Arthritis is a common condition in dogs, caused most often by aging but also by excess weight, trauma, dietary insufficiencies or genetic factors. If your pooch no longer plays fetch with his customary zeal, he could be suffering from stiff, achy joints. While there’s no cure for canine arthritis, you can ease the symptoms. Your vet might recommend heat therapy -- either alone or in conjunction with medication -- to soothe your pup’s aches and pains.
How Heat Treatment Works
Heat therapy can ease some of your dog’s discomfort by relaxing stiff joints and boosting blood flow. Veterinarian Dr. Ron Hines notes that the beneficial effects of heat can last for several hours after treatment, helping your pooch move easier throughout the day. In fact, heat treatments work best for dogs who have ongoing discomfort rather than those who suffer from only an occasional episode. Many of the treatment methods can be used at home, giving your dog quick relief until you can take him to the vet.
Arthritis symptoms sometimes worsen after a dog has been lying down and often subside after he gets up and starts moving around. Your vet might suggest placing a heating pad in or under your dog’s bed to keep him cozy while he sleeps and promote greater mobility when he gets up. For maximum safety, choose one with a chew-proof cord and a waterproof cover. Also, opt for one that doesn’t get warmer than 102 degrees. Hotter than this could burn your pooch’s paws. Because he’s already debilitated, it may be difficult for him to get up quickly enough to prevent a burn.
A relatively new addition to the canine arthritis toolkit is hydrotherapy, long used for humans and recently introduced as a complementary treatment for animals. Your vet might refer you to one of the growing number of animal rehabilitation centers offering this therapy. Even dogs severely debilitated by illness can participate in and benefit from hydrotherapy, which works by not only exercising a dog’s muscles, but also increasing blood flow and enhancing flexibility through the warmth of the water, which is kept between 80 to 100 degrees.
You don’t need to shell out a lot of cash to provide soothing heat treatments to your dog. In fact, something already found in your linen closet can bring your pup immediate relief. The Whole Dog Journal recommends heating a damp towel for between one and two minutes in the microwave or clothes dryer and leaving it on the affected are for between 10 and 15 minutes. Wait 15 minutes before reapplying the towel. As with any at-home therapy, consult with your veterinarian before using and ask her how long and how often to administer the treatment.