Stairs: Are They Bad For Your Puppy’s Hips? [Safety Guide]

Ahhh….puppies! The awkward walk and clumsiness of young puppies make them even more endearing to us.

While puppies should be introduced and socialized to stairs early on, they shouldn’t be allowed to use them regularly, especially when they are still young and their bones and joints are only just developing. 

On the one hand, some claim that climbing steps puts too much stress on small puppies’ joints, potentially leading to hip dysplasia or other painful conditions that affect mobility. However, others argue that dogs seem perfectly capable of navigating stairs without adverse effects. 

While puppies should practice going up and down a few steps at a time, taking on a long flight of stairs several times a day can hurt the delicate bones and joints that are part of their musculoskeletal structure that has only just begun growing. 

Why Should Puppies Not Do Stairs?

We have to remember that stairs are created for people, not dogs. When we climb stairs, our body weight pressures the soles of our feet, which is what our bodies were made for.

However, when dogs go down the stairs, their entire body weight pressures only their front legs. 

Frequently going down the stairs can damage their growing joints, which might cause future problems like elbow and hip dysplasia. 

In addition, we all know how clumsy puppies can be! Their boundless, excited energy might have them running down the stairs at full speed, leaving them open to falls and faceplants that, while amusing to watch, could result in more injury and damage to their growing bodies. 

Any significant damage to muscles and joints early in life is likely to cause health conditions that can persist for many years. 

When Can Puppies Start Going Up And Down Stairs?

While young puppies should be carried up and, more importantly, down the stairs, those that are six months can start climbing stairs infrequently and always under supervision.

You can also wait for your puppy to reach adulthood and have its bone structure fully formed to be safe. Different breeds reach adulthood at other times.

Very small dogs like Chihuahuas and Papillons become adult dogs at around nine months, while small dogs like French Bulldogs and Boston Terriers become adult dogs at about 12.

Medium dogs like Labrador Retrievers and Border Collies become adult dogs at around 14 months, while large dogs like Airedale Terriers and German Shepherds become adult dogs at approximately 18 months.

Giant breeds like Great Danes and Mastiffs can keep growing way into their third year! 

Keep in mind that puppies have an instinct for balance, so some breeds may start navigating stairs earlier than others. 

In general, smaller breeds will likely be able to start climbing stairs at a younger age than larger breeds, as they are more agile and lightweight. 

Puppies should also always be given plenty of opportunities to explore their environment early on, whether this means walking through different rooms.

Can Stairs Cause Hip Dysplasia In Dogs?

Some studies show that puppies who climb the stairs before reaching adulthood are more prone to develop diseases such as the dreaded hip dysplasia. 

What is Hip Dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is a condition that affects the skeletal system, particularly the hip joint. The hip joint consists of a ball and socket, which should slide smoothly. 

However, a ball and socket which did not develop well would rub and grind instead. If this continues to happen, the joint may deteriorate until it ceases to function normally.

This painful and degenerative condition usually affects large breeds but can also affect smaller breeds. This condition is hereditary, and parents that have this condition often pass it down to their offspring. 

Aside from early use of stairs, other factors contributing to hip dysplasia in dogs are poor weight, nutrition, and exercise.

Symptoms of hip dysplasia start to show as early as four months but can appear at any time. 

  • Having decreased activity
  • Having difficulty in rising, jumping, running, or climbing stairs
  • Limping in the hind end
  • Doing bunny hop movements
  • Losing thigh muscle mass
  • Exhibiting enlargement of the shoulder muscles 
  • Feeling pain
  • Clicking sound in the hip joint when the dog is moving

The symptoms that can be seen will depend on how severe the disease is, how inflamed the joint is, and how long the disease affects the dog. 

There are a variety of options for treating hip dysplasia in dogs. If the case is not severe or there is no need for the surgery yet, the owners may explore non-surgical options for the dogs and other ways to make your dog more comfortable living with the condition. 

Lifestyle modifications such as weight management and exercise restriction can be done. Supplements, anti-inflammatory drugs, physical therapy, and orthopedic dog beds can also help. 

Which Breeds Are More Prone To Hip Dysplasia?

Some breeds should avoid using the stairs even when they are adults. While this dreaded condition can strike any breed, the large breeds tend to be more affected. Breeds that are prone to hip dysplasia include: 

  • German Shepherds
  • Rottweilers
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Great Danes
  • Golden Retrievers 
  • Basset Hounds 
  • Saint Bernards
  • Neopolitan Mastiffs
  • Chow Chows
  • Pugs
  • French Bulldogs
  • Old English Sheepdogs

Large breed dogs with this genetic condition can show symptoms as early as puppyhood, with the likelihood increasing every passing year.

Treatment options include preventative care and, as a last resort, surgery, which is often extremely costly and can range from $7,000 to $15,000. 

If you have a large breed and are unsure whether your dog might have a history of dysplasia in their bloodlines, you might want to consider pet insurance. 

How Should We Prevent Puppies From Walking Stairs?

To prevent your puppy from walking up and down the stairs, you can install pet or baby gates at the top and the bottom.

When installing a gate, consider the height that your puppy might be able to jump. While a three-month-old pup would probably not be able to clamor over the gate, a six-month-old athletic breed like a Husky or German Shepherd might be able to clear the gate easily. 

Also, consider the type of gate you intend to buy. Puppies chew on everything! The baby gate has to be sturdy so your cheeky pup wouldn’t be able to knock it over and made of a material that is impervious to your puppy’s chewing efforts. 

How Can We Help Puppies With Hip Problems Navigate Stairs?

Puppies and senior dogs with hip problems shouldn’t be going up and down stairs. This is, thankfully, an easy fix! 

Installing a non-slip dog ramp can help puppies and dogs reach their destination without excessive pressure on the hip and elbow joints. 

A dog ramp like the Kurgo Wander Collapsible Dog Ramp or the Trixie foldable ramp can help your pooch go up and down a short flight of stairs and prevent jumping on and off cars and furniture. 

These ramps are invaluable for preventing puppies, large breeds, and senior dogs from causing unnecessary stress on their joints. 

Typical uses of a ramp can include:

  • Getting up and down your bed (lucky dog!)
  • Getting in and out of cars 
  • Getting on and off the furniture and their favorite couch! 
  • Managing short flights of stairs 

Final Thoughts

There will be a time and place for stairs, but puppyhood isn’t it! 

Ultimately, it’s essential to pay close attention to your puppy’s abilities and not place too much stress on their developing bodies. 

If in doubt, it’s always best to consult with your veterinarian or trusted dog trainer for guidance on how best to accommodate your pup as they grow up!

Gifts for Dog Lovers

Do you know someone who loves their dog more than anything?

Then they’ll love these gifts! From kitchen accessories to stylish jewelry, we’ve got everything a pup lover could want.

Our selection of gifts for dog lovers is sure to have something perfect for the special person in your life.

Head over to our list of 50 Pawsome Gift Ideas for Dog Lovers to find that perfect gift!

Adeline Ee

Adeline Ee graduated from the University of Washington with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication and Marketing. Originally from Singapore, she now lives on the road after leaving a 15-year career in travel and hospitality. A fanatic dog-lover, scuba diver, rock climber, and outdoor person, she has a keen interest in environmental and marine conservation and continually strives to be friendlier to the planet.

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