How to Help Our Arthritic Dogs
18 August, 2014

As our dogs get older, they slow down and are not as vibrant as they were when they were youngsters.  And with age comes health ailments, particularly in our dogs’ joints.   Arthritis is the most common health issue in our older dogs.  It’s understandable as our dogs are constantly on the move and as in humans, their joints degenerate over time.

The obvious and most telling sign of arthritis in middle aged or older dogs is a change in your dog’s gait and/or a reluctance to walk or move.  Your dog won’t bound up and down stairs like he or she used to and, on rising in the morning, your pup may be stiff and even limping. These changes almost always come on very gradually.

Your vet will give you some information on what you can do for your specific dog’s ailments, but below are some different ways that you can aid your dog with arthritis.

Diet can help your arthritic dog

What and how much your dog eats throughout his or her life will affect arthritis in his or her later years. If your dog is overweight, you need to reduce your dog’s weight, slowly, to a healthy level.  It’s very hard on your dog’s limbs to have that extra weight on him.

All major pet food manufacturers offer a senior brand of pet of food.  Most of the senior brands tend to be lower in calories, higher in fiber, with added glucosamine, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants.

Exercising your dogs can help your dog’s mobility

Dogs who have exercised their entire lives (but not to extreme degrees) tend to develop arthritis later in life.  It is important to provide a moderate amount of daily exercise, like taking walks and interactive play-time, to help to delay arthritis. If your dog sleeps all day long, his joints become inactive and they need to be moving to help the joints mobility.

Whirlpool, Heat Treatments and Hydrotherapy can help arthritic dogs

Hot tubs, whirlpools and controlled swimming are great for dogs with arthritis. Short periods of increased warmth, interspersed with cold, can help decrease your dog’s aches and pains. Added heat from heating pads and when your dogs are dispersed in warm water, it can help increase circulation in the affected areas and lessen pain. Those effects persist for many hours after the external heat source is removed.  As always, use caution and monitor your dog’s reaction to heat.

Extra padding can provide comfort to an arthritic dog

Your dogs’ balance and coordination are not what they used to be. Older dogs do better on carpet or other soft surfaces. Not only are they more confident when they walk on padded surfaces, they are also less likely to form calluses that are common in our older dogs. The only drawback is that sometimes older dogs can become incontinent. Make sure there is a waterproof membrane below the carpet and that it can be removed for cleaning or replacement occasionally.

Make your dogs’ water and food bowls readily accessible

Senior dogs are more comfortable eating and drinking from elevated containers. A low step stool works well for this because their rubber coating keeps the bowls from slipping around. Older, large breeds are more susceptible to gastric bloat. So feeding your elderly pet multiple small meals, rather than one or two large ones, is a wise idea.

Older dogs love a warm, comfy bed

All older dogs love a warm bed. Safe heating pads are available to ease the aches and pains that come with arthritis. Make sure to purchase one that doesn’t rise above 102F. Make entry and exit from your pet’s bed as easy as possible with at least one low side. Make sure that your dog can move away from the pad if your dog gets too hot.   There are also specific dog beds on the market that are more comfy and designed specifically for older dogs.

Ramps can help our arthritic dogs

Wood ramps, covered with carpet are a real help for dogs that can no longer climb stairs. Make sure to purchase one that is pliable and stable. Make the slope as gentle as possible. Keep one that hooks securely, in your car to help your dog get in and out of the car. Canvas slings work well for this as well.

Assisted Living Devices for your dogs

If your dog is no longer able to get around on his own there are slings, carts and other apparatus that you can purchase that can aid your dog’s mobility. There are online stores that specialize in meeting the needs of disabled pets.

As our dogs age, there are many ways to keep them comfortable and mobile.  If your dog does develop arthritis, watch him carefully and have your vet monitor your dog to ensure that it does not progress too rapidly and recommend the best care for your dog.

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