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How to help a dog with arthritis at home - 7 home care tips for your arthritic dog

Updated: Dec 11, 2023

They’ve been bouncing along by your side for years, but you’ve noticed your pooch isn't keeping up the way they used to.


In this article, we’ll delve into what arthritis is, its symptoms, and how to help a dog with arthritis at home. Let’s put a spring back in your pup’s step.


Elderly brown Dachshund has front left paw examined for arthritis by vet.


What is Arthritis In Dogs?


Arthritis is a long-term, chronic condition. It occurs when the cartilage, which protects the ends of the bones in a joint, is damaged or breaks down. This causes pain, inflammation, and joint stiffness as the two bones rub together.


Joint anatomy comparing a healthy dog joint with an arthritic dog joint

What Causes Arthritis In Dogs?


Osteoarthritis is thought of as an age-related disease, but studies suggest that 1 in 5 adult dogs (age 1+) may have it! It’s a degenerative condition triggered by any damage to joint cartilage.

 

Arthritis can be caused by a variety of things, such as…

  • Weight

  • Bad conformation

  • Genetic predisposition

  • Injury

  • Joint surgery

  • High levels of work (for example, in agility or working dogs)


Can Canine Arthritis be Cured?


Unfortunately, arthritis in dogs can’t be cured. Once your dog has arthritis, the focus needs to be on long-term management. But, in partnership with your vet, you can help a dog with arthritis at home. Keeping them as mobile and comfortable as possible.


Signs and Symptoms of Arthritis In Dogs


Your furry friend will respond to pain in their own way, but there are some common symptoms of canine arthritis to look out for.


1. Not keeping up on walks


Enthusiasm and get-up-and-go have got-up-and-gone for dogs with arthritis. They’ll drag behind on walks, might stick closer than they used to, and will avoid rough or slippery terrain.


Old labrador dog refuses to walk because of arthritis

2. Struggling to get up


Rising from rest becomes difficult when your joints ache. After resting, does it seem like a lot of effort for your dog to get up? Do they haul themselves up? Or grumble and grunt?


3. Difficulty getting in cars or up stairs


Any activity that involves your arthritic dog jumping up or down will be uncomfortable. It puts huge stress on already painful joints, so you may notice them hesitate to jump in the car (or miss completely). Or maybe you’re missing snuggles because they’ve given up their favourite sofa spot in favour of the floor?


4. Behavioural changes


Arthritic pain might mean your usually waggy dog has got the grumps. Look out for behavioural changes, as pain may cause them to act out of character. Changes to grooming behaviours are also a sign of arthritis – either grooming more around their joints or less in areas they can’t easily reach.


5. Weakness and muscle wastage


Signs of weakness might not be obvious, but keep an eye on the way your dog is walking and notice how they sit and lie down. They might favour one side or stick out their hip because lying straight is uncomfortable. Arthritic dogs are less mobile, which often results in them losing muscle mass (muscle atrophy). Speak to your vet for advice on managing this. They might recommend physiotherapy or hydrotherapy.


7 Ways To Care For Your Arthritic Dog At Home


Although you will need support from your vet to develop a “multi-modal management” plan for your dog (one that uses a variety of treatment options together), here are 7 things you can do to help a dog with arthritis at home.


1. Manage your dog’s weight


Piling on the pounds comes with huge health risks and is terrible for dogs with arthritis. Make sure your dog is on the right diet for their age, weight and health, and feed them the recommended amount. And yes, those sneaky treats need to be cut down. 🙈 UK Pet Food, the pet food manufacturers association, have some great tools to help if your dog is overweight.


Small brown senior overweight dog having its tummy measured.

2. Keep your dog moving


Regular gentle exercise is fantastic for arthritis. It keeps joints mobile and helps them maintain a good range of motion (how much they can swing their legs). Just make sure you don’t overdo it, and let your dog rest afterwards.


3. Give daily joint supplements


There are lots of joint supplements on the market, some better than others. Giving your dog a high-quality and clinically proven joint supplement will support their long-term joint health. Although, these aren’t a substitute for proper pain medication, and you should always consult your vet first.


4. Get a new, comfy bed


Giving your dog a comfortable place to rest is vital to their overall well-being. Look for a supportive bed that is easy to get in and out of. For even better care, consider a bed that is designed specifically with mobility conditions in mind. For example, the Canissage Pulse bed which delivers a deeply penetrating massage to ease tension and soothe uncomfortable joints, all whilst being a cosy snooze spot. You can even learn to give them a massage yourself!


Arthritic dog relaxing on their new Canissage Pulse bed, getting a massage while they rest

5. Cover slippery floors


Hard floors are difficult for your pooch's paws at the best of times, but when your dog is struggling with arthritis and painful joints, slippery floors really are their worst enemy, and slips can cause strains, sprains and all manner of pain. Carpet is fab, but if that isn’t possible, throwing down a rug or even a yoga mat can help.


6. Invest in a ramp or stairgate


Is your pooch struggling to jump onto the sofa for snuggles or into the car? A specially designed ramp removes the need for high-impact jumps up or down. Indoors, stair climbing puts a lot of stress on already aching joints, so if it's practical, stop your dog from using the stairs to sneak into your bed, with a properly fitting stairgate.


Elderly Corgi using an adjustable  ramp

7. Keep your dog warm


Cold weather and changes in temperature can make joint pain from arthritis feel worse. Dry your dog off when you come in from the rain, give them a comfy bed out of draughts, and invest in a cosy coat for the coldest days. (They’ll look super cute!)


Can Canissage help your dog?


Massage is a highly recommended therapy for alleviating pain and discomfort in dogs with arthritis. But why not provide a soothing massage at home from the comfort of your dog’s bed? Canissage Pulse massage beds incorporate clinically proven cyclo-vibration therapy into the beds, delivering a deeply penetrating massage which increases circulation and reduces pain – for a better quality of life for your dog.



NOTE DISCLAIMER - WE SHOULD EMPHASISE THAT Canissage Cyclo-vibration Therapy IS NOT A CURE FOR THESE CONDITIONS, BUT IT CAN DO MUCH TO HELP ALLEVIATE THE SYMPTOMS ASSOCIATED WITH THEM AND AID HEALTH CONDITIONING. IT IS DESIGNED TO COMPLEMENT THE RANGE OF CURRENT THERAPIES AVAILABLE FROM YOUR VET, AND ITS USE CAN ALWAYS BE DISCUSSED WITH A VETERINARY PROFESSIONAL IF YOU ARE CONCERNED. YOU SHOULD NOT DISCONTINUE ANY CURRENT THERAPY WITHOUT FIRST SEEKING ADVICE.

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