Tips to help dogs with arthritis |

Tips to help dogs with arthritis

Nadine Lober

When a dog is diagnosed with arthritis or osteoarthritis, it is important to try and slow down the disease and treat symptoms.

Managing arthritis should be regarded as a multi-step process. The major components are weight management, exercise modification, physical therapy, acupuncture and medication.

Weight loss is one of the most important components of treating an arthritic dog, because most are overweight. As we all know, if we have any kind of joint problems and pain, it is always worse when we are a few pounds too heavy.

Most orthopedic surgeons will delay a knee or hip replacement until a person reaches a reasonable weight. This is not only healthier, but will help patients heal more quickly after surgery.

Exercise regimen

There is evidence that preventing obesity can slow the progression of arthritis in dogs and, in turn, limit the need for medication or drugs. However, we should not have too much of an obesity problem in the Vail Valley because of the various outdoor activities most owners enjoy with their dogs.

But as dogs get older and cannot exercise as much, owners tend to leave the dogs at home when they take longer hikes and bike rides. In this case, owners should reduce their dog’s food since their pet isn’t burning as many calories as they used to.

There are foods made specifically for older or less active dogs. Ask a veterinarian or check what’s available at the supermarket to find the ideal food for your dog.

Owners should modify their pet’s exercise, as well. Continued stress on an arthritic joint can lead to progressive deterioration. Owners should force their dogs to avoid using weakened joints, whether it’s an elbow, knee or hip.

For instance, if you know that your dog has severe hip dysplasia ” as many large breed dogs do ” then your dog shouldn’t jump for Frisbees or balls, or hike up steep trails. If your dog has arthritis in the elbows then he should not jump from high surfaces and or run down steep hills.

Owners should also, if possible, lessen the number of stairs a dog has to use and prevent their pets from jumping in and out of the cars.

But no exercise at all is also unhealthy and can cause muscles to atrophy. And while the appropriate rest and exercise is different for each animal, extreme changes in the level of exercise can make the arthritis more severe.

Living pain free

Acupuncture, as I have mentioned in previous articles, is another form of treatment. It alleviates a lot of the pain, helps the body to heal diseased areas and therefore slows down the progression of arthritis.

Severely ill dogs may need bi-weekly or weekly treatments until they began to feel better. After that, regular treatments may be required. By the second or third acupucture, dogs usually become more accepting of the treatment and lay calmly.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication is used to decrease the inflammation associated with arthritis. Most of us in this athletic valley have taken these medications for injuries.

These drugs reduce pain and decrease fluid in the joints. But the downside to these drugs are they can cause side effects, such as kidney or liver disease.

Blood tests are sometimes warranted before taking anti-inflammatory medication. There are a variety of these drugs now on the market, but those with less side effects tend to be more costly.

Most of the time we use a multi-faceted approach to treating arthritis ” and the most important goal is a dog free of pain who can live comfortably.

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