As our dogs grow older, their bodies inevitably show wear and tear just as we humans do. And for most dogs living well into senior canine years, joint and spinal problems associated with arthritis can be a difficult and painful struggle.
That’s why learning how to help your arthritic dog is the first step to achieving a great quality of life for your fur-baby.
What is Canine Arthritis?
In layman’s terms, arthritis is the gradual breakdown of joint tissue, causing inflammation and degeneration of the joints. The result is restricted mobility and chronic pain.
First, you should know that there are four different types of canine arthritis.
- Osteoarthritis is the most common type and is a slow, progressive and permanent deterioration of the cartilage surrounding the joints
- Infectious Arthritis, which is an infection of the joint
- Systematic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), an autoimmune disease that affects the joints
- Rheumatoid Arthritis is less common overall, but when diagnosed is more prevalent in smaller, older dogs
Ten Tips to Manage Canine Arthritis
Fortunately, there are many remedies you can implement that may either minimize the onset, slow the progression, or reduce the damage, pain, and inflammation associated with arthritis.
Here are ten tips you can do to make sure your pet remains mobile and relatively pain-free.
Having your veterinarian perform regular checkups is essential. The checkups allow you to see whether progress has been made or if you need to adjust your dog’s treatment.
Choosing the right veterinarian for your dog is also key because you want someone who has your pet’s best interests in mind. You can research the credentials of local veterinarians here.
Even though your dog may be diagnosed with arthritis, daily exercise can still play a major role in reducing arthritic flare-ups. The main focus here is to use low-impact exercises like walking or swimming.
Ask your veterinarian for referrals of practitioners who can create a custom exercise regime for your dog. Or you can find a local therapist online at the Canine Rehabilitation Institute (CCRT).
Yes, there are canine massage therapists. Further, studies have shown that arthritic dogs who receive regular massages gain more flexibility, mobility, and a balanced mind.
A great side benefit of canine massage therapy is that it’s a wonderful stress reliever for both dog and owner. Ask your veterinarian for referrals of local certified canine massage therapists or learn how to massage your dog yourself.
It works for some humans and it works for some dogs too. However, this ancient alternative therapy should only be done by a licensed and certified practitioner.
If you’re interested in learning more about this type of therapy, check out this website, which provides resources on finding local practitioners in your area.
The term nutraceuticals (naturally occurring food supplements) was conceived by Dr. Stephen DeFelice. Nutraceuticals have proven very beneficial for many dogs with arthritis.
Adding classic joint supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin yields proven results. And other holistic remedies such as Antiox (grape seed extract) and omega 3 fatty acids are also effective in treating symptoms.
Another major contributor to canine arthritis is overfeeding, which causes excess weight gain and damaging stress on your dog’s joints. You should incorporate dietary changes that will promote a healthy gut and keep your aging dog slim and trim.
Start with researching various holistic remedies and choose products that provide nourishment without all the processed ingredients and unnecessary fillers. And don’t forget to gradually introduce new foods to your dog so that their stomachs can adjust to the new food easier without the nasty side-effect of runny stools.
Warm, Dry and Padded
This means keep your dog out of the cold, away from damp spaces and off of hard surfaces. Warmth is an arthritic dog’s best friend. But not hot heat, or you’ll do more harm than good.
Dampness can seep into the joints, causing already inflamed tissue to become even more sensitive and painful, so dry spaces are required. Extra padding on bedding, carpeted flooring and steps lessen the impact on the joints.
Analgesics and NSAIDs have traditionally been the standard treatment for canine arthritis. However, while they can help with pain management, be aware that pharmaceutical drugs have potentially dangerous side-effects.
If you decide to take this route for your dog, be sure to have your veterinarian closely monitor your dog’s responses (positive and negative) to any medications prescribed.
Home Environment Change
Just as you would baby proof your home to keep your child safe, or make structural accommodations for wheelchair accessibility, changing your dog’s home environment will keep him safe and comfortable. Think cushioned surfaces and ease of movement for your dog in areas of the home he has access to.
This option should be a last resort because with any major surgery, there are no guarantees and it may only result in a temporary fix. But some dogs have benefited from surgery, so only you and your vet can decide if surgery is right for your dog.
Final Thoughts About These Tips
While some of these tips may not work for every dog, combining several tips together can yield a positive outcome for your senior pet. Of course, keeping your dog’s welfare in mind will be your main adjective as you figure out the best course of action.
Just be patient and give enough time for each remedy to take effect. With your veterinarian’s support and your diligence, your dog will definitely reap the benefits of a pain-free life.