Q: Charlie is our nine-year-old Labrador who is really slowing down. We’re thinking he may be getting arthritis. Any suggestions on how to help keep him comfortable?
A: Slowing down can certainly be a symptom of arthritis but it isn’t the only reason for a decrease in an older dog’s normal activity, so other conditions need to be ruled out. An examination by your veterinarian can determine if arthritis is the culprit.
Arthritis, unfortunately, is a common disease that affects canines, and just like humans, is more likely to get worse with age. Larger breeds, like Charlie, are more commonly affected, but smaller dogs are not immune to the disease by any means.
Some other physical signs you may see is limping, difficulty getting up, stiffness upon rising in the morning, trouble jumping into the car and climbing stairs. You may witness the dog chewing or licking at sore joints. Sometimes they will yelp in pain and be reluctant to walk or play. If Charlie does have arthritis there definitely are things you can do at home to help him be more comfortable.
It is extremely important when dealing with a dog with arthritis to keep him as lean as possible because extra weight puts added stress on the joints, worsening the pain of the disease.
Moderate low impact regular exercise is important to maintain flexibility and prevent stiffness. A few short walks a day at your dog’s pace is a must.
Ramps can help an arthritic dog get up or down porch steps, in and out of cars or safely access couches or beds. There are also pet stairs to help a pet get on and off furniture.
An orthopedic dog bed is a good choice. It will help relieve trauma to pressure points while the dog lays on it by not feeling the hard floor beneath them. Sleeping on cold hard floors can make the pain from arthritis worse.
Arthritic dogs are less steady on their feet and can find it hard to walk on slippery floors such as tile or hardwood. Placing rugs on these floors will help secure their footing. It is also important to keep toenails clipped properly so the dog’s walking gait is not distorted.
Most dogs feel better after a good massage. It increases circulation and eases sore muscles. Warm compresses over sore joints can be soothing, but care must be used to avoid injury from excess heat.
Veterinarians are discovering Omega 3 fatty acids can be valuable for a variety of conditions. They have become a popular supplement recommended for arthritis.
If Charlie is diagnosed with arthritis your veterinarian is the best person to advise you if medications, supplements and/or therapies like acupuncture or chiropractic care are suitable for your canine’s situation.
No one wants to see their pet getting older or be in pain, but don’t despair if Charlie has arthritis. There are many ways to help relieve pain, improve function and extend quality of life for your beloved furry friend.
Sally Salopek is the owner and operator of Attend-A-Pet pet sitting services in northern Door County. She has also worked professionally with animals in health care, pet grooming, training, wildlife rehab and rescue. Send your pet-related questions to her at [email protected].