Dr. Patty Khuly's Dogs Wearing Belly Bands

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I know this is an oddly mundane subject for my column, but every pet person invariably struggles with the issue of floors and floor maintenance. As do veterinary hospitals. This is because coming up with floors that serve both human and animal needs is not as easy as you might think.

But wait,  I’m sure you’ve all grappled with the stress of a disorderly (or even disfigured) floor in the wake of your pets’ natural tendency to shed, track dirt, leave claw marks or, perhaps (if you’re as unlucky as I am), even urinate and defecate indoors.

And before you berate me for my training skills, I’ll have you know that Slumdog (my Pug mix) is an incredibly mentally deficient animal whose congenital hydrocephaly has forever impaired his ability to apply basic canine discretion to where he leaves his excretions. Indeed, 70 percent of all hydrocephalic dogs are impossible to housebreak. Which is why belly bands, which deter unwanted peeing, rule for my “tile-trained” brood.

But I digress, back to the problem of floors. Every year I’ve got to pay a guy to come in and power clean my tile floors by way of basic maintenance. (Ain’t no Pine Sol, Clorox or Nature’s Miracle that’ll fix that, no matter what they claim.) Which is probably because grout is a major problem with seriously sloppy pets, whether they’re disastrously dirty and masterly mud-trackers or they suffer from a similarly Slumdoggy condition.

I got to thinking about this issue last week while staying with my sister and her two big dogs in a wood-floored Lake Tahoe home with cozy rugs strewn about. Because she’s one of those compulsive clean freaks, the hair-vacuuming and floor-sparing toenail clipping were constantly in play. (Imagine filing your dog’s nails daily to keep from maiming the floors.)

So what’s a concerned pet owner to do to preserve his or her ability to lead a life free of floor-related grief –– and still serve his or her human aesthetic requirements? Luckily for you, veterinary hospitals (and individual veterinarians like moi), have researched these things. Here's what you might want to try:

1. Flat flooring. Crack-free, creviceless floors are the way to go. Terrazo and poured concrete are two prime examples. If I ever get a chance to build my own home, a luxuriously stained poured concrete will almost certainly be my choice. (I mean, Terrazo’s nice, but the price! And poured concrete with a sealant is just as gorgeous, in my estimation.) Certain laminates can also work, but they’re really expensive and potentially subject to the toenail-spike quandary.

2. Smooth, seamless edges. For best effect, baseboards should be similarly crevice free, even flush with the floors, if possible, so that a slopped mop can effectively cleanse any crevice-prone spots. Lots of vet hospitals have these so we can actually hose down the floors. Drains in the floors help, too, though I can understand why you might find these tacky.

3. Pet-ready rugs. Hoseable or disposable, low-profile rugs are fantastic. I love the modular tile-style Flor carpeting product for its ability to resist stains and withstand a good hosing (as with the House Pet line). And in the worst of rug-related accidents, you can always replace a tile –– and not the whole carpet. The Chilewich people also make very well designed, hoseable products I’ve had good success with.

4. Alternative surface softening. Area rugs and throws that absorb odors are always a great idea. After all, if your floors are going to be flat and unforgiving, the least you can do is offer your pets a few choice throws.

5. Professional-strength cleaners. Use an enzymatic cleaner like Urine-Off or Nature’s Miracle at least once a week. A simple household cleaner can be used for mopping every other day. (Yes, I mop my floors almost daily, thank you very much.) Invest $50 in one of those serious Rubbermaid mop buckets and disinfectant-laced mopheads you can change out every month or so.

6. Vacuums with vitality. Consider a Roomba. These robotic vacuum cleaners are excellent for keeping house while you’re away. There’s even one that handles pet hair better than most. Households with more than one Lab-like shedder, however, need not apply. For major hair, get one of those pet-hair-ready vacuums. My sister’s got a Dyson that makes her very happy. For her wood floors, she also swears by Swiffer cloths.

7. Professional help. If your pets make a serious mess, professionally clean your floors at least once a year. It will save your sanity.

8. Trimming toenails often. This isn't just about flooring. You should trim toenails often anyway to prevent painfully cracked or fractured claws.

OK. Those are my solutions, sourced primarily from my life in veterinary practice but also from my vast experience enduring badly behaved and just plain disorderly dogdom. What are your flooring solutions? Tell us how you manage in the comments below.