PAMPERED pooches who sleep on their owners' beds and dash up and down stairs run the risk of becoming deranged and lame, an East Lancashire vet has warned.

David Higginson, who has been treating animals for 28 years, sounded the alarm after noticing an alarming trend among some of his canine patients.

He said: "Stairs were made for people and are about as useful to a dog as a bicycle. When a dog comes dashing down the stairs, it can be like falling down a steep cliff. Over time the strain begins to show as arthritis and the onset of lameness.

"You can even tell which way the stairs curve by the leg which is affected the most.

"I see several cases of this every week and decided to pass on my observations after treating three dogs one day who were all suffering from the same symptoms."

The problem has been highlighted by Mr Higginson, who practices at The Veterinary Health Centre, Daisy Street, Blackburn, in a customer newsletter, a report in the Veterinary Record, and also at the British Small Animal Veterinary Association's annual conference this month. He added: "Typical cases are overweight older dogs whose loving owners let them sleep on their bed which in turn can lead to the development of behavioural tics such as stress or aggressiveness.

"They dash down to bark at someone knocking on the front door as part of the defence of their territory."

One of the vet's patients, Max, a 12-year-old bull terrier and collie cross was recently banned from the stairs by his owner, Elaine Dyer, after becoming lame.

"I panicked when Max couldn't walk. I had no idea what the problem was until Mr Higginson started asking about his behaviour," explained Elaine of Louis William Street, Guide.

"We used to have his bed at the top of the stairs and he was forever running up and down. Now he has been grounded and we have fitted a child's gate to the bottom of the stairs. Thanks to that and a course of injections Max is a lot better."

Mr Higginson added: " I'm not suggesting that everybody should immediately ban their dog from upstairs or move to a bungalow. I just want to let people know of the potential dangers so that they can prevent trouble building up by changing their dog's lifestyle."

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