Arthritis affects one in every five adult dogs in the U.S., more than doubling in dogs 7 years and older, and is number one cause of chronic pain. Symptoms of arthritis include favoring a limb, difficulty sitting or standing, a hesitancy to run or jump, stiffness, sleeping more, and general decreased activity. At Rocky’s Retreat, we’ve worked with a number of dogs with varying degrees of arthritis. Several of them have a lot of trouble moving around, so they’re not able to get the exercise they need. Consequently, many of them gain weight, further exacerbating arthritic and other problems.
What can you do to help your dog if he is experiencing the symptoms of arthritis? Here are a few suggestions.
Add omega-3 supplements to your dog’s diet. Recent studies indicate that a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids improved dogs’ gait and activity levels.
Add a high quality glucosamine/chondroitin supplement to your dog’s food. Most foods that contain glucosamine/chondroitin don’t have enough to do any good. A supplement is a must.
Keep your dog as slim as possible, to decrease the load on his joints.
If at all possible, get your dog on a regular swimming regimen, especially in a warm water pool. Swimming is a low impact, full body workout that works to maintain or improve muscle mass and cardiovascular and respiratory function. It also releases endorphins, making your dog feel good.
Start a controlled exercise and strength training program that includes range of motion exercises. Often, arthritic dogs are in pain and don’t want to move. Along with muscle mass, they also lose flexibility. Working with your dog to maintain strength and flexibility with help him keep moving.
Invest in massages for your dog, or learn to massage your dog yourself. Massage helps to reduce pain, improves circulation, reduces swelling in arthritic joints, increases joint flexibility, and more.
Give acupuncture a try. Acupuncture improves circulation, and helps to alleviate pain.
Talk to your vet about cold laser therapy. Cold laser therapy uses light to stimulate cell regeneration and increase blood circulation.
Give pain medication as necessary. Speak to your vet about the pros and cons of specific pain medications.
Last but not least, look at your home environment. If you have wood or tile floors get area rugs to help your dog secure his footing. Give him a soft bed, and keep him off cold flooring.
These are just a selection of the many simple things you can do to ease your dog’s arthritic pain and discomfort. By taking a few simple steps, you can make your dog much more comfortable, increase his mobility significantly, and help your dog have a better quality of life for the rest of his life. And if we can help in any way, please contact us.
Sherri Cappabianca, an expert in the field of canine health and fitness, is the author of two books on canine health, and co-owner of Rocky’s Retreat, an intimate and personal boarding, daycare, hydrotherapy and fitness center, and Barking Dog Fitness, a Gym for Dogs, both located in Orlando. For more information, visit rockysretreat.com or barkingdogfitness.com.