Arthritis in dogs is one of the most common canine health problems, especially as they age. Unfortunately there is no cure for this degenerative joint disease, but there are many things you can do to help reduce pain and joint inflammation and to provide a better quality of life for your dog.
Start treatment early
As your dog ages, continued wear and tear on the joints puts your dog at risk for developing this painful disease. The symptoms of arthritis may be hard to recognize for several reasons.
- Dogs are very good at hiding pain and injury. This is a trait that helped keep dogs safe in the wild, but it can make it difficult for us to recognize their health issues.
- The symptoms of this disease develop gradually over time, so you may not notice much change from day to day.
Signs of arthritis in dogs can be subtle, but if you suspect it see your veterinarian as soon as possible. The sooner you begin treatment, the better.
Dogs with arthritis may be reluctant to move, or to run and play for long periods of time. Watch for any limping or stiffness when rising. Painful joints can also be sore to the touch. Jumping, climbing, and running are high-impact activities that put more pressure on joints. They can be very painful for dogs with arthritis, so watch for hesitation or unwillingness to perform these activities. Obesity, cold, and dampness can also make symptoms worse.
Your veterinarian may recommend prescription medications for pain and inflammation, but never ever give your dog human medications without the consent of your veterinarian.
10 ways you can help dogs with arthritis
Here are 10 things you can do to help your beloved companion live a more comfortable active life.
- Give nutritional supplements – Natural supplements like Glucosamine and Chondroitin can help protect arthritic joints. Omega fatty acid supplements made from fish oil can help reduce inflammation and strengthen body tissues.
- A warm comfy bed – Give your dog’s arthritic joints the comforting support they need with an orthopedic bed. It will make your dog much more comfortable and help reduce pain and stiffness. Warmth can also make achy joints feel better. Consider getting a bed heater for added comfort.
- Massage – Your dog’s painful joints may be sore to the touch, but gentle massages can help ease joint pain and comfort your pet.
- Provide regular low-impact exercise – It is important for your dog to stay active. Daily exercise in moderation helps keep joints flexible and maintains muscle mass. Movement may be painful, so it’s best to provide short periods of gentle exercise. Go for short walks several times a day. The best exercise for your dog is swimming as it puts no impact on the joints.
- Keep your dog at a healthy weight – Carrying extra weight puts even greater stress on painful joints. If your dog is overweight, feed a special weight loss diet that is high in protein and low in carbohydrates. Feed only as much as your veterinarian recommends. Reduce the amount of treats you give and select healthy high-protein treats.
- Ramps and assisted living devices – Jumping up on furniture or into the car puts extreme pressure on painful joints and may be difficult for your dog. Consider providing ramps or doggy steps for easier access. Slings and other devices also help lift an arthritic dog.
- Placement of food and water dishes – Bending to reach the food and water dish can put stress on the neck and spine, which can be painful for your arthritic dog. Consider elevating bowls to make them more accessible.
- Padded surfaces – When walking is painful, dogs become less confident in their gait, creating issues with balance and coordination. Slick surfaces like tile or wood are more difficult to navigate and provide no cushioning to absorb impact on painful joints. Carpeting will cushion your dog’s step, making walking easier and less painful.
- Care for your dog’s nails and paws – Keeping your dog’s nails properly trimmed is important for a proper stance and gait. Overgrown nails can be painful, causing your dog to change regular walking patterns. Changes in gait can also put unusual pressure on joints and ligaments, negatively affecting non-arthritic joints.
- Physiotherapy – Many dogs show marked improvement with physiotherapy. You may want to consider whirlpool, hydrotherapy, acupuncture, or chiropractic treatments to reduce pain and help keep your dog more active.
Arthritis cannot be cured, but the symptoms can be controlled. Develop a management plan with the help of your veterinarian. Together you can give your dog a fuller, more satisfying life with less pain and stiffness.
Photo Credit: Bronwyn Coombs Photography