Arthritis is a very common affliction in dogs, especially in older pets. Its onset can be difficult to diagnose at first, but symptoms will eventually become apparent. Arthritis is a painful inflammation of the joints due to the destruction of cartilage or a lack of synovial fluid. Symptoms include (but are not limited to) limping, limited mobility, difficulty standing or lying down and any evidence of pain during movement. The following is a list of ten things you can do to help manage your dog’s arthritis and improve his or her quality of life.
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1. Weight Control
Overweight pets will struggle more with arthritis because of the undue stress of excess weight on their joints. If your pet is overweight, talk to your veterinarian about weight control foods and a safe exercise plan to drop the extra pounds.
Dietary supplements like glucosamine, chondroitin and fish oil can improve joint strength and delay further deterioration. Always discuss any changes to your dog’s diet with your veterinarian prior to use.
3. Medicinal Pain Management
There are a number of prescription and over-the-counter medications that can help to relieve the pain associated with arthritis. Your veterinarian can provide you with an anti-inflammatory drug developed specifically for dogs or may even recommend a simple daily dose of aspirin.
4. Environmental Assistance
Things that were once easy for your pet may no longer be. For smaller to medium-sized breeds, adding “pet steps” to couches, beds and other furniture that your dog needs to access can ease the process. Jumping to and from higher surfaces can be extremely painful on your dog and can add further stress to the joints. Consider placing no-slip rugs or mats in areas of your home that have slick flooring; maintaining balance on slippery surfaces can be extremely painful for an arthritic pet.
Make sure that your dog has a comfortable area to sleep in. Whether this is a dedicated space on your own bed or their own pet bed, having a soft place to sleep can help relieve pressure on the joints as well as pain.
6. Regular Veterinary Visits
You must never overlook the importance of your veterinarian’s advice when dealing with an arthritic animal. Your veterinarian can monitor your dog’s health and the development of arthritis, offering different treatment options as the condition progresses.
7. Massage and Acupuncture
Homeopathic remedies for human arthritis can also be used on dogs! Massage and acupuncture have both been shown to work wonders in arthritic humans; ask your veterinarian to recommend a canine masseuse or acupuncturist to help relieve your pet’s pain in a more natural way.
Even though arthritis can gravely effect your dog’s mobility, you must still provide your pet with regular exercise. Try activities that aren’t as trying on the joints such as slow walks or swimming. Your veterinarian can recommend arthritis-safe exercise programs, as well.
In many cases of arthritic dogs, the animal’s ability to groom itself will wane. It is important to pick up the slack for your pet. Brush him or her regularly and if your dog has a long or thick coat, make regular visits to the groomer. Having to stretch to clean themselves may become very difficult for an arthritic dog, but you can relieve the need by grooming them yourself.
It is imperative that you remain patient with your arthritic pet. Your dog may have once been the puppy that could run a triathlon with you, but as they age we need to respect and care for their changing bodies. Don’t become impatient with your pet when he or she needs shorter and slower walks. Understand that your dog is suffering from limited mobility and pain associated with movement. Things may take more time for them to accomplish, but they are still the same dog you love.