Much like humans, dogs too show symptoms of aging. The running motion that was once smooth becomes stiff, jumping on their favorite furniture no longer seems easy, and even something as simple as lying down comes with deep groans. Canine osteoarthritis or arthritis is quite common among dogs who have reached a certain age. Dogs who suffer from arthritis can feel pretty stiff with their movements, thereby affecting the overall quality of their lives. Although there’s no particular cure for this, there are certain things dog owners can opt for in order to help their dogs deal with arthritis better.
Symptoms of Arthritis in Dogs
As dogs age, the cartilage in their joints begins to thin down, and the cartilage cells perish. Once these cells die, enzymes are released, as a result of which the joint capsule gets inflamed, releasing excessive joint fluid. This can lead to extra bone growth or osteophytes. As the cartilage thins down, there’s a narrowing of the normal joint space, causing a deterioration of the bone beneath the cartilage. All of these actions combine to bring about changes in the way the joints of a dog function, which are visible in the form of numerous symptoms that prove your dog has arthritis.
Some of the common symptoms of arthritis in dogs are as follows:
· Weight gain
· Changes in behavior or irritability
· Reluctance to play, run, jump, or engage in other physical activities
· Lameness, stiffness, or difficulty in getting up
· Experiencing pain while being touched or petted
· Spine and limbs losing muscle mass
· Having accidents around the house
· Difficulty in maintaining posture while urinating or defecating
· Licking the affected joints
· Trouble climbing stairs
How to Take Care of Dogs with Arthritis
There are some easy tips to follow that will allow you to help your dog if he/she suffers from arthritis. Those tips are as listed below:
Manage Their Weight
If your dog is overweight, it will put extra strain on their legs and joints. Therefore, helping them lose weight is one of the first things you have to do to relieve them of the arthritis pain. Talk to your vet about your dog’s food and dietary requirements, and modify their meals accordingly. While it can be difficult to deny your dog the treats they love, it’s for their own good. You can give them unsweetened and non-canned pumpkin, because not only will they enjoy it, it will also make them feel full.
Get Them to Exercise
Regular exercise is necessary for dogs of every age, and more so if they suffer from arthritis. If your dog is younger and has just recently started suffering from arthritis, they can definitely exercise more than an older dog suffering from severe cartilage erosion. Instead of taking them on one single long walk during the day, try going for multiple walks of shorter periods. If their body can take it, try getting them to walk up and down areas that are steep. This will aid in rebuilding the muscles in the limbs, increasing the strength and stability of your dog.
Give Them a Comfortable Bed
Dogs who suffer from arthritis will have a hard time getting comfortable and sleeping in a bed that’s lumpy or flat. Stay away from beds that are elevated or of the nesting kind, as your dog could have difficulty getting in and out of such beds. A well-padded bed is very crucial for your dog to rest their stiff joints. Try getting a heated bed, especially for the winter months, as these help a lot in healing the sore joints. There are many orthopedic beds available for dogs in the market these days. Make sure that you get an orthopedic foam with four inches of thickness, and one that is big enough for your dog to stretch on comfortably.
Use Ramps and Cover Your Floors
There are areas your dogs loved to jump to at one point, which they can no longer do with their arthritis. Hence, try getting a ramp for them, especially if you have a big dog. This goes for couches, decks, cars, and anything of a similar height. Dog ramps can be found at various pet stores nowadays, so, you can easily get one that suits your dog’s needs. Get one with a surface that provides proper traction, which includes a sandpaper-like surface or rubber. If possible, try installing a ramp for your staircase as well.
Since arthritis causes dogs to get weak and lose muscle mass, it becomes tough for them to have traction on materials such as hardwood, marble, or any other type of floor that’s slick. Therefore, place foam mats, bath mats, yoga mats, or rubber runners in the areas your dog frequently walks on, so that they can move around comfortably.
Acupuncture and Massage
Acupuncture doesn’t just work for humans, but for dogs with arthritis as well. Veterinary acupuncture causes your dog’s body to release anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving substances (endorphins). Acupuncture also helps in easing the tension in your dog’s muscles. Massages, too, can help the arthritis pain your dog experiences. They ease their sore muscles, reduce stiffness and inflammation, and also lessen their stress levels. Massaging your dog can also serve as a wonderful bonding exercise, allowing you to discover new bumps, lumps, or sore areas.
Chondroitin and Glucosamine are considered as some of the popular and common natural remedies to ease arthritic pain in dogs. They enhance the cartilage between their joints and promote joint health, thereby aiding in rebuilding the cartilage. Turmeric is a good option if you’re wishing to go for a more herbal approach, as it helps with its anti-inflammatory properties, and is also a strong antioxidant that strengthens your dog’s liver and protects them from a variety of diseases.
Natural remedies also include devil’s claw, that helps in the reduction of pain and inflammation. If your dog’s arthritis is mild, then vitamin C, vitamin E, and dl-phenylalanine work pretty well. For severe cases, you can try adding sodium oxide dismutase, which is an antioxidant that comes with anti-inflammatory goodness.