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Living with Arthritis: 10 Ways to Make Life Easier for Your Arthritic Dog

How to help your dog through chronic pain and live a happy & healthy life with arthritis.

After my dog underwent bilateral TPLO surgeries, her recovery didn't progress as we had hoped. Although we did everything "right", she continued to show subtle signs that she was experiencing discomfort; reluctance to jump in the car, waking up stiff, slowing down on walks & disinterest in play.

Although she was a young dog, x-rays showed she was developing arthritis in her knees. And so began the journey into canine arthritis management. Read on for our experience with the different tools & tips for managing your dog's arthritis.

  1. Observe Your Dog: Have you noticed a change in your dog's energy levels? Disinterest in activities that were once fun? Stiffness when getting up? Learning dog body language & observing signs of stress & pain will help you determine when something isn't quite right.

  2. Visit Your Veterinarian: If you have a suspicion that your dog isn't feeling their best, a trip to the vet is in order. They will provide a full body examination & further tests to help you get to the root of the problem.

  3. Medication: Your veterinarian may prescribe a Non-steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug (NSAID) for the immediate relief of pain. This can be a useful tool to determine if pain was the root cause of your dog's change in behavior. If they are improving while taking an NSAID, it is a sure sign that they were previously experiencing pain. Some dog's may experience side-effects to using these drugs. To use them safely, watch for any changes in your dog's health & communicate regularly with your veterinarian. What We Use: Vetprofen

  4. Diet/Supplements: There are natural & safe remedies to aid in your dog's pain management. Look for supplements or dog safe foods that reduce inflammation & improve joint health. What We Use: Duralactin, Glucosamine/Chondroitin Supplement, Turmeric/Boswellia Supplement, Blueberries

  5. Adequan Injections: Adequan can usually be acquired & administered by your regular vet, or you can administer it yourself. It is an FDA-approved osteoarthritis drug that inhibits cartilage loss in the dog's joints and can help restore joint lubrication, relieve inflammation and renew the building blocks of healthy cartilage. We feel that this has greatly reduced the progression of Bailey's arthritis!

  6. Hydrotherapy / Swimming: Arthritis can make regular walks, running & play time more painful for our dogs. Yet, regular movement & exercise is still crucial to keeping your arthritic dog healthy. Swimming or hydrotherapy is a low impact way to exercise & move their joints safely with less stressful impact. If you don't have safe or local areas to swim in natural lakes or rivers, hydrotherapy on an underwater treadmill or indoor pool is a great option. What We Use: Doggone Day Spaw

  7. Massage: Arthritis causes degeneration of the normal structures within a joint, causing pain and reduced usage of the joint & limb. This can cause surrounding muscles to become weak and our dogs will compensate with other areas of the body, often causing more pain. Regular massage can reduce tension in these muscles and help them feel better overall. A quick search on Youtube for "canine massage for arthritis" will give you helpful videos & tips on how to do massage ourself. Or you can hire a professional.

  8. Acupuncture/Chiropractic: Safe & alternative therapies that may restore energy balance & promote healing in our dogs. We have used both and found that Bailey experienced some relief over time. What We Use: Dr. Taryn Rathbone and Pilchuck Integrative Medicine

  9. Physical Therapy: It is important that our dogs retain as much strength as they can to support the joints that are degenerating. Working with a professional rehab specialist will help you to learn safe exercises you can do with your dog to build strength & encourage mobility. What We Recommend: Go Dog Go! Rehab and SOUND Veterinary Rehabilitation Center

  10. Beating Boredom: Dogs with arthritis are often left home to rest since they can no longer participate in the physical activities they once did. But being at home with nothing much to do, can leave them sitting with their pain & focusing on their discomfort. Finding alternative ways to keep our dogs busy & entertained can help them forget about their pain & live with a higher quality of life. Consider using food puzzles, snuffle mats, kongs or lick mats to feed their meals. You can teach new tricks that don't require a lot of physical stress, like "touch" or "bang". Or take up a low impact dog sport like nosework or barn hunt! Take them for rides to your local parks and let them sniff & explore at their own pace or sit at a park bench & simply watch the world go by.

Don't forget to continue having fun & enjoying life with your arthritic dog. It may take a little more creativity, but there are still many activities you can do together that will be fun & fulfilling for both of you.


About the Author: Ashley Diaz is a dedicated pet owner and animal lover with over 10 years of experience providing professional pet care. With certifications in applied animal behavior & training, she shares her knowledge and insights on pet ownership, behavior, and training in her blog. Outside of her work with animals, Ashley enjoys spending time with her family, hiking, practicing yoga and playing the piano.


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