How to Help Your Dog With Arthritis or Joint Problems

A leashed walk through shallow water is ideal for an arthritic dog.
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At any age, your dog can suffer from problems with his joints that may lead to osteoarthritis, also known as arthritis. Inflammation in his joints can be extremely painful for your pooch and can make movement difficult. Medication from your vet can help with the symptoms. Sometimes surgery to replace a joint or improve its function is possible, but lifestyle changes can play an important role in reducing your dog's pain and improving his quality of life.

Weight Loss Is Vital

Weight control is a priority for a dog with arthritis or other joint problems. If your pooch is on the tubby side, losing weight can lessen the strain on his joints. According to the Oklahoma State University Center for Veterinary Health Sciences, several studies have shown that weight loss alone can reduce the symptoms of arthritis. Your veterinarian can give advice on reducing you dog's food intake or using a special low-calorie diet.

Daily Low-Impact Exercise

Daily controlled exercise is important for a dog with joint problems, as it can strengthen his muscles and ligaments, which in turn helps to prevent injuries. Running, jumping and playing retrieving games can cause further damage to your dog's joints and are best avoided. Low-impact exercise, such as several short to moderate walks a day, is good; swimming is great, as it tones your dog's muscles while taking the pressure off his joints. Consult your veterinarian about local hydrotherapy pools and to create an appropriate exercise program for your pooch.

Supplements and NSAID Therapy

A combination of drugs such as NSAIDs -- non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs -- and nutritional supplements can benefit an arthritic dog. NSAIDs help to suppress inflammation and reduce pain, but your dog may be sensitive to the drugs' potential side effects. It's important for your veterinarian to carry out blood tests to ensure that your dog can safely take NSAIDs. A vet can also give you advice about supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate. They, too, suppress inflammation and can help to prevent further joint degeneration.

An Arthritis Friendly Environment

A few changes around the home can make things easier for an arthritic dog. Slippery surfaces such as hardwood and tiled floors can be awkward and dangerous. Your dog can get a better footing indoors if floors are carpeted or rugs are placed about the house. If your pooch has difficulties getting up stairs or onto his favorite chair or bed and into vehicles, consider employing wood or plastic ramps to help your dog deal with everyday obstacles. Soft rubber cubes that can be fitted together to help your dog get on and off furniture are another option.

The Importance of TLC

There are lots of ways to provide your arthritic dog with some TLC. He may need extra time, and sometimes help, getting in and out of cars, going upstairs or getting outside to take a walk. A soft bed is more comfortable for a dog with painful joints, especially a thin dog. Beds designed for arthritic pets, including waterbeds and hammocks, are available from pet retailers. Regular grooming is important -- it can be difficult for your dog to keep those hard-to-reach spots clean. Matted hair and tangles need removing, or they can damage an older dog's skin.

The Benefits of Acupuncture and Massage

Dr. Marc Smith, a practicing veterinarian in Nashville who specializes in acupuncture, believes acupuncture can help to control your dog's pain. Dr. Smith feels the best results occur for arthritis pain in the back rather than the dog's extremities. Acupuncture is a specialty treatment, based in Eastern medicine, that requires training.

Massage can also help to relieve pain and to increase your dog's flexibility. An early morning massage assists your dog in loosening up, and an evening massage will help relieve any buildup of tension and soreness. Your veterinarian can recommend a trained therapist who can provide professional treatments and massage routines for you to use on a daily basis to help your pooch.