Managing Arthritis in Senior Dogs: 3 Steps for Success
It’s hard to watch a beloved dog grow old, especially when the simple act of getting up from a lying position or taking a leisurely walk outdoors becomes a struggle. But like aging humans, senior dogs are susceptible to osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease, and the condition can be painfully debilitating. Fortunately, there are steps you can take, including a variety of treatment options, to help your furry friend maintain good quality of life for years to come. Here’s how to manage arthritis in a senior dog so you can keep him happy, healthy, and comfortably mobile:
Our wonderful pet dog Dolly (a West Highland White Terrier) has for a couple of years suffered with stiffness and mobility issues. She is a grand old lady of 14 years of age. Last year she was officially diagnosed with Arthritis. As you would expect some fairly thorough research was needed, this required considerably more than just searching on Dr Google. This is what we found and what we have done.
Start with Nonmedical Care for Early Osteoarthritis
Arthritis in dogs doesn’t happen overnight. You may not even notice the first signs of the disease, since many dogs hide their pain. But pay attention. If your pet is becoming reluctant to climb stairs, limps, exhibits thinning of the legs, or shows unusual fatigue, it may be time to address the possibility that he’s suffering from degenerative joint disease. And while your senior pet’s not alone–studies show over half of older dogs have the disease–catching it as early as possible will give him the best outcome. Check with your vet to confirm the diagnosis and assure the symptoms don’t point to a different problem.
The early stages of arthritis can be managed with gentle exercise, like low-impact walking, swimming, or indoor games and activities. Daily movement is necessary to maintain muscle mass, bone strength, and joint flexibility. Of course, too much exercise or overexertion can contribute to pain and stiffness, so make sure your pet avoids long walks, jogs, and jumping and twisting. And always perform stretches on your dog before exercise to loosen any tightness.
Weight control is another first step in treating arthritis in dogs, since excess fat causes inflammation and puts extra stress on joints. If you haven’t already, consider switching to a lower-calorie senior diet containing omega-3 fatty acids and plenty of fiber. Be careful not to overfeed your senior with unhealthy table scraps, which can quickly add on pounds. Likewise, don’t let your pet become too thin. Some fat surrounding the joints helps protect them. Your vet can advise on proper nutrition and the ideal weight for a healthy senior dog.
I have written several posts on this very subject, my elderly Westie was not only overweight but she also suffered (and still does) with arthritis. We needed to look carefully at her diet and between us we did some fairly intense and robust testing of various foods. Click here to read about types, reviews and my/Dolly’s preference
Review of (Best Wet Food)
For arthritic pets that slip on floors or drag their feet, protective footgear may be the answer. (Click here for footgear we have used for Dolly and one that has a high star rating) Boots or socks with treads will help your senior gain traction and avoid scrapes and sores to the paws.
Look for footwear that’s comfortable, practical, and durable, but understand that getting a pet used to wearing something on his feet often takes time and patience. If your senior refuses to wear foot coverings, consider pad grips or toe rings, both available through pet supply shops and online vendors.
Try a Combination of Arthritis Treatment Options for Dogs
When your senior dog’s arthritis grows worse, a medical approach may be needed. Keep in mind there’s no one-size-fits-all for degenerative joint disease. In fact, it can take multiple therapies as well as trial and error to figure out what works best for your pet. Below are some options to discuss with your vet, who can help guide you on the best strategy or combination for your senior.
• Pain Medication. Probably the most convenient and affordable treatment option, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and non-NSAID medications help arthritic dogs live more comfortably. Since most have potential side effects, regular Blood tests are recommended to ensure safety. For dogs that can’t tolerate pain medication, natural pain relievers, such as chondroitin, glucosamine, and CBD oil, are also available.
• Massage. Who doesn’t feel better after a body massage? Likewise, your dog will benefit from a gentle rubdown of his shoulders, spine, knees, and hips. While you can perform massage on your dog at home, animal massage therapists are skilled at safely and effectively relaxing muscles, stimulating circulation, and boosting range of motion in arthritic pets. Besides treating arthritis, massage helps reduce stress common in senior dogs.
• Laser Therapy. Usually done in a series of weekly appointments, laser therapy is a relatively new technique in veterinary care, but many senior dogs with arthritis, as well as dogs suffering from injuries and post-surgical discomfort, have found pain relief, renewed energy, and increased range of motion. After completing the initial laser therapy sessions, you can opt to continue with weekly or monthly maintenance sessions.
• Chiropractic Care. Canine chiropractic care has helped dogs of all ages and conditions, including arthritis. Canine chiropractors work at putting motion back in the joints by focusing on proper vertebrae alignment, thereby reducing pain from unhealthy body positions. Weekly chiropractic treatments bring relief to pets at a reasonable cost, plus you will learn exercises to do at home to keep your senior moving and feeling good.
• Acupuncture. It may be alarming to see your dog full of acupuncture needles, but the therapy is virtually painless and many pets experience profound results. Canine acupuncturists are trained to help arthritic dogs and dogs with other disabilities restore a balance of energy in the body, which promotes healing. Acupuncture is often used in conjunction with acupressure, chiropractic care or another treatment method.
• Hydrotherapy. Does your senior dog like the water? Consider having him exercise on an underwater treadmill, an activity that helps ease joint movement, strengthen muscles, and increase circulation, all which lessen the symptoms of arthritis. Hydrotherapy also builds confidence in dogs that have lost their ability to be active. To try this treatment option, look for a canine rehabilitation center with certified hydro therapists.
Be Patient and Persistent
As heartbreaking as it is to see your senior dog lose mobility or suffer pain, remember there are many approaches you can take, at home or in collaboration with your vet, to help get him moving pain free again and enjoying life. Don’t give up if one treatment isn’t working. Every dog is different and responds to medicines and other therapies uniquely. Results can also take time, over a period of weeks or months. Ultimately, you will figure out which methods bring relief and fit into your budget and lifestyle. The goal is to give your pet the best quality of life you can at this stage, without too much cost or inconvenience to you.
Managing your senior dog’s arthritis can be filled with uncertainty, but one thing’s for sure: you’re not short on options. Whatever you can do to help improve his comfort and mobility is a step in the right direction and will give you more time together. That alone is worth the effort.
When Dolly was first diagnosed with Arthritis and we witnessed firsthand the debilitating effect it had on her mobility, we knew we had to research look at what could and should be done to help her. If you are reading this post then you too are concerned regarding your own dog’s mobility. But there is support in both medical and holistic interventions. The latter is something very new to us but the results are worth it. Hopefully demonstrated in the above article.
If you have any questions about any of the interventions do ask and comment in the box below. It gives value to others who may also have the same queries. If you have found something works for your pet dog then that too is worth sharing.
In any event thank you for reading thus far.
With love Cordelia and Dolly
*I will add reviews of CBD oil once we have clear conclusion
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* Photos on this post are from Pixabay,