Arthritis is one of those diseases that can affect any age of dog. Sadly veterinary practices even see young dogs with arthritic joints. However, the thing to remember is just because your dog has arthritis, that it doesn’t define them and their quality-of-life.
With you, as their owner helping, they can live with a very good quality-of-life. This Pets4Homes article looks at how you can help an arthritic dog.
Knowing your dog has arthritis in the first place is a great starting point! You may notice subtle changes in their behaviour, especially when it comes to exercise. Some dogs naturally prefer their bed to going out for a walk, especially in winter. If your dog does reluctantly get out of bed to go for a walk but seems stiff when they are getting up, this could be a tell-tale sign of arthritis.
You may notice that they walk slowly on a walk, not so much sulking because they don’t want to be there, but seemingly unable to speed up. Any of these signs need further investigation.
So, we have already mentioned beds but let’s look at this further. If you had joints that ached, would you want to sleep on a hard floor, a floor that could be cold and in the way of draughts? Us neither! Making sure your dog has a nice soft bed that is in a warm place away from opening doors letting cold air will help them settle much easier.
We all want our pets to be comfortable and pets with arthritis even more so
Not every owner wants to have their dogs on long-term medication. Bearing in mind arthritis cannot be cured, but it can be managed, natural treatments are one option. Go into any health food store and you will see supplements for humans such as glucosamine and chondroitin – there are dog versions of these tablets. They work by helping the joints and reducing inflammation.
This is one way you could help your dog, but always get the veterinary equivalent and never use the human type. Also, bear remind that these treatments can take up to 6 weeks before you see any improvement because it has to get into the system
Another way to help your dog when natural remedies are just not cutting it is by asking your vet for a prescription medication to help manage your dog's arthritis. These medications normally take the form of anti-inflammatory drugs and one of the common type is called meloxicam.
This is a liquid that is popped onto food to help reduce inflammation and pain. There are other prescription medications available on the market, so if your dog doesn’t seem to do well on meloxicam, there are other alternatives that can be tried.
If your dog likes water, then hydrotherapy can really help with arthritis. In a controlled environment with qualified hydrotherapists, your dog will feel safe and in the warm water be exercised without putting any strain on the joints. Being in water means your body weight is a fraction of what it is whilst on land, so movement is much easier and smoother.
Check out your local area or ask your vet whether there is a hydrotherapy unit near you. The staff at these units are very helpful and knowledgeable and want the best for your animals.
One thing that dogs can generally love is travelling in the car. If they regularly suffer from travel sickness this may not be the case, however, the problem lies in them getting in the car in the first place, especially with arthritis. If you are the owner of a small dog, carrying and lifting them in the car is not a problem, but some dogs weigh just too much to lift up.
This is where car ramps can come in handy, they are available online or even from some larger pet stores. They fit the side of your car when you take your dog in and out and they can just walk up the ramp. It may take some practice initially, but this is a good way to help your dog in and out of the car.
Some veterinary practices offer this service and it is becoming more and more common in the veterinary industry. Acupuncture or the placing of very fine needles into specific points can help some dogs with arthritis. Ask your vet whether they are an acupuncture practitioner, or if they are not, they may be able to give you contact details of one
It is well documented that an overweight dog puts extra unnecessary strain on the joints. If you add arthritis into the mix, you’re asking for trouble! If a dog has arthritis, exercise will be less, which means the calorie intake should be less as well.
Speak to your veterinary surgery staff for more information about weight and ask them to weigh your dog as a benchmark. You may also see there are diets especially for arthritic dogs, again speaking to your vets can be handy as they can recommend the most appropriate type.
A dog that cannot groom itself because they simply can’t bend to the areas to reach, can become miserable as well as unkempt and matted. Gently brushing them or combing them can help them feel much better about their appearance. When you groom them careful to be gentle especially over the joints which would already be sore.
Don’t try and do it all at once, space it over the day a few minutes at a time just to get them used to being groomed whilst they are in discomfort.
Just because your dog has arthritis, doesn’t mean to say their brain is inactive! Make sure you spend some time stimulating them with simple games that won’t put a strain on their joints and that they can enjoy playing.
Helping a dog that has arthritic joints can be very rewarding, generally, they know you’re trying to help them, and they will appreciate it by giving you lots of attention.
If you have any worries about your dog's joint health, mobility or any other health issue, please contact your own vet for further advice.