Is your big dog in pain? You may not have a clue. Stoic as most of the big breeds are, they can mask pain or discomfort easily and just put up with it. They’ll just trundle along, getting grumpier, and you won’t know. Masking pain isn’t necessary, though, because you could lessen it easily if you knew they were suffering discomfort.
Even if they don’t have any medical issues, sleeping on a hard surface isn’t any more comfortable for a dog than it is for you. Imagine how your neck and back would feel if you slept on the floor.
If they have arthritis or orthopedic issues, their joints can be quite painful. When their joints act up, they can feel each and every pound of weight they have when laying on cold or hard floors. Big dogs have a hard time sleeping on the floor. Little dogs can have pain too, but the sheer size of big dogs practically anchors them to the floor, causing preventable aches and pains.
Lying on hard floors won't cause orthopedic issues, but they will make them worse. The onset of arthritis can come on so slowly that you don't realize your dog is uncomfortable. But even without any health issues, sleeping on a hard surface isn’t any more comfortable for a dog than it is for you.
"Imagine if you have a sore back, hip, or shoulder and have to sleep on a plank," said Debra Eldredge, DVM of Vernon, N.Y. "Certainly small dogs get uncomfortable too, but for a big dog the added size and weight can mean more pain and discomfort. Also, to begin with many large breed dogs are prone to arthritis and orthopedic problems."
Additionally, sleeping on the hard floor can cause large, nasty calluses called hygromas to form. Hygromas are pressure sores and consist of scar tissue and moisture. Sometimes there is an open sore on the hygroma. Mostly these unattractive hygromas are not a big deal unless they get infected; any break in the skin lets bacteria enter. Hygromas do not have enough circulation to let the body's natural defenses deal with the infection whereas a similar cut on normal skin most likely wouldn't become infected. Hygromas are often difficult to treat although they can be prevented by sleeping on a soft surface rather than a hard one.
Thankfully, it's not difficult to find a solution. Prevent your dog from sleeping directly on the floor by using rugs or crate pads, or keep him off the floor by letting him sleep on the couch. Dog beds are ideal for preventing arthritis, and for making dogs who are arthritic, senior or struggling with orthopedic issues comfortable.
"A good bed with appropriate padding and support can literally add months of quality life to an older dog with arthritis problems," said Dr. Eldredge. "With a good bed, your senior canine will rise more easily in the morning and rest more comfortably at night - not the restless pacing many dogs do when they are in pain. The true test is to provide a good quality bed and see where your dog chooses to sleep and how much better they do sleep. One disclaimer: in hot weather, a dog may choose to sleep on a hard floor if it is cooler there."
Thick orthopedic beds are best for big dogs because they can stand up to a big dog's weight. Owners of big dogs have found that low-end beds use cheap foam, typically made in China, which flatten out like a pancake within a few months. That's the case even with orthopedic beds.
The best option for lessening and preventing pain and discomfort is a high-end, furniture-grade orthopedic dog bed. A good choice for comfort is the Big Barker bed, which is crafted to provide perfectly distributed weight support for extreme comfort and durability. The bed uses 7-inch-high American-made foam and is manufactured in the U.S. The core layer can support 180 pounds per square inch, which is more than enough to comfortably support a 300-pound dog. The Big Barker bed has a 10-year guarantee not to flatten or it will be replaced, so your dog, or your next dog, won't have to endure cheap beds that are comfortable only for a few months.