Osteoarthritis—or more commonly, arthritis—is a degenerative joint disease characterized by the loss of protective cartilage in the joints resulting in exposed bone. This exposed bone causes inflammation and joint pain. Over time, arthritis can become progressively worse resulting in significant joint pain—making even the simple task of standing up difficulty.
As a pet owner there are some things you can do to help your dog with arthritis. The strategies below can decrease pain and increase your dog’s ability to do the things they love!
1. Weight Management
One of the most important factors in managing arthritis is weight management. Excess weight causes increased force on the joints and has been proven to be a causative factor in arthritis in humans. A study from 2010 found that weight loss between 6-8% of body fat resulted in significant improvements in use of the affected leg and decreased pain in dogs. I know that you want to spoil your pet with treats, but the best thing you can do for their longevity and comfort is keep them lean.
There are a lot of supplements on the market that support joint health in both humans and dogs. Some of those include glucosamine, chondroitin, fish oil, hyaluronic acid, and duralactin. All of these are offered in formulas specially designed for canines. We carry most supplements here at Walking Paws and can help decide which supplements would be best for your pet.
3. Physical Therapy
A certified canine rehab therapist can be a great source of skilled treatments and information to help you create a solid plan to maintain or improve your pet’s function and even slow the progression of arthritis! A individualized rehab plan may include manual therapy, modalities, land exercises, and underwater treadmill. Your therapist will work with you to create a home exercise program so that your dog can maintain mobility and function long term. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to see a rehab practitioner so that the exercise is individualized to your dog and their specific needs!
We all have used ice or heat to soothe aches and pains before. This is no different for our pets. I don’t believe that one works better than the other and I leave it up to preference for arthritis. Try one out and see if your dog likes it—if not, try the other. To apply, follow these steps: ALWAYS use a towel between the hot/cold pack and your dogs skin. For cold apply for 15-20 minutes 1-3 times a day. For heat apply for 20-30 minutes 1-3 times a day, and have at least 2 layers between the hot pack and skin. Check skin every 3 minutes to ensure there is no excessive heating. Ask your vet if ice or heat is appropriate for your pet before trying.
5. Maintain Activity
The hardest part about managing arthritis is finding the right balance of exercise and rest. Too much exercise and your dog is even more sore. Too little exercise, and your dog starts to lose muscle and gain weight. The right amount of each can be difficult to find, and it can change from week to week! My best advice is to listen to what your dog is telling you and get help from the experts–a rehab professional or your veterinarian.