Arthritis in Dogs

One of the most common remarks I hear from pet owners of old dogs, is that they don’t think their senior dog is in any pain. However most of these dogs have slowed down considerably from their effervescent younger days, they are slow to get up and lie down, they are obviously stiff when they first start moving and many will have an obvious limp or hobble as they walk around. The reality is that just because a dog isn’t crying out or yelping doesn’t mean it isn’t struggling with joints that are no longer as supple or pain-free as they once were.    

It is thought that 80% of dogs over the age of 8 will have osteoarthritis. It’s an extremely common condition and one that is often not recognised or appreciated due to the stoic nature of our doggy companions. Most dogs will suffer in silence with chronic joint pain but once you can see your pet is no longer as mobile as they used to be there are lots of things you can do to make their senior years more comfortable. 

1) weight loss – by far the most important thing you can do is to keep your dog at a healthy weight. Being significantly overweight or even just a few kilograms heavier than ideal has a huge impact on the health of your pet’s joints. In many cases weight loss can have as big an impact on your pet’s mobility than surgery or pain relief medication. 

2) Adapt the home environment – a more cushioned or padded bed, rugs on the floor, home-made ramps up steps and limiting access to stairs are all easy things to do that can make life easier for older pets. 

3) Exercise modification – just because your dog still has a mad 5 minutes in the park doesn’t mean it is suddenly pain free. Most dogs will still get excited by something, be it the lead, a squirrel or another dog. Dogs are just not great about self-awareness and the consequences of throwing themselves around. Maintaining exercise is really important but as pet owners we need to step in to avoid the older dog from hurting itself or over doing it. Just because they will still go for a 2 hour walk, or chase a ball or try to jump over a stile doesn’t mean they won’t pay for it afterwards. 

4) Alternative therapies – acupuncture, physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, ultrasound treatment etc can all help and offer a non-medicative option to help many old age aches and pains. 

5) Veterinary interventions – anti-inflammatories, analgesics, surgery and even stem cell therapy are all options for older pets when the time comes. There is a long list of treatment options that can be tailored to a pet’s need and make sure that the senior years of your pet’s life are not blighted by arthritic pain.