If you have a senior dog suffering from arthritis and you want to find some relief for him or her, you’ve come to the right place. First I’d like to explain a little about arthritis and why dogs get it. If you’d rather get right into the ways to help older dogs with arthritis, it’s lower down on the page.
As dogs age, their bodies start to wear down just like with people. When young, dogs don’t know that all the running and jumping and twisting and turning they do could cause injuries that may one day turn into a disease known as arthritis.
Some of the antics in the following video are hilarious, but some are painful to watch. Most of them are examples of how dogs’ joints get worn out over time.
What is it?
Before doing my research, I didn’t realize that arthritis is actually a disease. I always thought of it as something that happens to joints as they age and the cartilage gets worn out. Just something that happens, like a broken leg. Not a disease. But it is a disease, which almost gives it a more sinister tone.
There are a couple different types of arthritis – osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis refers to an abnormal immune system causing an inflammatory disease. That type of arthritis is relatively less occuring in dogs than the other form and requires different treatment protocol.
Osteoarthritis is a disease causing destruction of the cartilage covering the joints and is very common in dogs.
What Causes Arthritis in Senior Dogs?
The first possible cause I want to mention is one that can be avoided – obesity. It’s pretty much the same with both people and dogs. The heavier the body, the more stress is put on the joints that are trying to carry that weight around.
I know how hard it is to keep from giving your dog that last bite of your ice cream cone or one of those crackers he keeps watching you bite into. I get it. It’s hard for me, too.
But if we want our dogs to grow old gracefully without the pain that accompanies arthritis, we have to be strict with ourselves.
Just like with us humans, it’s much easier to keep the weight off in the first place than to try and get it off once it’s on. Trust me, I know this all too well.
So as your dog ages into his or her senior years, try to be even more conscious of how much food you’re feeding. There’s no reason your dog should have to suffer from osteoarthritis in her senior years just because you couldn’t control your urge to give in to those begging eyes.
Weigh your dog regularly at your local veterinary clinic to stay on top of the weight situation.
Go for walks. You can both use the exercise and it will help keep that weight under control. But keep the walks short if your dog seems to be uncomfortable.
Another cause of osteoarthritis that is something you have no control over is hip dysplasia. This is a hereditary condition that involves the joint sockets of the hips being abnormally formed and is the leading cause of arthritis in the hips of dogs. Even with surgery at a young age, the damage is done and the joint or joints will usually become arthritic with age.
“Wobbler’s” Disease is another cause of arthritis in senior dogs. This is something that can effect a dog’s spine at the neck, causing pain and stiffness resulting in a wobbly gait. Technically, it’s compression of the spinal cord, which can also include the nerve roots. It usually happens in the larger breed dogs and although it can be treated surgically, it can be a risky procedure and can lead to arthritis over the years.
Once your senior dog is showing signs of arthritis, there is unfortunately no cure. However, there are things you can do to ease the pain.
What You Can Do For Your Arthritic Dog
1. Help your dog lose weight – This might mean cutting back on her food, exercising more (swimming is a great exercise that doesn’t put stress on joints), cutting out treats and maybe changing her food to one with fewer calories. You can give your dog green beans if she’ll eat them, which act as a filler yet don’t have many calories.
2. Feed a healthy grain-free diet – Grain in food can cause several problems and you want your arthritic senior dog to be as healthy as possible. Food is an essential part of a dog’s health so read the labels, do some research and feed the best you can find for your senior dog.
3. Give natural supplements for dogs with arthritis such as glucosamine and chondroitin. If your dog doesn’t like taking pills, there are soft chewable glucosamine supplements. This is great for both humans and dogs with arthritis. It helps lubricate the joints, making them less painful and more flexible. Fish oil is another supplement that can help painful joints along with having other benefits.
Here are a few top rated joint supplements for senior dogs:
Glucosamine for Dogs Advanced Joint & Hip Supplement with MSM, Chondroitin, Vitamin C & E, Hyaluronic Acid, Omega 3 & Omega 6 – 60 Chewable TabletsMy Active Dog Glucosamine, a Complete Hip and Joint Supplement for Joint Pain Relief, Hip Dysplasia, Canine Arthritis. Contains MSM, Chondroitin, Hyaluronic Acid, Vitamins C and E, Omega 3 and 6. 60 Chicken Flavor Chewable TabletsGlucosamine for Dogs by Furrysmarties with Glucosamine Chondroitin MSM and Vitamin C – Hip and Joint Supplement – 120 Beef Flavor Chewable Tablets
There has also been a new supplemental treatment performed in France targeting pain relief for dogs with arthritis. They use a plant-based approach with which they are seeing positive results within 8 weeks.
4. Acupuncture and Chiropractic – Acupuncture can actually decrease pain and relax muscles that also helps relieve pain in the joints. The same is with chiropractic help. Sometimes dogs will compensate for their sore joints by putting more stress on other joints. Getting some chiropractic manipulation done can loosen up tight muscles and make sure the spine is aligned so there isn’t more pain going on there.
5. Massage is another great way to help relax your dog’s muscles and help relieve joint pain. There might be a canine massage therapist in your area who could work on your dog and maybe give you a few tips on massaging as well so you can do it on a daily basis for just a few minutes. Both you and your dog will enjoy it.
6. Make your dog’s environment more senior friendly. Linoleum and hardwood floors can create problems for older dogs with arthritic joints. Putting down a carpet runner will help keep all four feet under her instead of splaying out on a slippery floor.
Also it’s important to keep nails trimmed short and the hair on the bottom of the feet, if they have it, trimmed off. Hair on the bottom of a dog’s foot can make for a slippery slide across the floor.
You might also consider a thick or raised bed for your dog. There are orthopedic dog beds for large dogs with arthritis that are thick enough to keep your dog’s joints from going through onto the hard floor underneath. It’s the same with the raised beds. Anything to keep pressure off the joints is a good thing.
I’ve used these raised beds for my older dogs and they really seem to like them. You can put a nice thick blanket on top if you don’t want them lying on the firm canvas material. One nice thing about these is that they’re easy to clean – just scrub with some form of soap and rinse with a garden hose.
7. One last thing to help your dog stay as pain-free as possible is to not let her jump up or down as she might have previously done in her younger days. Not all dogs realize they aren’t supposed to do certain things in order to protect themselves.
Pet Gear Tri-Fold Pet Ramp for cats and dogs up to 200-pounds, GreyBest for Pet Folding 2-in-1 Stairs Ramp Non Slip Sturdy Wooden Step Dog Cat Animal LadderPuppyStairs 2-Piece Ramp with Cube -Chocolate Suede. All covers are removable, machine washable; Foam is Industrial grade high-density foam, which firmly supports Pets up to 60 pounds
It’s up to us as their guardians to assist them. Lift her up and down from the bed or get a ramp that will make it easier to get up there.
Lift her into and out of the pick-up. Just because a dog CAN jump up or down, doesn’t mean it’s a safe thing to do. Sudden jarring on those arthritic joints can cause further damage. Your dog doesn’t understand this. But you should.
Unfortunately, this kind of joint disease is common, but there is help for older dogs with arthritis. Weight loss, a healthy diet, natural supplements, acupuncture, chiropractic, massage, orthopedic beds, slow walks and physical help from you where needed are all ways to manage the pain and keep it as minimal as possible.