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By Paula Fitzsimmons
If you live with a Great Dane, Saint Bernard or other giant dog breed, you may struggle to find a suitable dog bed. These breeds need giant dog beds that are supportive, comfortable and easy to get in and out of.
Pet parents have numerous options of dog beds to choose from, including orthopedic dog beds, elevated dog beds and bolstered dog beds. But how do you know which of these is right for your gentle giant?
Good Support Is an Essential Feature
Regardless of which types of dog beds you choose for your giant dog breed, good support is a must. “Giant breed dogs often suffer from arthritis and generally appreciate a comfortable place to rest. The right bed can help alleviate some of their joint pain, prevent skin problems and keep them off our human furniture that doesn’t hold up as well to their sometimes rough treatment,” says Dr. Ari Zabell, a Vancouver, Washington-based veterinarian with Banfield Pet Hospital.
Memory foam can flatten with time, so opt for overstuffed foam, says Dr. Hyunmin Kim, veterinary staff manager for the ASPCA Community Medicine Department. A minimum of 2 inches of memory foam is required to be labeled as orthopedic, she says. “Most orthopedic memory foam beds have at least 4 inches of memory foam; some even 7 inches.”
Not all memory foam is created equal, she adds. “You should compare different types in terms of thickness, quality and integrity.”
Elevated Dog Beds Make Life Easier for Giant Dog Breeds
“A slightly elevated bed (about one to two feet above the ground) usually fits a giant breed dog’s body better than dog beds on the ground and can make it easier for them to get in and out of, especially if they have joint soreness from any number of reasons,” says Dr. Zabell, who is a board-certified veterinary practitioner.
A dog bed that’s too high off the ground, however, can result in injury and other problems. “A bed your dog has to climb or jump into or out of is not appropriate, as this can prove hard on their joints and puts them at an increased risk of falling out of it or getting stuck in it,” he adds.
If you choose an elevated dog bed, it should be sturdy to prevent shaking, which can be stressful for dogs, says Dr. Robin Downing, hospital director at The Downing Center for Animal Pain Management in Windsor, Colorado. “It is also important that the bed frame not move across the floor when the dog gets into or out of it.”
A nonslip surface to prevent slipping when your best friend gets on or off the bed is also important, says Dr. Ann Bancroft, a certified canine rehabilitation practitioner with MedVet in Columbus, Ohio, where she serves as the Specialty Leader of the Rehabilitation & Integrative Medicine departments. “If the floor is not carpeted, try using a yoga mat or a rug with nonslip backing in front of the bed.”
A larger mat or nonslip rug can serve a dual purpose when placed under the bed. Not only will it add extra cushioning, but it can prevent slipping by giving dogs traction when they enter or exit the bed.
Keep Your Dog Cool During Warmer Months
Many giant dog breeds love the cool feel of a hardwood (and even concrete) floor, especially during warmer periods, says Dr. Zabell. “This can be hard on their skin, muscles and joints... As veterinarians, we often see dogs that sleep on hard surfaces end up with greater joint pain, callus formation and sometimes even a hygroma [a pocket of fluid that develops to protect an area from repeated trauma], while their nice, soft bed goes unused until winter.”
With a number of cooling options available, like the K&H Pet Products pet cot or The Green Pet Shop self-cooling pet pad, there’s no need for your dog to sleep on the floor. “Options include gel-style pads similar to the newer human beds and also mesh-style raised beds that provide support and elevation above the ground with good airflow,” he says.
Consider Your Dog’s Preferences for Comfort
One way to find the ideal bed for your giant dog is to notice how and where she likes to sleep, offers Dr. Bancroft: “Do they burrow, snuggle, or lie flat on their side? Do they choose to sleep on the sofa, or on the cool, firm floor?” For example, “If you have a pet that likes to burrow, nest, snuggle or sleep curled up in a ball, you may consider a pillow-type bed with a bolster.” If she prefers a firmer surface, “Look for a firm foam bed or even a gel mat that will provide cushion as well as a cool surface,” she adds.
Giant dog breeds need large and extra-large dog beds for comfort. “I generally suggest that a bed for giant breeds be about one-fourth longer than they are when they lay down and about the same proportion wider than they are tall. This provides a bed that they can stretch out on comfortably without needing to curl up if they choose not to,” offers Dr. Downing, who has dual board-certification in pain management and veterinary sports medicine and rehabilitation.
To ease cleaning and prolong the bed’s useful life, look for dog beds with a waterproof liner underneath a washable cover, says Dr. Downing. “The material for the outer cover can be anything from denim to canvas to velour. The key is to be sure it will hold up to machine washing.”
If you’re not sure which dog bed to choose, opt for several. “I generally recommend that pet parents with giant breed dogs position more than one bed around the house. For instance, there should be one wherever the family gathers to hang out, one where the dog like to spend the night, and one in the area of the house the dog chooses to sleep in,” says Dr. Downing.