Even though many owners allow their dog to sleep on their couch or bed, it is always a good idea to give your dog his own bed. This provides your dog a good place to sleep when the couch and bed are occupied or otherwise off-limits, and it helps to keep his fur and dander off your furniture too.
But dog beds vary significantly in terms of quality. Many are little more than a flimsy fabric pouch, stuffed with inadequate amounts of cheap filler material. These are not only uncomfortable, they may cause your dog to place excessive amounts of pressure on his joints while he rests. This can lead to or exacerbate a number of health problems.
Fortunately, there are a number of beds on the market which are specifically designed to cradle your canine in comfort and protect his bones and joints. Called orthopedic beds, these are the best option for most large dog owners.
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PetFusion Ultimate Pet Bed & Lounge
Milliard Premium Orthopedic Dog Bed
Brindle 4-Inch Solid Memory Foam Dog Bed
Big Barker 7" Pillow Top Orthopedic Dog Bed
DogBed4Less Orthopedic Memory Foam Dog Bed
The term “orthopedic” refers to the field of medicine (whether veterinary or human in nature) concerned with treating problematic bones or muscles. Therefore, orthopedic beds are typically designed to provide the best possible support for your dog’s bones, joints and muscles. There is no governmental agency that regulates the use of this term, so while many beds marketed as being orthopedic are beneficial for your dog’s health and comfort, other “orthopedic” beds fail to provide any special value.
In practice, most beds that serve a genuine orthopedic purpose are made with dense foams. One of the best foams used in these beds is known as memory foam. Also called visco-elastic memory foam, this material is a polyurethane-based product, originally developed by NASA to make aircraft cushions safer.
Unlike most other foams, memory foam reacts with heat. When your dog lays on a memory foam bed, his body heat causes the foam to soften slightly, which allows him to sink into the mattress a little bit. This creates a dog-shaped depression, which cradles his body in a comfortable and supportive manner. However, once your dog leaves the bed, the depression slowly disappears, as the foam molecules cool and return to their original position. This is why the material is called “memory” foam: It “remembers” its original shape.
Some manufacturers prefer to use different types of foam in lieu of memory foam. Many of these proprietary foam blends are as effective as memory foam, and some are even superior to it. Other manufacturers use things like egg-crate foam or high-density foam. Often times, these foams are used in conjunction with memory foam or a proprietary product, to provide a nice balance of cost and comfort.
In addition to their reliance on memory foam, most orthopedic dog beds are also thicker than standard dog beds. This provides even more support for dogs (particularly large or heavy individuals), and provides further protection from the hard floor beneath the bed.
Orthopedic dog beds come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes and styles. Many are nothing more than thick mats, but some include bolsters and other added features.
While your dog is probably more comfortable laying on the floor than you are, that doesn’t mean it is good for them. Laying on hard surfaces can place pressure on the joints (particularly those in the hips, knees, shoulders and elbows), which can lead to pain, discomfort and inflammation.
Inexpensive dog beds, which are typically filled with cotton or other cheap fillers, rarely provide enough support to cushion your dog’s bones and joints. Accordingly, their knees, shoulders and elbows often sink all the way down through the bed, and essentially rest on the hard floor. Very little cushion or comfort is provided by these types of beds.
But orthopedic beds, on the other hand, usually provide at least 2 inches of dense foam, which will help ensure your dog’s joints remain supported. The result is a healthier, happier pup, who will likely experience less joint pain and discomfort.
Most large dogs will appreciate and benefit from an orthopedic dog bed, but some dogs have health conditions, which may necessitate the use of orthopedic beds. This usually includes dogs suffering from any of the following conditions:
It is always wise to speak with your vet about the best way to treat dogs with the aforementioned conditions, but most vets recommend orthopedic beds for the majority of dogs, as they rarely cause problems for any dog. Orthopedic beds won’t specifically treat these conditions, but they will help prevent some conditions from worsening and they will keep your dog more comfortable during naps.
Check out some of the other ways to treat joint pain in the brief video below.
As with any other pet-care product, there is a big difference between the best and worst products on the market. Because you don’t want to spend the extra money on an orthopedic bed if your dog isn’t going to find it comfortable, you’ll want to be selective about the mattress you select.
Look for orthopedic beds that include the following features:
Some manufacturers make very thin beds, but incorporate a tiny bit of memory foam and slap the “orthopedic” label on their product, despite the fact that they lack sufficient support to protect your dog’s joints. You’ll want to avoid these beds in favor of those that have at least 2 inches of memory foam (or a comparable material). And if price is not a limiting factor, it is wise to select a bed with 4 to 8 inches of thickness to provide the most cushion and support possible.
Complete sheets of memory foam provide better support than beds filled with shredded pieces do. There’s nothing wrong with manufacturers including shredded foam pieces (or any other economical fill material, like polyester or cotton) in their beds, but this should be in addition to several thick sheets of foam, rather than being used in place of foam sheets.
Over time, your dog’s bed will become coated in hair, dander, dirt and saliva, so you’ll need to wash the bed from time to time. However, you can’t just throw most foam mattresses in the washing machine without permanently ruining the foam. Therefore, it is important to look for dog beds that have removable covers, which can be easily washed and then placed back on the bed. Some beds come with more than one cover, which allows you to wash one, while the other covers the bed.
If you want to place your dog’s bed on a linoleum, tile or hardwood floor, you’ll need to select a mattress with a non-skid bottom. Otherwise, your dog’s bed will scoot all over the house, rather than staying where you want it. Although this seems like only a minor annoyance, your dog will strongly prefer laying in the same spot, rather than having to adjust to different locations every time he wants to take a nap. This is also a safety issue: You don’t want to trip over your dog because his bed has migrated into the hallway.
Bolsters are foam- or fiber-filled cushions that are attached to the top of some dog beds. Roughly akin to the arms of your couch, bolsters give dogs a place to lay their head or paws, and they help improve the overall comfort of the bed. Bolsters are not imperative, but they are certainly desirable, and most dogs appreciate them greatly.
Liquids that seep into a foam mattress frequently cause lingering odors, that are all but impossible to eliminate. So, it is important to select a pet bed that includes a water-resistant cover, to help protect the bed’s core. This is especially important for dogs that struggle to control their bladder or turn into sloppy wet messes after drinking from their water bowl.
Selecting a bed that is too small for your dog’s body will defeat the entire point of spending more money on an orthopedic dog bed: Instead of resting completely on the mattress, your dog’s feet or head will have to hang off the edge and rest on the hard floor. Most manufacturers provide sizing guidelines that allow you to match your dog’s weight to the proper bed size, but it is wisest to simply measure the space your dog takes up when he is sleeping in an outstretched position. All of the beds reviewed below come in sizes large enough for big dogs. Always try to add a couple of extra inches in each direction to ensure your dog has plenty of space.
Below, we’ve assembled five of the best orthopedic beds available. Any of these beds should provide your pup with a comfortable and supportive place to get a good night’s sleep.
User Reviews: The overwhelming majority of dog owners who tried the PetFusion Ultimate Bed & Lounge were very pleased with their selection. Most were very happy with the quality of the product, and found that the memory foam was simultaneously dense and soft, which provided their canine with a comfortable and supportive sleeping surface. Some owners were troubled by the bed’s initial odor, but most reported that it dissipated completely within a few days.
Bottom Line: The PetFusion Ultimate Pet Bed & Lounge includes just about every feature you’d want in a premium orthopedic pet bed. The vast majority of owners and their dogs have loved the mattress, and while the price is slightly higher than many other beds, its quality makes the bed a great value. We highly recommend this bed for most large dogs.
The Millard Premium Orthopedic Memory Foam Dog Bed is a high-quality bed, which relies on a number of clever cost-saving features to keep its price point relatively low. Given that it is 4-inches-thick and nearly 4-feet-long, this bed provides both the comfort and space large dogs need to sleep well.
User Reviews: The Millard Premium Orthopedic Dog Bed received really good reviews from most customers who tried it. Several owners confirmed that the mattress cover really is water resistant, which is helpful for older dogs, who sometimes struggle with incontinence (as well as young dogs who are still learning the rules). A few owners complained that the mattress cover did not hold up well to machine washing, but such complaints were relatively rare.
Bottom Line: Although there are a few better orthopedic dog mattresses on the market, the Millard Premium Dog Bed is a well-constructed product that won’t break the bank. Most dogs appear to find it very comfortable, and the water-resistant cover will help protect the memory foam interior. This is a great option for budget-minded dog owners seeking an orthopedic bed.
At first glance, the Brindle Orthopedic Dog Bed looks like a slightly more expensive version of the Millard Orthopedic Bed (#2 on our list). However, there are a number of key differences, some of which help to explain the higher price. The Brindle Dog Bed is available in three different colors (charcoal/black, mocha/blue and khaki).
User Reviews: Most customers had only good things to say about the Brindle Memory Foam Orthopedic Dog Bed. Dogs appear to find it comfortable, and many owners noted a reduction in pain and stiffness after switching to this mattress. However, a number of customers did note that their dog’s nails ripped through the cover within a very short period of time (measured in days, not weeks or months).
Bottom Line: Even though the Brindle Orthopedic Dog Bed is a little bit more expensive than some of the other memory foam mattresses priced at the affordable end of the spectrum, it still warrants consideration by those looking for a low-cost orthopedic bed for dogs. This is especially true for customers seeking beds with comfortable, yet waterproof covers, who have relatively mellow dogs that are unlikely to rip the cover.
Big Barker is dedicated to producing the finest orthopedic dog beds for large dogs – they even discourage the use of these beds with small- and medium-sized breeds. The Big Barker is made in three different colors (burgundy, khaki and chocolate) to match your home’s décor.
User Reviews: The user reviews for the Big Barker are off-the-charts positive. Most owners report that their dog loves the bed and it appears to provide relief for their aching joints and bones. Owners almost universally praised the bed’s thickness, resiliency, aesthetics and durability.
Bottom Line: If you must have the very best orthopedic bed available, and you aren’t worried about paying premium prices, the Big Barker Pillow-Top Orthopedic Dog Bed is easily the best dog mattress on the market. Keep the manufacturer’s 10-year-warranty in mind when making your choice, as this may make the Big Barker a more affordable option over the long term. Additionally, because this is a bolster bed, your dog will appreciate having a place to lay his head comfortably.
User Reviews: Most dog owners were quite pleased with the Dogbed4less Orthopedic Dog Bed, and found that it provided their dog with a comfortable place to rest and sleep. Many even noted an improvement in their dog’s hip or joint pain after using the mattress for a short time. Additionally, the waterproof inner cover and both outer covers were reportedly durable, comfortable and easy to keep clean.
Bottom Line: The Dogbed4less Orthopedic Dog Bed is a great option for most dog owners. It provides a great combination of comfort, durability and features at a very reasonable price. Additionally, the Dogbed4less Orthopedic Bed is also available in a variety of sizes, including several that are roomy enough Great Danes, mastiffs and most other extra large breeds.
Have you found an orthopedic dog bed that has helped keep your dog comfortable and relieve joint and hip pain? We’d love to hear about it in the comments. Let us know what you like about it and what you don’t. We’d also welcome readers to share their stories about any of the five orthopedic beds mentioned above.
And before you go, be sure to check out our review of supplements that help relieve your dog's hip and joint pain.
All product photos courtesy of Amazon.com