Managing arthritis in dogs
Arthritis is sadly a life-long condition, so our duty as pet parents is to manage it, not cure it.
Luckily there are lots of things you can do to slow down the changes and keep your dog more comfortable:
- Becoming aware of your dog's discomfort is crucial in managing arthritis.
- Combining several treatment methods usually yields the best results.
- It's important to remember that arthritis can't be fixed, and your dog will experience both good and bad days. Being attentive to your dog's pain signals can help reduce the bad days.
- Your dog's needs may also change over time.
- With proper support and care, hopefully you can slow down the progression of this disease.
- Remember, what you do at home is just as important as the treatment your vet provides.
What can vets do to help?
if you suspect arthritis in your dog, first take them to the vet for a thorough examination.
The vet may recommend tests like X-rays, scans, and blood tests to rule out underlying causes.
They'll also check if your dog's organs are working well and can handle medication.
After the tests, the vet will likely suggest medication, surgery, and home remedies.
It's worth noting that your role is crucial in helping your dog recover, and what you do at home is just as important as the treatment your vet provides.
Let's take a look at some of the treatments your vet may recommend.
In dogs that have genetic joint abnormalities at a young age, surgery can be used as a preventive measure to avoid the development of arthritis.
In cases of pre-existing arthritis, surgery may be recommended to remove bone or cartilage fragments or to alter the load on the joint.
In advanced stages of arthritis, the joint or joint surface may require removal or replacement through surgery.
Your veterinarian will guide you to decide whether surgery is the best option for your dog by assessing the risks such as general anaesthesia, healing time, complications or failure and comparing them with the potential benefits including less pain, better movement and reduced medication.
Surgery can be quite expensive, and your dog will need to undergo scans or X-rays before and after the procedure.
Even after surgery, your dog may still require other management options.
Arthritis medicines are constantly improving as we gain a better understanding of the disease.
The primary goal of these medications is to relieve pain and reduce inflammation in the joints.
The most effective approach is to use multiple types of medicine, which is commonly known as multimodal pain relief.
Home Care Solutions
It's understandable to feel overwhelmed by the amount of things you can do to support your arthritic dog from home.
But don't worry, you don't have to make all of these changes at once.
Remember, your dog's needs may change over time, so it's best to take things one step at a time.
Let's explore all the different ways you can help your furry friend feel more comfortable and happy despite their arthritis.
It is important to note that the ideal exercise regimen for your dog will vary depending on their individual needs.
However, we generally recommend opting for shorter walks with lower impact, but more frequent outings.
Additionally, it's important to be aware that dogs may continue to run and play despite being in pain, particularly if they are motivated by a game of fetch.
However, this can lead to more pain later on, especially if they are running on uneven or hard surfaces, or trying to navigate obstacles like large steps.
Even if your dog seems eager to follow you on long walks, it's crucial to remember that they may be experiencing discomfort, and may not realize how far they have to walk to get back home.
Finally, keeping your dog's mind active can be an excellent way to improve their quality of life when they are unable to go on long walks.
Enrichment activities can be a great option for keeping your furry friend engaged and mentally stimulated.
If your dog is overweight, it worsens their arthritis symptoms.
However, losing weight can greatly improve their condition and reduce the amount of medication they need to take.
But how can we tell if our furry friend is overweight? It may seem like a silly question, but we are getting used to seeing dogs with more body fat than they should have.
In fact, a dog at their ideal weight may appear too slim to our eyes. Moreover, weighing your dog at home can be challenging, and there's a lot of variation in weight between different dogs, just like in humans.
Thus, veterinarians suggest body condition scoring in addition to regular weight checks. This method involves assessing your dog's shape and feeling over their body to determine how much fat they have beneath their skin.
Based on the results, we provide them with a score ranging from 1 to 9, with 1 being extremely thin and 9 being morbidly obese. If your dog needs to lose weight, there's no reason to panic.
Our Buddy vet nurses can look at what your dog is eating now, and help you to adapt their diet to reduce the number of calories they are eating whilst keeping their hunger satisfied!
We may also advise specially-formulated pet food that's developed for weight loss.
Additionally, we can suggest ways to make them work harder for their food, such as feeding mats and puzzles.
Making the home arthritis friendly
This is where dog parents can get involved! There are so many things you can do to make your home safer and more comfortable for your four-legged friend.
Slippery floors can be made safer by using rugs, mats, or stick-on grip tape for areas where rugs or mats are not suitable.
Pets with arthritis may face difficulty while using stairs. It is recommended to minimize the use of stairs if possible.
Installing a ramp or exploring other ways to support and steady them can be helpful. You can also use baby stair gates to prevent your dog from following you up and down the stairs.
Getting in and out of the house or car
Doorways with raised sills can pose a tripping hazard for dogs, and jumping up or down from the house or car can be especially painful for arthritic dogs.
Providing a step or ramp can greatly improve safety and ease of movement. When traveling by car, ensure that your dog always has a comfortable and secure area to ride in.
Make sure that your dog's bowls are on a non-slip surface and consult with your vet on whether or not your companion could benefit from slightly raised bowls.
Making your dog's sleeping area as comfortable as possible is essential.
Their bed should be easily accessible and located on a non-slip surface. It's crucial to ensure that they sleep away from draughts, as it can exacerbate their aches and pains.
There are many supportive and comfortable beds available in the market, making it challenging to choose one.
Our top tip is to select a bed that is larger than your dog, giving them plenty of room to get comfortable (although they will likely still end up curled up at one end!).
As they grow older, many dogs may not require frequent baths. But, if they do need a bath, it can become difficult for arthritic dogs.
It is advisable to use a non-slip mat or shower cubicle if possible to make it easier for your dog to get in and out.
Some dogs may get anxious about baths, and training may be required to make it a safe experience for both you and your dog.
Keeping things calm is the key and Calm Care supplements can really help with this.
Distraction with a licky mat or filled toy may also make it a more positive experience. There is plenty that we can do to help our arthritic dogs, and there's always more to learn.
Your vet will always be there to guide you whenever you need them.
If you have any questions about canine arthritis or want more information on how to improve your dog's arthritis management from home, book a free consultation with a vet nurse below.
We're happy to work with you and the advice given by your vet to support your dog from home.