9 ways to help a dog with arthritis at home
If your dog has been diagnosed with arthritis, you will already know it’s a common problem that can't be cured.
Sadly, arthritis can be as uncomfortable for dogs as it is for humans, but it’s not all doom and gloom!
There's a number of things you can do from home that can help ease the pain and soothe your dog.
Heat therapy is one of the easiest, most affordable and most effective treatments for arthritis.
This is because applying heat improves blood flow and can help reduce pain and soothe your doggos achy joints.
Moist heat is one of the best forms of therapy and is recommended over dry heat as the moisture allows the heat to penetrate deeper into tissue.
It’s super simple too! Just take a washcloth, wet it with warm water and hold it over the affected areas for about 15 minutes, or until your pup’s skin feels warm to the touch.
This method is particularly good for dogs suffering from arthritis of the hips, knees, shoulders and elbows, wrists in the front legs and ankles in the back legs.
Make sure the heat is warm enough to touch but not so hot that it burns you. Hold it onto your skin first for 20 seconds before applying it to your dog.
Stop the treatment immediately if your doggo displays any signs of discomfort such as excessive movement, growling, or biting.
Lavender and chamomile have many of the same calming benefits for canines as they do for humans. The scents are perfectly safe and can make the experience even more relaxing for your good boy or girl.
Inhaling the lavender smell can help alleviate anxiety, depression, and stress. Always supervise your dog with the lavender wheat pack as it can be toxic if ingested in large quantities.
You can use the wheat pack the same as you would the washcloth, while your dog is lying down and chilled.
It’s not unusual for your dog to fall asleep during the heat therapy process, which shows just how worthwhile this treatment can be.
You can also create DIY heat pads yourself! All you need is a clean, soft sock in an adult size (longer socks work best) and uncooked rice (never use instant rice!).
Then you just:
- Stuff the sock about halfway with the uncooked rice.
- Tie the remainder of the sock with a knot or stitch it closed.
- Finally, place in the microwave for 1-2 minutes and voila! You’re done!
Top Tip: If your dog has had recent surgery, check with your vet before applying heat therapy, especially near surgical wounds and any swollen/painful areas.
Diet plays a big role in your dog’s joint health.
Paying attention to how much and what kind of food your dog is eating can be a simple way to help your arthritic dog from home.
It's important to manage your pet's weight as overweight dogs put more pressure on the joints, leading to more pain.
All dogs have different nutrient requirements so choose a well-balanced diet with the correct amounts of essential vitamins and minerals.
If your dog is suffering from arthritis, book a free online appointment with one of our registered veterinary nurses (RVNs) for advice.
Our professionals can help you pick the right diet to keep your dog comfortable.
If you have an overweight arthritic dog that needs to shed some pounds, come for a free weight clinic consult.
Keep your dog’s nails clipped nice and short. Long nails impact the mechanics of the foot and can make walking more difficult, or sometimes even painful.
You can do this from home yourself or book in with a vet, vet nurse or groomer.
Warm baths also work wonders, but first, make sure you prepare your bath area so your arthritic dog is safe and comfortable.
Line your bath or shower stall with non-slip mats so your dog has good footing and padding and there’s no danger of slipping.
Having a shower stall that your dog can easily walk in and out of is preferable over a bath, as this prevents you from having to lift your arthritic dog. If it’s warm outside and you have access to a warm water supply, you can always wash your dog outside instead.
If you have a larger dog (15-20kg) and must use a bath, investing in a ramp or pet-friendly steps to help your dog access the tub, is better than lifting
There are several special steps for bathtubs available online or in shops that allow an arthritic dog to get into the bath on their own.
If lifting your dog is necessary, gently place one arm around his chest and another around his behind. Make sure you are strong enough to lift your dog securely and watch out for signs of discomfort.
We strongly recommend you have someone else on hand to help lift or handle the dog to reduce strain on the dog's joints and to provide comfort if he becomes stressed.
Hydrotherapy is helpful for dogs as the buoyancy of the water lifts the dog's body off of their joints, whilst the warmth of the water improves blood flow.
This means your doggo won’t have as much weight going through those joints, and it gives them a chance to breathe almost. The warm water also helps loosen stiff muscles and reduce joint inflammation.
The compression of the water is also amazing for distracting the brain from pain allowing your dog to exercise more comfortably.
The resistance of the water helps build muscle and strengthens the surrounding joints, providing greater support. Besides the health benefits, just simply being in water can be therapeutic for dogs struggling with arthritis.
Not to mention, it’s a lot of fun and most dogs love the attention and doing something different, even seniors!
There are many amazing hydrotherapy centres across the UK. But before you book in, you’ll want to speak to your vet first.
We also recommend that you double check to ensure that the people are well qualified and experienced and that their facilities are suitable.
Canine massage therapy can relieve the pain symptoms and slow down the progression of arthritis.
Massaging your pet's muscles promotes better blood circulation and reduces any swelling and inflammation.
Gently rubbing your pet’s body can help reduce the pain and inflammation. It also prevents muscle spasms and stiffness.
When you massage your canine, you’re loosening up constricted muscles and tissues. Through gentle movement, you help your dog stretch better and maintain mobility.
Exercise is important for all dogs regardless of their weight or condition. By now you already know that the longer your arthritic doggo stays in one position, the harder it is for them to get up!
Short and slow walks are a great way to help your dog's arthritis from home and keep them limber. It’s also better to do short, frequent walks throughout the day rather than just one walk.
Walks help maintain and improve muscle mass which supports the stability of the joints. Swimming is another great low-impact exercise for arthritic dogs and can be really enjoyable in the hot summer months.
Remember that dogs don’t always know their limits, so try not to let them sprint or engage in other high-impact exercises. This could result in injury or increased joint pain.
If you have a dog that loves to endlessly play fetch with a ball it doesn’t necessarily mean they should. They will run through moderate pain and discomfort.
Changing high-intensity games to more mentally stimulating such as hide and seek with the ball may relieve pressure on those limbs and joints.
Getting your do up and moving around the house can also be beneficial. Even if it is just to call them up out of the bed and get them to come to you in another room. Remember to give them a lot of fuss.
Keeping the joints moving and active helps keep the stiffness and bay and even small regular movements can help keep muscle degeneration at bay, and help to keep the muscles strong.
Be mindful of different terrains on walks. Replacing a shingle beach walk or a hard and unpredictable surface for a short flat grass walk will reduce the force put through aggravated joints and muscles.
Keep a close eye on your dog on walks for any stumbles, trips, trembles or fatigue which could lead to further harm. Always take a break or head home sooner to avoid further damage.
As your dog ages or if joint mechanics are impacted due to an injury, the cartilage becomes worn. Over time, this will lead to arthritis. This causes the once cushy cartilage to become thin and the bones to rub together, causing the joint to become inflamed and painful.
- Omega-3 fatty acids — The only nutraceutical with scientific evidence in reducing inflammation. Omega 3’s EPA and DHA from marine species have proven in studies to improve weight bearing and daily activities in dogs with osteoarthritis.
- Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate — One of the most popular joint supplement ingredients. Promotes healthy cartilage, improves joint health and reduces arthritic pain.
- Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) — Helps form new cartilage and can reduce inflammation and pain.
- Hyaluronic acid — A major component of joint fluid and helps make cartilage more resistant to wear and tear.
Buddycare's Joint Care Supplements support older pets with decreased mobility and active pets of all ages!
And our Omega 3 Supplements for dogs and cats contain high levels of EPA and DHA.
Not only do these support good skin health all year round, they also play an important role in the healthy functioning of the brain, heart, joints, skin and coat!
Pet-proof your home
If you notice that your dog is having trouble getting a grip on slippery surfaces such as laminate, hardwood or tiles, put area rugs or runners around your home.
Yoga mats or even non-slip rubber mats that are meant for the tub are a great alternative too!
You can also consider Dr Buzby’s ToeGrips® dog nail grips.
ToeGrips help dogs move with confidence! They are made of a natural non-slip material that grips the floor in a way dog nails cannot.
This provides extra traction and improves the brain’s perception of where the limbs and feet are positioned.
Remember that It’s much more difficult for dogs with mobility issues to negotiate small doorways and items on the floor.
Be mindful of keeping doorways free of obstructions and keep the floor clear of shoes, curled-up rug edges, toys and wires.
Upgrade dog bed and bowls
Hard floors may exacerbate joint pain. Even if your doggo enjoys lying on cool wood or tile floors, it's worth investing in a good bed.
Having a dog bed may also reduce the risk of injury from your dog jumping on and off the furniture. If they do prefer being on the furniture it is important to assist them to avoid the impact of jumping off furniture with ramps or steps.
Positive training with treats and praise to use these aids works really well.
Dog beds come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and materials and there is no one size fits all solution.
All doggos are different and have preferences so select a style and level of support you think will suit them.
For instance, if your dog has trouble getting all the way down to the floor, you might want to consider a bed that is slightly elevated.
There are many options on the market from orthopaedic dog beds to ones with cooling memory foam mattresses.
If your dog isn't feeling the bed you’ve bought, keep it in a common area like the living room. You may also want to place it next to your bed so your dog can sleep there during the night.
If your dog still doesn’t like the bed, consider trying a different style!
Raised food and water bowls can help with stiff limbs for older pets, so they don’t have to lean forwards as much with the neck and shoulders. For extra-large breeds, it is advised to feed with a raised slow feeder to help avoid gastric torsion.
So there you have it! There are plenty of wonderful ways you can help your arthritic dog stay comfortable and happy at home.!
If you need more support, you can book a consult with one of our RVNs here. We also highly recommend Canine Arthritis Management (CAM) for advice and products to help you manage your dog's arthritis effectively.