By Arlo the Hound with help from Honor Tarpenning
Arthritis is the degradation of joint cartilage resulting in pain and stiffness. Most larger-breed dogs develop arthritis as they age. Unfortunately, many unknowing owners observe their dog’s stiffness and reluctance to take part in vigorous activity and assume it is “just a part of getting older.” But this isn’t the case. There is much that can be done to ease your dog’s suffering so he can age gracefully, and comfortably, and have a vastly improved quality of life well into his later years.
Start with the Vet
If your dog seems to be having trouble getting up, hesitates before going up and down stairs, seems stiff in the morning, isn’t as excited about playing as he used to be, is limping, or moves away or yelps when you pet him, take him to the vet. Your vet can figure out if your dog is experiencing symptoms of arthritis or something else. If your vet diagnoses arthritis, he or she may prescribe a NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) which can help relieve pain. The following are some things you can do at home to help your dog feel better as well.
Gently examine your dog to find out which spots are sore. Just as you would with a human, carefully massage these joints in circular motions. Massage can help relax your dog, alleviate stiffness, improve circulation and relieve pain.
If your dog sleeps on the floor, this could be exacerbating his condition. A soft bed that is easy to climb into and out of will make a big difference. There are many orthopedic dog beds on the market that form to your dogs body and cushion tired joints.
Talk to your vet about how far and for how long your dog should walk, and walk him daily. A nice morning walk can relieve just-got-up stiffness, and exercise in general alleviates pain, improves flexibility, and slows the progression of arthritis.
Swimming is a low impact exercise that will help in all the ways walking does but is lower-impact. This means it isn’t as hard on your dog’s joints.
The more weight your dog has to carry around, the harder it is on his joints. Talk to your vet about a healthy weight for your dog, and set goals to get him there. Maintaining a healthy weight will also help avoid heart problems, cancer, and diabetes, all of which are issues that often come about as a dog ages.
Switch to a food that contains beneficial levels of glucosamine (most senior dog foods include it) or give your dog a glucosamine supplement. Glucosamine helps relieve joint pain and is believed to actually help rebuild joint cartilage. Learn more about the benefits of glucosamine
Supplementing your dog’s diet with B Vitamin-containing vegetables also helps slow joint degradation. Try asparagus, parsley, broccoli, spinach, cabbage, and carrots.
Keep your house warm and dry. Low temperatures and humidity increase arthritis pain.
Make life easier on your dog. Jumping and climbing flights of stairs puts a great amount of pressure on his sore joints. Get a ramp to help him get in and out of the car and up and down stairs. If he sleeps in your bed, consider a set of pet stairs or a ramp leading to your bed as well.