It's not easy to watch your dog rise stiffly from a nap, and limp when he walks, because you know that he is hurting and you want to help him. These are common symptoms that you may notice if your canine companion is suffering from arthritis. Just like humans, arthritis pain tends to be worse in the colder months and may become most noticeable during that time. Fortunately, there are a few things that you can do to help relieve his pain and improve his quality of life.
1. Schedule regular vet checkups
As soon as you suspect that your dog may have arthritis you'll need to make an appointment with your vet to investigate treatment options. The vet may recommend anti-inflammatory medication or nutraceuticals such as glucosamine
or green lipped muscle extract
to help to reduce pain and inflammation in your dog’s joints. Always use prescribed medication as directed to reduce the risk of side effects. In some cases, when the arthritis has become severe, arthrodesis surgery may be an option. This depends on the joint that is affected; not all joints are suitable for this type of procedure.
2. Keep your dog warm and comfortable
Arthritis can be aggravated by hard bedding and exposure to cold. Make sure that your dog is kept warm and dry at all times. A padded and heated dog bed
can often make your dog more comfortable. Ideally, the bed should be close to the ground so he doesn’t have to climb or step too high to get into it.
3. Massage treatments
A massage can provide relief from pain and can also improve your dog's circulation, flexibility and make him feel better all over. You may want to hire a professional canine massage therapist or you may choose to learn how to massage your dog on your own. Start out with simple massages that involve mild strokes with little pressure to see how your dog copes with them and then move on to firmer strokes if he is enjoying them. This is supposed to be a relaxing time for your dog - not a painful one.
4. Controlled exercise
Keep your dog mobile by encouraging controlled exercise. When you're exercising your arthritic dog, however, always use common sense and learn his limits. Swimming is an excellent exercise for sore joints. It allows movement of the joints without any weight bearing. Some canine hydrotherapy centers also have an underwater treadmill, where your dog can walk on the treadmill while his body is supported by the water.
5. Watch your dog's weight
Any excess weight will make it harder and more painful for your dog to move around. Make sure that you're not over-feeding him and if necessary, cut back on his food so he loses a few pounds. There are low calorie options if you want to give him treats. Think about offering diced steamed carrots, or pieces of green bean. The extra fiber will be good for him, these diced vegetables taste good and there are no calories to add to his waistline.
6. Alternative treatments
Many people have reported good results from taking their dogs to see an acupuncturist to treat their arthritis. There are even some veterinarians practicing holistic medicine on animals and you may want to explore that option further.
Your dog needn’t suffer pain from arthritis. Chat with your vet about what options are available that may help him to feel better and enjoy life more.
Image by Rita Watkins