Osteoarthritis and Your Dog: How to Help Your Pup Live a Happy, Healthy Life
May is National Arthritis Awareness Month for humans – but dogs get arthritis too. According to the American College of Rheumatology, the term “arthritis” is an umbrella term that refers to over 100 rheumatic diseases. But when most of us use the term when talking about our dogs, we are usually referring to osteoarthritis (OA), a progressive, degenerative joint disease.
The bad news is that there is no cure for OA – but the good news is, there are things we can do to help dogs with OA live comfortable, happy lives.
Here are some things you can do to help your dog with OA:
- Partner with your dog’s veterinarian. Keep detailed notes on your dog’s condition and schedule regular check-ins and checkups so you can stay proactive in managing his pain.
- Help your dog maintain a healthy weight. Just like in people, a dog’s joints can be more painful when he’s carrying some extra pounds.
- Look at a special diet. There are foods available that can help with joint support – talk to your veterinarian about whether one of these is right for your dog.
- Include exercise. Regular, moderate exercise helps keep joints healthy for longer. Talk to your veterinarian about how far and how long to walk, on what types of surfaces, and whether there are any other exercises you can do together to target the affected joints.
- Talk to your veterinarian about complementary treatment. Canine massage, acupuncture, physical rehabilitation, and related treatments may be available that can provide some pain relief when used along with your dog’s regular pain-management plan.
In addition to these ideas, there are some simple things you can do to make your home more accessible for your dog so he can be more comfortable. For example:
- Raise food and water bowls to somewhere between the height of his elbows and shoulders – this can relieve strain on his back.
- Consider getting an orthopedic or memory foam bed for your dog to sleep on.
- A ramp to climb in and out of your vehicle can make car rides more fun by relieving stress on the back and leg joints.
- Think about blocking access to stairs when no one is around to help “spot” your dog going up and down.
- Focus on flooring. Area rugs with non-skid backing help your dog keep his footing when walking. In areas where rugs won’t work, you could place those interlocking squares of foam that are often used for children’s play areas – these can fit any room, and you can pick them up easily when you want to clean or when you have company.
Dogs with OA can live long and healthy lives. With a bit of creativity and some help from your veterinarian, you can help your dog live more comfortably with OA.