Arthritis may seem like an ailment of a tired, old dog. However, dogs of any age can start showing early onset symptoms of arthritis.
Difficulty jumping on the bed or trouble getting into cars are two telltale signs that something is going on with your dog’s health.
While cats are notorious for hiding illnesses and discomfort, dogs are sometimes more vocal about it. That may be the unexplained whining during activities or excessive grunting with minor movement.
A dog that used to be as energetic as the Energizer bunny suddenly sleeping all the time could also indicate arthritis.
If You Think Your Pup Has Arthritis, a Vet Visit Is In Order
Before you make any adjustments to your home or to your dog’s diet and routines, a quick visit to the vet is necessary. Your vet can examine your dog and give a professional diagnosis.
The symptoms that are associated with arthritis are also common in other ailments and diseases. If you’ve kept the same vet since your dog was a pup, your vet will be more familiar with how your dog normally acts and can easily spot any differences in behavior.
Once you have an official diagnosis, there are several adjustments you can make in and around your home to ease your dog’s discomfort. Dogs can be stubborn and some of the adjustments may take a little time and a lot of treats before your dog accepts the changes.
1. Change Your Dog’s Sleeping Arrangements
Many people let their dogs sleep in bed with them. Jumping on and off a raised bed can contribute to later arthritis problems. For a dog who already suffers from the pain of arthritis, it may be impossible to get on or off the bed without help.
Training your dog to sleep on a dog bed on the floor may be similar to training a toddler to go to bed at night. A lot of whining is involved in both situations. However, you may have to endure a few sleepless nights for the betterment of your dog. Training your arthritic dog not to jump on the bed saves both of you pain in the long run.
Products designed to provide the comfort and support they need are readily available. Orthopedic beds can help ease your dog’s discomfort while still allowing them to be close to their humans. Placing the orthopedic dog bed near a source of heat can also help ease the inflammation of the joints.
2. Diet and Exercise
Obesity is another condition that affects dogs just as often as it affects people. Even a few extra pounds can put stress on a dog’s joints, increasing their risk of arthritis or making symptoms worse.
The catch-22 is that it can be difficult, if not downright dangerous, to over-exercise dogs with arthritis. That’s why your best course of action from the time your dog is a pup is to stick to the recommended feeding and avoid giving your dog table scraps or too many dog treats.
So, how do you get an overweight dog to lose weight to ease their arthritis without hours of exercise per day? The first thing to do is to start a strict diet. That includes measuring the amount of dog food given for each feeding. Most dogs don’t need to be fed more than twice a day.
You can add several types of healthy vegetables to your dog’s diet to make up for the reduced kibble. Mushrooms and onions are two foods that dogs should never consume. However, carrots, peas, green beans, and pureed pumpkin are just a few of the vegetables that are safe for dogs.
It is important to note that you should read the labels closely if you purchase canned veggies for your dog. Many canned foods add sodium, which is harmful to dogs (and not great for people, either). However, most brands have “low sodium” and even “no sodium” cans of vegetables.
While avocados are a favored healthy food for humans, they are toxic to dogs. If you feed your dog fruits with seeds, such as apples, be sure to remove the core and seeds first.
Making trays of ice cubes in the freezer can be a refreshing treat for your pup in the warmer months. If you’re not sure what fruits or vegetables are safe for your dog, be sure to ask your vet or even do a quick Google search.
Once you’ve got your dog’s food portions under control, it’s time to focus on exercise. A dog with arthritis or at risk of developing arthritis needs a low impact routine that won’t cause further damage.
Several short, brisk walks throughout the day are a great alternative to running at the dog park or other high impact exercises. Swimming is another activity that can ease your dog’s joints while giving them the exercise they need to stay fit. It is recommended that all dogs wear life vests, regardless of their swimming experience.
3. Consider Supplements or Medication
If diet and exercise aren’t enough, there is always the option of medication or supplements. Certain medications can reduce joint inflammation and ease your dog’s pain.
Supplements can be used to support the joint health in your dog in an effort to prevent arthritis. Omega 3 fatty acid is an ingredient that can be found in supplements to help treat discomfort caused by arthritis.
Before using any supplements or medicines, it is best to seek advice from your dog’s vet. Like humans, the reaction to any medication can vary from dog to dog.
4. Give Your Dog a Massage
Who doesn’t love a good massage? Not even dogs are immune to a pair of hands kneading their achy joints. Of course, some dogs don’t like their legs to be touched. It’s important to make sure your dog is comfortable with the massage or it won’t be beneficial for either of you.
Heat can do wonders for achy joints. As long as you are supervising, you can use your heating pad or heated blanket on your dog to help arthritis pain. If you do decide to use a heating pad, start off on the lowest setting until your dog gets used to it.
5. Making Your Home Comfortable
Making your home comfortable for your arthritic dog is about more than just keeping them off the bed. If you have stairs in your home or routinely take your pup on road trips, you may notice them having difficulty climbing the stairs or getting into the car.
Ramps or dog steps can easily solve any mobility issues for your dog. If you opt for ramps, be prepared to offer your dog treats at first to get them accustomed to the incline.
Many dogs with arthritis have problems maneuvering slippery wood floors. Strategically placed area rugs and kitchen runners can make it easier for your dog to get around the house. If you’re not a fan of rugs, dog-sized socks are a great alternative and will help keep your wood floors scratch-free.
Small Dogs Can Suffer From Arthritis
Arthritis is often considered a “big dog” problem. However, little dogs are equally at risk for developing arthritis. Some might argue they are more at risk because they have further to jump.
One way to help prevent arthritis in little dogs is to limit their jumping. Even if your dog doesn’t have arthritis, consider using dog steps to help them get on and off the bed without putting so much pressure on their joints.
In the long run, excessive jumping puts a lot of strain on their hind legs, potentially increasing their likelihood of arthritis later in life.
A Few More Considerations
There are two things to remember about arthritis. One – there is no cure. Two – no matter what you do, it will get progressively worse as your dog ages.
There isn’t a surefire way to prevent your dog from developing arthritis. However, these tips can help reduce some of the discomforts and pain your dog may feel.