Can we let my senior dog use the stairs?

Long story short, we have a rescue golden retriever. She's 12 years old, diabetic, and going blind in one eye. She is my mother in law's dog. My wife and I have 2 goldens of our own, ages 4 and 5. We live in the same home but the basement is furnished as if it's an apartment. Her dog always comes down the stairs to play with the younger boys and she genuinely enjoy being down here, but every now and then Mom will get upset about her using the stairs so often. Not necessarily upset, rather, just says we need to limit the amount of times she uses the stairs. The last time she visited the vet, we found out her blood sugar was in perfect range and she had no issues with her heart. Basically, she's perfectly healthy. So my question is, do we really need to limit her stair climbing? No one calls her down, she comes to visit down here on her own free will. Sometimes she is a bit slow coming down/up, and other times she will dart downstairs like a puppy. So, is there any merit to needing to limit her stair usage, or is this just Mom overthinking?

heart o' gold

If the stairs are carpeted you are probably fine. If they are hard surface I would add some traction for her in the form of a runner (must be glued or nailed to steps) or stair step area rugs which you can find on line, these also get glued down. The problem is that if she falls, it will probably be deadly. Not that it will necessarily kill her, but if she breaks a leg at her age she might need to be put down. I had that happen on hard surface stairs...that my dog wasn’t even supposed to be one, she tore apart a dog barrier to get to those stairs. She was very old and already fairly ill, that fall and break meant a quick trip to the vet for euthanasia. It was a very bad experience for all involved. If you make the stairs slip safe, and she’s going up and down them willingly, it might be ok. As a precaution, you may want to put a gate on the stairs so she can only have access when you are present so you can make sure she’s not bolting down the stairs. Hard surface stairs are also dangerous for young dogs to race up and down as well. I work in flooring and am often helping people deal with ongoing stair issues in their homes relating to just this sort of thing.


I think, given her age now, you may do more harm not allowing her to come down the stairs to visit with your other dogs. I'd just be there to help her, probably more coming down than up, but most probably both. Being diabetic myself, I know that stress can affect my blood sugars so restricting where she can and can't go, could cause her stress too. Do the stairs have carpet/rubber tread on them - it might help to have this, if they are likely to cause her to skid.


My opinion is always QUALITY of life rather than QUANTITY and I personally would be allowing her to have the company of the other dogs etc. However, it could have an impact on her health but more with hips and elbows and arthritic problems but again I say quality over quantity as far as I'm concerned.


If her diabetes is under control, she probably feels pretty good. So I would say having had a diabetic dog myself that it is alright. It's that what she's wants to do, to enjoy her life then let her to a certain extent. Wouldn't recommend her jumping for balls or sticks at that age. But this sounds like she enjoys doing this, don't think she would do it otherwise.

Michael E

Let me add one consideration that hasn't been mentioned. How long is the longest flight of stairs. Is it one continuous flight of stairs, or is there a landing where the stairs turn? i.e. if the dog falls down the stairs how long will they tumble. A stair with a landing and a turn is safer that one straight stairway all the way down. My thought is that the dog will be happier if its allowed to play with the people it loves.

E. H. Amos

It can be okay, but you want to be SURE that the stairs have non-slip treads added, if they are not carpeted. Do keep in mind that IF she is doing the stairs and then playing, that is more exercise than if she went around the house to the bottom to come in - or you WENT UPSTAIRS, with your dogs to join her. EXERCISE has a big effect ON blood sugar and can cause it to drop too LOW, if the dog gets too much (esp if the dog IS on some insulin) so I would be concerned about that. In addition, there is wear and tear on her senior joints and she is likely NOT to be so sure footed, if she suffers any pain, which she may HIDE while playing with other dogs. If she slips and falls or takes a tumble she could get BADLY HURT. If her blood sugar runs too high or too esp if low, she would be MORE LIKELY to have trouble navigating the stairs than normal (and behave like a drunkard) so if you or your mother are not checking the blood sugar BEFORE she gets on the stairs, there is no way to KNOW how "safe" she is going to be, while on them. (Food for thought.)

The First Dragon

As long as she is not falling or hurting herself, I see no problem. In my opinion, it is best to allow dogs [and people] to engage in physical activities as long as they are able and don't get hurt. I guess the stairs are not too slippery? If they are, you could put something on the stairs to make them easier to walk on. If it does get to the point that stairs are too hard for her to navigate, do you have another plan? I have a dog that has a hard time with stairs, and I can't carry him, so I developed another plan. I loop a cloth under his belly, like a sling, and lift up on it, reducing the weight on his feet. So then I go down the stairs with him, so if he slips he doesn't fall, and it doesn't put such stress on his joints.


I feel that as long as she can & wants to go up & down the stairs, let her. The day will come when she no longer can do stairs but until that time, if SHE chooses to do stairs, let her.