Taking Care of Arthritic and Elderly Dogs
It’s normal for older dogs to be more sedate and relaxed. As your dog ages, you’ll probably notice that they’re less boisterous and less enthusiastic about exercise. However, some of these new behaviors can be a sign of canine arthritis.
Arthritis and other mobility issues are very common in aging and elderly dogs. In fact, it’s estimated that one in five dogs suffers from canine arthritis. While these issues often can’t be cured completely, it is possible to manage the conditions and give your dog the absolute best quality of life. From taking your dog to see a vet to making small but significant changes in your routine, there’s plenty you can do.
Signs that Your Dog Could be Suffering from Canine Arthritis
As dog owners, it’s important to keep an eye on our pet’s behaviour. A dog can’t tell us that they’re in pain, or they’re struggling to keep up when we walk, or that they’re having difficulty eating and drinking from their bowls. So, it’s up to us to watch out for the warning signs. Here are some clues that your dog could be suffering from arthritis:
- Mobility issues. This includes stiffness, limping, and a reluctance to move around too much.
- Difficulty in jumping, for example struggling to get upstairs or onto the couch or bed.
- Struggling to move from a lying position to a standing position. Dogs with advanced arthritis may need help to stand.
- Wasting away of muscles in the rear legs, or a stiff and narrow stance.
- Dragging the feet when walking. You’ll notice this when going out for exercise, or when you dog moves around the house.
If you suspect that your dog has canine arthritis, the first step is to visit a vet. A vet can give a proper examination and diagnosis, along with helpful advice and possibly medication. Then you can move on to managing your dog’s condition.
Canine Arthritis Management (CAM)
Just like human arthritis, canine arthritis is progressive and unfortunately cannot be cured. However, this doesn’t mean that it can’t be treated. Depending on how advanced your dog’s arthritis might be, there are plenty of steps you can take to ease your dog’s discomfort.
- Be observant.
Dogs often don’t show pain the way humans do, and they will shift and adapt their posture to cope. Be on the lookout for signs of discomfort or stiffness. A change in our dog’s behavior can be a sign of many different health conditions, including canine arthritis. The earlier arthritis is diagnosed, the better for our dog.
- Consider using joint supplements.
Joint and mobility supplements can go a long way towards easing your dog’s stiffness. They can help relieve inflammation, pain, and stress, and it’s easy to find a formula suitable for all dog breeds. These supplements are especially handy for dogs at the beginning stages of arthritis.
- Seek the help and advice of a vet.
Of course, we want to give our dog the best treatment available. Discuss your dog’s issues with a vet, and listen carefully to any advice. Vet visits may need to be ongoing.
- Pay attention to diet, nutrition, and weight management.
It’s always important to give our dogs a properly balanced diet, but especially if they’re suffering from a health condition like canine arthritis. An overweight dog is at risk of developing other health issues. The extra weight will put more pressure on the damaged joints, as well as reducing mobility. Proper weight management can be tricky, as an arthritic dog won’t be able to manage vigorous exercise. Your best bet is to manage your dog’s weight with proper diet and nutrition.
Making Lifestyle Changes
Adjusting our routine and lifestyle to make our dog more comfortable might take some sacrifices. For example, we might love going for long walks with our beloved pet, but our dog simply can’t manage such vigorous exercise anymore. Perhaps we often give our dog little treats and snacks between meals, but in the interest of proper weight management, we’ve had to put our pet on a diet.
Small changes can make a big difference. Remember, our dog can’t tell us what’s wrong – we need to identify the problems ourselves. Keep an eye out for changes in behavior that indicate our dog is struggling with something.
Adjusting Exercise Time
Canine arthritis may not stop us from going for walks or playing with our dog, but it’s important to be aware of our pet’s new limitations. You may need to reduce the frequency or length of walks. Keep an eye on your dog, and don’t try and rush them along when you’re walking.
One often overlooked problem is eating and drinking. Before now, we’ve likely just put our dog’s food and water bowls on the floor and let them tuck in. For a dog suffering from arthritis, this can pose a brand-new problem.
Especially for medium-sized or large dogs, mealtimes involve bending down to eat or drink from their bowls. For young, healthy dogs, this isn’t a problem. However, if your dog is older or suffering from canine arthritis, this bending can cause significant joint pain.
You’ll probably notice that your dog’s food or water bowl might slide around the floor while they’re eating. Again, this can be a problem for an arthritic, older dog. They might struggle to adjust their position with the bowl’s movement.
This can lead to a dog being reluctant to eat or drink, which means reduced energy, weight loss, and worrying the life out of their adoring owners!
This problem can easily be remedied by using a weighted dog bowl or raised feeder. These are simple products that are weighted by adding sand or water into the base. This stops the bowl from moving around while your dog is eating or drinking. The bowl can also be elevated so that your dog doesn’t need to bend or lean down.
These kinds of feeders can be ideal for dogs and puppies who tip their food bowls, or dogs who have recently had surgery, or some other health condition. In fact, using a weighted or elevated feeder from the start may prevent your dog from developing joint pain in later life.