How to Help Dogs With Arthritis

Katy Nelson, DVM
Jul 30, 2020
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Arthritis in dogs is a condition that causes joint pain, and one that will afflict most dogs as they age.

Watching your best friend get older is never fun, but there are some things you can do around your home and in collaboration with your veterinarian to help dogs with arthritis manage their pain and improve their joint health.

Here are some tips for relieving your dog’s joint pain and reducing inflammation.

Modify Your Home to Accommodate Dogs With Arthritis

Making a few basic modifications to your home can help alleviate your dog’s pain and anxiety.

Nonslip Rugs

Dogs with arthritis and joint pain may have a fear of walking on slippery surfaces like hardwood or tile because they have limited mobility and they expect to feel pain if they fall.

Using nonslip mats, rugs, and carpets on slippery floors can help your dog get around the house more without the fear of slipping. Placing nonslip rugs at the base and the top of staircases, and near couches and beds, will help decrease dog joint pain by lowering the impact on their joints.

Orthopedic Dog Beds

Comfortable dog beds that are low to the ground and have orthopedic support will ease your dog’s joint pain and allow them to get back up without struggling.

Make sure that your pet’s favorite spots to rest and sit have thick bedding with nonslip mats to prevent injury or pain when they try to stand up.

Blocked-Off Stairways

Stairs should be blocked off with a pet gate to ensure your dog’s safety when they’re not under your direct supervision.

Dog-Lift Harness

Considering purchasing a sling, or dog-lift harness, to assist with mobility around the house. This type of harness can help ensure proper and safe movement through certain areas for pets severely affected by hip, knee, shoulder, and elbow arthritis.

Ask Your Vet About Joint Supplements and Medications

Using a multimodal approach—combinations of different types of medications and joint supplements—to treat arthritis in dogs is the best way to ensure quality of life and successful treatment.

NSAIDS

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) play a major role in controlling dog joint pain and inflammation. Prescription medications such Galliprant, Carprofen, and Meloxicam are the safest options for controlling pain and inflammation compared to over-the-counter, non-veterinary products.

You may see the full results after three months of daily use. Speak with your veterinarian about which product and dosage is right for your pet.

Adequan Injections

Adequan, an FDA-approved series of injections performed by your veterinarian, has shown to help with inflammation and to increase joint lubrication.

Joint Supplements and Diets

Oral supplements that contain methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), glucosamine hydrochloride, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids—eicosatetraenoic acid (ETA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)—and chondroitin sulfate are known for supporting dog joint health.

Quality products formulated specifically for dog joint health include Nutramax Dasuquin, Hill's Prescription Diet j/d dry dog food, Hill’s Prescription Diet j/d wet dog food, Bayer’s Free Form, and Nutramax Welactin, among many others.

Many oral supplements can have significant side effects, wreaking havoc on the gastrointestinal tract of our canine friends, so you should consult with your veterinarian before adding them to your dog’s diet.

Dog Breeds That Can Benefit From Joint Supplements as Puppies

In breeds that have the potential for joint disease, it is recommended to start joint supplements as early as 8 weeks of age. These breeds are most commonly at risk for joint issues: 

Hip and knee: Any toy to giant breed dog can be affected, but these are the most common: 

Toy breeds: Miniature Poodles, Boston Terriers, Chihuahuas, Pugs (knee), and Yorkshire Terriers

Medium to large breeds: American Staffordshire Terrier, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Boxers, American Bulldogs, English Bulldogs, German Shepherds, Mastiffs 

Giant breeds: Great Danes, St. Bernards 

Elbow (tends to be breed-specific): English Bulldogs, Welsh Corgis, Dachshunds, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers

Shoulder (tends to be breed-specific): Labradors and Golden Retrievers

Consider Secondary Therapies

These treatments can be used in conjunction with primary treatments to help relieve dog joint pain.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is the insertion of thin needles into the skin at certain points of the body. There is clinical evidence that acupuncture, in combination with a multimodal therapy approach to arthritis, reduces chronic dog joint pain.

Speak with your veterinarian to determine if acupuncture is a good option for your pet.

Managing Your Dog’s Weight

Weight management is a critical component of relieving dog joint pain. Obesity contributes to increased pressure on the joints, which leads to pain and discomfort. Controlling your dog’s weight can help ease their pain as they age. Speak with your veterinarian about the ideal weight for your pet and long-term weight management.

Moderate Exercise and Physical Therapy

Physical therapy, massage, and daily exercise can be very beneficial to dogs with arthritis.

Consider daily exercise in moderation: Start with short walks, up to 10 or 15 minutes, three to four times per day. Following the same routine every day without high-impact activities (such as ball chasing, running, or jumping) is key to giving your dog some exercise without increasing stress or pain.

Speak with your veterinarian about consulting a certified small animal physical rehabilitation practitioner. They can lead your dog through therapeutic exercises like passive stretching, range of motion exercises, controlled walking with obstacles, and using underwater treadmills.

Featured Image: iStock.com/K_Thalhofer

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