Best Care Tips for Dogs With Arthritis
Written by Dr. Glenn Adcock
It is an unfortunate reality that almost all dogs eventually suffer from arthritis. Worse, dogs are usually very good at hiding the symptoms of arthritis until it becomes very painful — by which time, little can be done aside from trying to manage and mitigate the discomfort.
Without surgery, correcting the arthritic joint is very difficult. But there are several options for addressing the inflammation and symptoms of arthritis that can help reduce pain and stiffness, increase comfort, and even sometimes put a little spring back in your dog’s step.
Over-the-Counter Arthritis Supplements
The most common nutritional supplements for dogs with arthritis are glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate. Glucosamine is believed to help the body produce joint lubricants that help reduce stiffness and discomfort associated with arthritis. Research suggests chondroitin sulfate can help with cartilage health.
A big benefit of the nutritional supplement option is these supplements rarely result in any adverse side effects. The downside is supplements should not be expected to provide immediate relief. They usually take weeks or even months to start providing noticeable benefits. You should also be sure to choose supplements from reputable brands. We can recommend some trusted options or you can shop our online store.
For mild arthritis, weight loss is one of the best remedies. Less weight results in less pressure and strain on arthritic joints. We have written about proper nutrition and managing weight (see our weight-loss blog here). Helping your dog reduce pain and discomfort from mild arthritis is another reason on a list of many to maintain a lower, healthier weight.
Increasing your dog’s strength, flexibility and agility also can help reduce stress on arthritic joints. A regular stretching regimen is a great option, and we can show you how to do this properly. For dogs who enjoy the water and people who have access to a dog-friendly pool or other body of water, swimming is another terrific exercise for arthritic dogs. Swimming helps develop strength in a dogs’s forelimbs and core muscles, over time helping to reduce the stress and impact on the joints.
It’s also beneficial to continue to leash-walk your arthritic dog. Keeping them on a leash not only keeps them safe, but lowers the risk of them jumping or running too fast, which would put extra pressure on arthritic joints. The key is low-impact, regular physical movement. You also need to pay close attention to how much exercise is too much. If your dog is noticeably more stiff or lame after a walk or playtime, reduce the length or duration of walks.
Make Their Home Comfortable
Climbing or jumping up into the car or onto a favorite chair, or going up and down stairs, gets very difficult for dogs with arthritis. Help them out with ramps or by picking them up.
Make sure they have a good dog bed for rest and sleep. There are a number of high-quality therapeutic dog beds that provide excellent support and take pressure off arthritic joints.
A little extra warmth helps. In the colder months, a degree or two can make a big difference. And if you have a screened fireplace, a good bed in front of a nice low fire will become a favorite spot for almost any dog, but especially older dogs with arthritis.
When to Seek More Help
As arthritis progresses and the pain becomes more acute, there are other options to help your dog, from prescribed pain medications and steroids to surgery. It is important to work with a veterinarian you trust to regularly evaluate your dog’s overall health and determine how advanced their arthritis is before making any decisions. If you have noticed the signs of arthritis — limping, lameness, difficulty getting up or jumping — it’s a good time for a checkup and to work with your vet to develop a plan.