You know that your senior dog is getting older, but maybe you didn’t realize how much life changes as the years go by. For those of us with dogs in the later years of their lives, it can be a shock to see them struggling with chronic pain and other symptoms. It can be especially true if your dog suffers from Osteoarthritis (OA), a common condition affecting older dogs.
According to AAHA, 1 in 5 dogs, or 20%, suffer from joint pain and mobility issues. This article will discuss how to manage OA pain in senior dogs and some tips for keeping them comfortable and happy during these difficult times.
We’ll also cover what you need to know about OA in general so that you can better understand why your senior dog might be suffering from this condition now or may deal with it in the future.
Know If Your Dog Is in Pain
There are two main reasons why it’s difficult to tell if your dog is in pain. First, dogs express pain differently than humans do. Second, dogs don’t necessarily show signs of pain when they’re experiencing it. Sometimes, they hide their discomfort until the source has been resolved.
It’s important to note that not all signs of pain are harmful or detrimental to you or your senior dog companion. For instance, if you’re sitting down and your furry friend chooses to climb on top of you instead of sitting beside you, this behavior could indicate that they’re dealing with joint problems like arthritis or hip dysplasia (HD).
Keep Your Dog Active
The most important thing you can do to manage your senior dog’s osteoarthritis pain is to keep them active. Not only does exercise make the world around us a more exciting place, but it can also help with arthritis pain by keeping your dog’s joints moving and lubricated. According to The Farmer’s Dog Digest, you should exercise your dog for at least 35 – 40 minutes.
Try new activities like swimming or playing fetch for a few minutes each day. If one activity becomes too difficult, try another until you find something that works for you. Remember that too much physical activity isn’t healthy either, be sure to give your dog plenty of rest and playtime, so they don’t overdo it.
Don’t Let Your Dog Get Fat
According to Banfield Pet Hospital, over 150,000 dogs are diagnosed with Osteoarthritis annually, and weight is crucial. You don’t want your dog to get fat. The extra weight puts more pressure on his joints and soft tissues, which can cause pain. Because of this, you must monitor your dog’s weight and make sure they are not overweight.
If you think your dog is overweight, you first need to take them in for a checkup with your veterinarian so they can give an official diagnosis. Your vet will also be able to recommend some strategies for losing weight in addition to helping figure out how much food is appropriate for them based on their activity level and breed type.
Support Those Joints
If your dog is suffering from Osteoarthritis, consider supplementing their diet with joint support supplements. These supplements contain omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, and chondroitin, which are known to help reduce inflammation. They can also help lubricate the joints and cartilage, reduce pain associated with arthritis, improve mobility and increase the range of motion.
If you choose a joint supplement that contains MSM or hyaluronic acid, it’s important to note that these ingredients are organic molecules that don’t get processed by the body. They’re just excreted out again. That being said, they still have some efficacy in helping dogs’ joints stay healthy and strong.
Exercise Your Dog Moderately
It’s important to remember that not all exercise is created equal. It would help if you avoided intense, high-impact activities like running or jumping that could worsen your dog’s joints. Instead, opt for low-impact exercise like walking or swimming, allowing your dog to move at their own pace without straining their sore joints.
If you’re looking to kickstart a regimen of regular moderate activity with your senior dog in 2023, try starting with something as simple as going on a walk together after dinner each evening. It can be done indoors if it’s rainy or snowy outside and will provide regular movement for both mind and body. It will also help keep any osteoarthritis pain from getting worse over time.
Ensure the environment where you take your pet for a walk is safe, too, as busy roads may pose dangerous hazards for older dogs who aren’t able to move quickly enough when cars come speeding by, small children might not realize how fragile their new canine friend is, and other dogs might be territorial about their territory.
Massage and Heat Therapy Can Help Ease the Pain
Massage is a great way to ease the pain and stiffness that often accompany Osteoarthritis. You can massage your dog yourself, or a professional massage therapist can help you. If your dog has a lot of pain, paying for professional massages may be worth the money.
Heat therapy works well for dogs with Osteoarthritis as well. Apply heat pads or hot water bottles on arthritic joints like the hips and knees for 15-20 minutes. You can also use warm compresses if you need access to heat pads or hot water bottles.
Medications and Supplements Can Help
Medications and supplements can help reduce inflammation, pain, and stiffness in dogs with Osteoarthritis. However, checking with your vet before starting any new medication is essential.
Some examples of medications that may be helpful include:
- NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as Rimadyl or Metacam for dogs to reduce joint pain, swelling, redness, and stiffness. These drugs are generally safe but can cause stomach ulcers or kidney problems if given too high a dose for extended periods.
- Glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate supplements help maintain cartilage production in joints. These work best when combined with omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil supplements. But keep in mind that there is no strong scientific evidence that glucosamine works for humans or dogs.
Don’t Let Your Dog’s Arthritis Pain Go Untreated
Because OA is a degenerative condition, it’s essential not to ignore your dog’s pain. There are many ways to help relieve your dog’s osteoarthritis pain, such as weight control and exercise.
One thing to note is that the longer an animal suffers from pain without treatment, the more likely they are to develop other health problems related to aging, including conditions like kidney disease and heart failure.
There’s no question that Osteoarthritis can be a painful and frustrating condition for dogs. However, if you take the proper steps to manage your dog’s symptoms, it doesn’t have to impede its quality of life. Following these tips can help keep your senior pooch active and pain-free for many years to come.