Canine arthritis is a common joint condition that typically manifests in senior dogs. As the doting pet parent of a 13-year-old Rottweiler/Lab mix suffering with the daily limitations of severe arthritis, I’ve researched this topic inside and out in the hopes of helping my “eldest daughter.”
Usually, over the span of months or years, owners observe a slow decline in their pet's physical movements. Truthfully, in our case, we’ve seen Maya go from limping once in while to being physically incapable of standing for more than a few minutes at a time, all in the span of 2-3 years. Due to their progressive mobility issues, canines may no longer be able to participate in their usual activities, which was indeed the case in our household. Suddenly, my beloved sidekick and running partner wasn’t as playful as she once was, choosing longer naps instead of hikes in the woods.
While there is no cure for this degenerative disease, my goal as her guardian was to find ways to help reduce her joint inflammation and pain. Along the way, I found these 7 tried-and-true holistic ways to help manage my furry best’s pain so she can live a more comfortable life with us. Hopefully, these suggestions will help you with your own pet!
Maintain Healthy Weight
Lessen strain on painful joints by maintaining a healthy weight for your pet. No matter the amount, any weight in excess creates additional stress on joints that are already having a hard time functioning. Therefore, if your pup is overweight, speak to your vet about putting them on an age-appropriate weight-loss diet.
Provide A Low-Impact Exercise Routine
When we talk about being healthy, we can't leave out the importance of staying active. Indeed, these two components are quintessentially intertwined with regards to arthritic pain management. In fact, daily exercise is necessary, though in moderation according to your dog's physical limitations, to maintain muscle mass and keep joints flexible. Since there may be pain upon movement in the beginning, offer very short periods of exercise. Consider several short walks throughout the day as opposed to one epic trek - which would most likely injure your dog. Normally, vets recommend swimming as this exercise does not place a strain on achy joints.
Carefully Plan Food And Water Placement
Arthritic dogs feel pain upon certain movements. Unfortunately, these movements can be little, everyday actions like eating or drinking water. From trouble with their hips to neck stiffness, suddenly your pet's life seems all that more complicated. Keep the pain at bay by thoughtfully planning the location of food and water. Also, consider purchasing elevated bowls as they are easier to access.
Install Assisted Living Devices
Assisted living devices such as ramps are available for dogs. Once upon a time, your dog probably never thought twice to jump up onto the sofa or into the car. But now that they have arthritis, they could sure use a little help. While slings can support a canine with hip pain to walk with assistance, doggy steps or ramps provide an easier way to access areas.
Use Padded Surfaces When Possible
Whenever possible, use padded surfaces throughout the home to provide cushioning and support. With arthritis, walking is painful, causing your pet to become less confident with the simple act. On smooth surfaces like tile or hardwood, they may avoid walking altogether to eliminate the chance of slipping. To help them with balance and coordination, think about installing rugs, runners, or carpeting. These options also offer a softer place to land when Fido loses his footing.
Select An Orthopedic Bed
No doubt, your pet's achy joints are in desperate need of a warm, cozy bed to help reduce pain and stiffness as well as increase comfort. Orthopedic dog beds provide exceptional support with extra padding - two things that dogs in pain can really use. Additionally, as arthritic joints prefer warmth, you may want to think about slipping in a nice hot pack for a perfectly pleased pup. If you don’t believe dogs can smile, you should see the grin on Maya’s face when I place a microwavable Magic Sack on her hind legs!
Call On Holistic Therapy
Gentle, hands-on therapeutic techniques like massage and physical therapy have been shown to both significantly decrease joint pain and improve overall mobility. While you may be able to offer a soothing massage to your canine at home, you might want to consider the help of professionals for holistic therapies such as physiotherapy, acupuncture, or osteopathy.
Although incurable at this time, arthritis symptoms can be controlled and alleviated. I urge you to speak to your veterinarian about developing a pain management plan. Doing so changed Maya’s life, and I say this without any ounce of exaggeration. By working together in conjunction with manual therapists, you can ensure your precious pet has less pain and stiffness, giving them a happier, more satisfying life.
Lindsay Pereira is a pet-lov’in Montréal-based writer who’s a “mommy” to Maya, a sweet-tempered senior Labrador/Rottweiler and Muffy, a grumpy guinea pig with a serious attitude problem. She writes about pets at Animallama.com.