Watching your dog struggle to get up from a nap or climb a staircase can be heartbreaking, especially if it is due to a debilitating condition such as arthritis. Arthritis is a disease that begins gradually and you may only see your dog slow down his gait or decrease his level of activity. If you think your dog may be showing early signs of arthritis such as slight lameness or reluctance to move and run, contact your veterinarian who will do several tests and perform X-rays to assess the level of arthritic changes in your dog. Fortunately, treatment options are plentiful and your dog can live more comfortably as a result.
Controlling your dog's pain with medication is an efficient way of relieving painful arthritis. Talk to your vet about dog supplements that contain fatty acids or glucosamine, which reduces inflammation in joints. There are also many drugs and medications available via prescription from your veterinarian. These include medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS), steroids and seasonal injections administered by a veterinarian. Heat therapy in a whirlpool or hot tub can provide pain relief on a daily basis, and massage can increase circulation.
Diet and Fitness
Overweight dogs have a difficult time dealing with arthritis because excess weight puts additional and unnecessary pressure on joints. Consider changing your dog's eating regimen to a lower calorie diet if he is overweight, and consider his level of fitness. While an arthritic dog may not want to move much, if he has a chance to walk at his own pace or play in a safe environment with carpeting or other ground with traction, he will increase his fitness and help keep his weight under control. Moderate exercise and a healthy diet can be especially helpful during the early stages of arthritis.
Around the Home
Giving your dog a comfortable home will help immensely in living with arthritis. Keep his food and water in a raised location to take pressure off his neck and front legs. Add carpeting to floors and stairs to give him the confidence to move more freely and give him traction. Purchase or build ramps with carpet covering to help your dog climb stairs, get up on the couch or step into a vehicle. Consider a low-temperature heating pad with a chew-safe cord that you can place in or under a dog bed. The temperature of the heating pad should not exceed 102 degrees Fahrenheit.
Advances in holistic and natural medicine have yielded several alternative therapies that have significantly reduced pain and extended the lives of dogs suffering with arthritis. Laser therapy has recently proven to reduce inflammation around the joints and provide some comfort to the dog. Acupuncture can also relieve joint pain as well as toxins around the muscles, therefore making the dog more comfortable. Any alternative therapy should be discussed with your veterinarian, and in many cases, only a veterinarian can provide treatment for an alternative therapy.