If you notice that your dog is becoming less active, having tenderness when walking, or having difficulty climbing stairs, you may want to get him or her checked for arthritis at your vet. While large breeds—like Great Danes and German Shepherds, may be more prone to developing arthritis, any dog can develop arthritis as he or she ages. Here are four ways you can help your dog manage arthritis.
1. Adjust Your Home Set-Up
You can improve your dog's quality of life by making simple changes around your home. For instance, if your dog is struggling to hop up onto a bed or couch, you can ask your vet for recommendations for pet ramps. Some dogs with arthritis may struggle with food/water bowls on the floor since they may have to crouch down, so you may want to get a small box to raise these bowls up for easier access. Lastly, consider the flooring in your home. Tiles and wooden floors can be difficult for dogs with arthritis since they have less traction and may feel unsteady as they walk, so adding a few rugs can help your dog feel more supported.
2. Ask Your Vet About Medications & Support Treatments
A vet may recommend non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) to help your dog manage arthritis. NSAIDs limit the release of prostaglandins, or chemicals that can cause inflammation, pain, and stiffness. Some dogs may need to try a few different medications to find the right fit, as some medicines may have unwanted side effects, like nausea or diarrhea. If your dog doesn't respond well to medications, ask your vet about support treatments, like low-level laser therapy (LLLT). One study found that LLLT could improve a dog's quality of life and could possibly reduce the need for analgesic administration.
3. Reassess Your Dog's Diet
Your dog may have had the same food for many years, but it's a good idea to reassess his or her diet with the vet. When a dog has arthritis, he or she may not be as active and may not need a high-calorie diet since that could lead to weight gain. Your vet may also recommend a specialized diet that's rich in omega-3 fatty acids and glucosamine since these can provide joint support and rebuild cartilage. Your vet might recommend that you cut back on processed treats and offer healthier treats like kale or broccoli.
4. Help Your Dog with Gentle Physical Activity
Your dog's arthritis may make it too difficult for fetch and other games that require quick running, turning, or jumping. However, gentle exercise is still important for dogs with arthritis to maintain their joints and avoid weight gain, which can place extra pressure on joints. Short walks are a great way to help your dog manage his or her arthritis. You may want to also invest in a harness rather than a collar for the leash since harnesses can provide more support around arthritis forelimbs. If walks are too difficult, some vet clinics do offer hydrotherapy, massage, and physical therapy, which can help your dog maintain his or her range of motion.
Reach out to a vet in your area today to learn more about dog care.