Seeing a dog in pain due to arthritis is something no pet owner wants to go through. Your four-legged pal who was always up for running around and playing fetch is now suffering at the end of the day because of it, or unable to enjoy those favorite activities at all.
It is heartbreaking and you want to do anything you can to ease the pain.
Joint pain, especially due to osteoarthritis, is common in companion animals like dogs. In fact, osteoarthritis affects about one in four canines. Dogs can also suffer from septic arthritis, bacterial arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Unless you have a couch-potato pooch, joint pain greatly affects your pet’s quality of life, as it leads to mobility impairment and difficulty performing various activities.
In addition to pain, other symptoms of canine arthritis are limping, loss of interest in playing or walking, difficulty rising, difficulty with stairs, snapping when being petted, a sudden change in personality and licking the affected joints.
Arthritis is a common problem in older dogs, occurring as a result of ongoing wear and tear and instability in the joints. It can also start at an early age if there are problems with bone and joint development. Other factors affecting the progression of arthritis include injury, genetic makeup, infection, immune diseases and cancer.
Depending on the cause, arthritis may affect one or any number of your dog’s joints.
No matter what has caused the arthritis in your canine friend, the pain and discomfort can be effectively controlled and managed.
Here are some ways to help an arthritic dog.
1. Go on Walks
Exercising an arthritic dog is difficult, but this is something you cannot ignore. While too much exercise can cause pain in the joints, lack of physical activity can make the condition worse.
Hence, staying moderately active is a must to keep your dog’s muscles strong, as well as improving circulation to those achy joints. One of the best exercises for dogs of all ages is walking.
A low-impact walk, a few times a day, will help get those joints moving. Walking also aids weight loss, which is important for overweight dogs suffering from arthritis.
However, do not go on extended walks or to the park when the weather is too cold. Exposure to cold temperatures can worsen the pain in the joints.
2. Go Swimming
Swimming is often recommended as an alternative exercise for arthritic dogs. Swimming is very gentle on your dog’s joints. This non-weight-bearing exercise will help keep the joints mobile and the muscles working well.
Look for canine-friendly hydrotherapy centers, pools, public beaches or dog parks with a water feature.
Always supervise when your dog is swimming. You can make a swimming session more interesting by tossing a flexible toy, a ball or one that floats on the water for him to fetch.
3. Maintain a Healthy Weight
It is very important for dogs with arthritis to maintain a healthy weight. Any extra weight adds more pressure and pain to your dog’s achy joints.
While losing weight can be a challenge for older dogs, helping your canine friend lose some of the extra pounds is worth the effort. With controlled exercise and a healthy diet, weight loss can be possible. Consult your veterinary to help you make a weight loss plan for your furry companion and be sure to stick to it.
Not just arthritis, obesity is linked to other health problems in dogs, such as diabetes, pancreatitis, heart disease, disc disease, hip dysplasia, and several types of cancer.
4. Massage the Joints
A nice massage from time to time is also beneficial for an arthritic dog. Massage helps increase the circulation to the painful joints as well as improving your dog’s flexibility.
It also relaxes your canine friend and increases the sense of well-being.
You can always ask your veterinarian for a recommendation to a professional animal massage therapist. Many therapists are even willing to demonstrate massage techniques to owners.
Always use gentle, circular strokes to massage your dog’s joints and muscles.
5. Apple Cider Vinegar
This is another effective remedy for a dog suffering from arthritis. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, apple cider vinegar helps relieve pain and inflammation.
- Add a little raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar to your dog’s drinking water. Gradually increase the dosage to the amount suitable for your dog. You can give up to 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to a small dog, up to 2 teaspoons to medium sized dog and up to 2 tablespoons to a large dog daily.
- Another option is to add apple cider vinegar to your dog’s food.
6. Make Dietary Changes
A good diet is important for your dog, irrespective of whether or not he is suffering from arthritis.
There are many natural foods rich in anti-inflammatory properties that you can add to your dog’s diet to provide relief from arthritis pain and inflammation. A good diet will also help minimize excess body fat that can strain joints and bones, causing even more discomfort.
Some natural foods that you can include in your dog’s diet are sweet potatoes, fatty fish like salmon and tuna, turmeric, ginger (in small amounts), papaya, blueberries, celery and coconut oil, to name a few.
7. Use Supplements
There are many dietary supplements that you can consider giving to your pet to ease arthritis pain and improve flexibility. Some recommended supplements include:
- Omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce pain as a result of reduced joint inflammation.
- Glucosamine and chondroitin, which are very effective joint supplements that help joints make new cartilage and repair the damage in an arthritic joint.
- Green-lipped mussel extract (GLME), a cartilage-repairing supplement specifically designed for pets.
- Vitamin C and E supplements.
When giving a supplement, always work with your veterinarian to determine which joint supplements are best for your pet. It is also important to follow your vet’s advice on how to give a supplement for best results.
8. Make Your Dog Comfortable
You must take some extra care to make your dog comfortable. As much as possible, keep your dog warm and dry. Cold and damp conditions can worsen the pain.
Heat can help soothe painful joints, so putting a heating pad on the achy joints for 10 minutes can help a lot.
Also, when your dog sleeps, put a warm blanket over his body. Consider investing in a padded dog bed or look for store-bought heating options available for pets.
- Take your dog for regular checkups so your veterinarian can monitor the arthritis and make necessary adjustments to the treatment plan.
- Disease-modifying osteoarthritis drugs can help a lot in managing arthritis symptoms in dogs. Always talk to your vet before giving your dog any medication.
- If your dog’s arthritis is advanced, surgery may be an option. Ask your vet about whether surgery could help.
- Dogs with arthritis should not be encouraged to jump or run around excessively.
- Provide a low-stress environment and plenty of affection to help your dog feel better.
- Use ramps to help your dog get in and out of a car or up on a bed.
- Use carpets and secure rugs to help your pet get traction as he walks.
- Acupuncture is also beneficial for animals suffering from arthritis.