Dr. Rachel Mar Speaks About the Big Barker Bed

My name is Dr. Rachel Mar and I am a passionate veterinarian who advocates for integrative medicine and holistic pet care. I value the health of all pets and their owners and love to help owners seek the best possible treatments for their animals.

Dr. Rachel Mar

Large and giant breed dogs need specific care in certain areas that sometimes can be under discussed.  Today I am going to talk with you about the importance of joint health for large and giant breed dogs as well as the crucial need for using specific interventions as preventative measures for these diseases.  


What Common Joint Issues Do Large and Giant Breed Dogs Face?

Let's face it, most dogs are fairly active. Whether they are jumping off the back porch or running after tennis balls, dogs' joints are put through daily strain. And sometimes, that added stress can cause problems. The more dogs are using their joints on a daily basis, the greater the likelihood of injuries and joint-related disorders like ACL tears and osteoarthritis. Large and giant dogs such as German Shepherds, Great Danes, Wolfhounds, Dobermans, Mastiffs, Rottweilers and Newfoundlands (just to name a few) are very prone to orthopedic issues.

Some of these joint issues begin in puppyhood and are milder forms of joint pain known as 'growing pains' called Panosteitis or Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy (HOD). Most joint diseases can be categorized into either developmental or degenerative joint disease.  Various joint problems, such as hip dysplasia or elbow dysplasia, can occur due to developmental problems. There are several types of degenerative diseases. In dogs, cruciate ligament problems are the most common cause of osteoarthritis because the ligament degenerates over time, causing bone instability. 
Big Barker Surgery
Luckily, there are things that can be done at home to fight against these diseases. Let's begin discussing what pet parents can do to work against joint pain and disease in their own dogs. 


Does Weight Impact Dog's Joints?

A clinical study was conducted at Morris Animal Foundation which viewed the longevity of Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers, following these dogs from birth to death. The researchers found that arthritis impacted overweight, large breed dogs more than others.

Weight puts a lot of pressure on those joints, so they're worn down more quickly. Arthritis is one of the most common problems with overweight dogs. Having arthritis makes a dog not want to exercise, so it becomes a vicious cycle. As a result, the dog will want to sleep more and just lay around and eat. The dog can gain 3-4 pounds a year from this lifestyle, which might not seem excessive, however can add a substantial amount of unnecessary pressure to the joints. 

Your pet's bones and joints will remain healthy if he receives the appropriate nutrition and food amounts. Your dog's diet will have a direct effect on:

  1. Their overall energy and mood
  2. Skin and coat health
  3. Temperament
  4. Gastrointestinal health
  5. Weight
  6. Joints

Finding the right diet for your dog can be a challenge with so much information out there and many pet foods on the market. Your veterinarian can offer suggestions for your dog's diet. After you have found a food that works for your dog and their needs, make sure to find the right portions depending on if your dog is at their ideal weight or needs to lose weight. Keep tabs on any changes in their coat, whether their skin is looking flaky/dry or shiny, if they are itching or if they are losing/gaining weight.  


Does Your Home Impact Dog's Joints?

The majority of dogs in the United States are pets, living at home with their owners. As a matter of fact, most dogs spend up to 90 percent of their lives at home. As humans, we often don't realize that normal, everyday things can be obstacles for our dogs. Routines such as struggling up and down the stairs, slipping on tile or hardwood flooring and lying on hard/solid surfaces can cause painful and stiff joints. 

A simple event such as your dog having to jump out of the car and tweaking their back or slipping on the floor on their way out to use the restroom could leave their fragile, giant joints in a vulnerable position.  

Pet parents can modify their homes and remove obstacles that may cause harm to their dog's joints which will result in increased mobility, less stiffness, fewer flare-ups, and a lesser chance of developing arthritis.

Ramps- A dog ramp is a tool that can help your dog if they are expressing any sign of pain when going into or out of the car. If you have noticed your dog panting, drooling, yelping, or hesitating to want to get into the car, a ramp could help them to get in and out without the added strain of needing to jump. Additionally, jumping both in and out of a vehicle with a large spine can leave your dog prone to serious bone injuries. Therefore ramps can be utilized to prevent injuries as well. 

Pet ramp
Photo from Weather Tech

Slippery Floors- Slippery floors that are often consuming of a house such as tile, hardwood, laminate or other can be very detrimental to a dog's giant joints. Dog's rely on grip in order to prevent slips. If your dog is slipping/sliding around the house it will increase their chances of developing arthritis. Covering slippery surfaces in your home with rugs and non-slip flooring helps to equip your dog's paws with the grip that they need to protect themselves. Adding a rubber backed, non-slip rug like this one in high-traffic areas will be of the highest benefit. 

Orthopedic Dog Beds- Did you know that on average dog's require 16 hours of sleep to remain their healthiest selves? There are so many reasons that your giant breed dog needs a high quality, orthopedic bed in order to maintain health. Joint issues such as osteoarthritis, hip dysplasiaage related joint issues, elbow dysplasia, ACL tears, and ligament issues can plague large and giant breed dogs, making an orthopedic bed a necessity for all large and giant breed dog owners. The University of Pennsylvania conducted a Clinical Study on the Big Barker dog beds and the results showed that the Big Barker bed reduced joint pain and stiffness, improved joint function and gait, and led to improved nighttime restfulness in large dogs with arthritis.

Big Barker bed

Stairs- For some large and giant dogs, climbing stairs can feel like hiking a 14er.  If your dog is demonstrating signs of osteoarthritis, stairs should be minimized or eliminated. If your dog is younger or not demonstrating joint pain, it is a great idea to begin to eliminate the amount of stairs that they climb to remove the amount of trauma that their joints endure. 

Nail Grooming- Pet parents will admit that their dogs would rather be out playing than getting a pawdicure, however it is a crucial part of dog ownership to maintain proper nail care. Negative consequences can result from not grooming our dogs' nails, such as causing pain in their feet, pressure on toe pads, infection/irritation around toenails and a higher chances of slipping/falling. As stated by Canine Arthritis Resource and Education, "Over-grown nails will change the biomechanics of the digits and could lead to arthritis in the toes". This means that long toenails can change the entire shape of your dogs feet and toes, causing irreversible joint damage.

Photo from Canine to Five

My Veterinarian Bed Recommendation for Dog's Joints 

As you know I am very passionate about holistic care as well as preventative care, working to educate others about integrative medicine and Fear Free veterinarian care. Part of that journey for me has been discovering healthy ways to prevent dogs from developing disease and treating them with holistic and healthy methods. 

Arthritis is a severely debilitating and unfortunately all-too-common disease that affects approximately one in five dogs, according to the Arthritis Foundation. One product that I have discovered to assist large and giant breed parents in their journey is the Big Barker dog bed

One of the main reasons that I support Big Barker is that their products are backed by science. The clinical study that was conducted by the University of Pennsylvania has fascinating data to show that the Big Barker bed reduced joint pain and stiffness, improved joint function and gait, and led to improved nighttime restfulness in large dogs with arthritis.

In the clinical study the results showed that dogs:

  1. Had a 17.6% increase in joint function
  2. Had a 21.3% reduction in pain severity
  3. Had a 12.5% reduction in joint stiffness
  4. Had a 9.6% improvement in gait
  5. Had a 15.1% increase in overall quality of life

After getting the size Large Big Barker Sleek bed myself and becoming immediately intrigued by its 7" of thick and firm but comforting foam, I decided to do a quick comparison with a few other beds that too were labeled 'orthopedic' that can be found on Amazon. I went ahead and ordered this bed which has over 26,000 5 star, raving reviews for large dogs. Here are the biggest differences I noticed in the bed:


Big Barker Comparison

Both of the dog beds that I got were size large, but there was a noticeable size difference between them in the length alone. The size large Big Barker bed is 48" x 30" x 7", whereas the Amazon purchase was 36 x 27 x 3 inches. In length alone that is a 12 inch difference, which is extremely significant for our large and giant breed dogs who need to stretch out their joints and long limbs. 


Big Barker Comparison

As you can see, comparing the Big Barker to the Amazon bed in width is sort of humorous.  The Big Barker bed is 7" thick, whereas the Amazon bed advertises to be 3" thick. The 7" of the Big Barker foam also comes in 3 separate layers, making it sturdy and thick, whereas the other bed I was able to feel my knee on the ground when I sat on it. 

Big Barker Bed Sizes

Even though you and your pup may love snuggling up together, they need their own bed at night. There are health concerns that can arise with co-sleeping with your dog such as allergies, quality of sleep, or separation anxiety. Dogs need a supportive sleeping spot that isn't on the floor nor in a humans bed in order to provide the best joint health and overall wellbeing. Not only should the bed be firm and supportive, but it should also be large enough for their body to stretch out.  

As you can see, the Big Barker beds start out at 48" x 30" with the size large and go up to 60" x 48" with the size giant.

Big Barker Bed Sizes

The overall size of your dog's bed matters so that large dogs can stretch their legs out fully, not being crammed which can lead to spasms, cramps, limping, or overall joint stiffness

As you can see, there is a significant size difference in the two large size beds. The Big Barker size large bed definitely provides larger dogs the opportunity to sprawl out their joints:

Big Barker Bed Comparison

Joint Protection:

Big Barker Comparison

With large and giant breed dogs it is crucial to examine a bed in the eyes of which is going to better support their joints. When laying on the Big Barker bed, it can support the weight of up to 300 pounds. Big Barker also has a 'no flat' guarantee, ensuring their customers that no matter what, their beds will not flatten or sink. However the Amazon bed is made of a cheaper egg-crate foam which allows even just my hand to touch through to the ground when I squish it.  The result of your large dog's sleeping on hard surfaces can be pressure sores, hygromas, and increased chances of arthritis

Elbows Sinking into the bed 

As you can see in the photos of my own dog laying on each bed, the Amazon bed provides no support and leaves elbows sinking straight to the ground. Having elbows sinking all the way to the ground can be harmful and create injuries like hygromas or sores. It is important to keep our dogs joints protected and off of the ground in the way that the Big Barker bed is doing in the first image. 

Waterproof Liner/Ease of Cleanliness:

Our dogs can carry disease-causing organisms including bacterial, viral, parasitic and fungal species, according to the International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene (IFH). Although we may not think of our pet as carrying bacteria, it is definitely safest for both our dogs and ourselves to frequently wash your dog's bed.  The good news about the Big Barker is that it is very easy to keep clean because it has a machine washable cover. The cover has a zipper surrounding the entire bed which makes it easy to remove. Additionally, the waterproof liner will keep your bed completely safe from spills, weather damage, and accidents, which is definitely a plus for incontinent dogs, extra drooly breeds, or messy puppies. 

Made in USA:

The Big Barker bed is made and Certified by CertiPUR-US in a small workshop in Pennsylvania. Many people are unaware that some dog beds are made in China or surrounding countries, putting their dogs at risks for toxins or harmful ingredients. One thing that I value about the Big Barker beds is that they are hand-made in the US and meet a standard of high quality materials and safety used for all dogs.

Various Designs/Colors and Easy to Style in Your Home:

Overall, it is important to myself and many other pet parents that their dog's bed fits into the aesthetic of their home. For me, being able to have the choice of four colors, khaki, burgundy, chocolate, and charcoal grey is awesome for pet parents to find the color that works best in the style of their own home decor. 
Overall Recommendation: 
As a veterinarian who values the health of my clients, and after testing out both the Big Barker and a highly rated/reviewed bed labeled as orthopedic on Amazon, I strongly recommend the Big Barker bed for the best joint support and overall large and giant breed health. I can rest assured that my dog will sleep better, have increased mobility, more energy, more movement in their joints, and prevent disease like arthritis and hip dysplasia. See the picture below for yourself to decide if you think we have a happy pup! 

Big Barker bed