader spectrum of stuff. +
    – Journeyman Geek
    Commented Jul 29, 2018 at 4:32

1 Answer 1


Build a ramp. After looking at your picture, I think it would be best to build it facing the side (right side of the picture) rather than lying over the steps. It could probably be a very simple design of a long board with legs on one side. Maybe you can even find a reasonably priced portable wheelchair ramp.

As shown in this picture, the ramp doesn't have to be as steep as the stairs themselves. example of dog ramp

There are a few things you should have in mind:

  • If possible, the top of the ramp should be at the same height as the top stair. That way you don't build another stair and possibility to stumble.
  • There must be no gap between the staircase and the ramp. A dogs paw is small and can be caught in small gaps.
  • The ramp has to be topped with a material that provides grip. Dogs slide easily on raw wood.
  • Considering the age of your dog, the ramp should be sturdy enough to not swing when the dog walks over it.
  • Again, considering the age of your dog, I would make the ramp at least 3 times as wide as your dog is. That eliminates the risk of falling should she stagger.

Again, a portable wheelchair ramp has all these properties. enter image description here

  • Pretty much this. If your dog can't get down the stairs, they can't get down the stairs. I'd also add to try to make it as non slip as possible - my neighbourhood has a few ramps that work well for my elderly terrier, and some he just nopes at.
    – Journeyman Geek
    Commented Jul 29, 2018 at 4:22

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