Top Tips for Dog with Arthritis!
I see lots and lots of dogs who are suffering from arthritis.
Some of these dogs are as young as 2 years old, and it always hurts my soul to see an animal actively in pain.
And, there are some things you should know, along with some tips to help your dog if he is suffering from arthritis and for those of us to hope to avoid serious arthritis pain until much later in life.
Any dog can suffer from arthritis, even premature arthritis.
As most of us know, hip, elbow, shoulder dysplasia and knee problems can be a result of bad genetics and breeding.
The youngest dog that I have seen with severe dysplasia and pain was 9 months. Although he was a mix (yes mixed breeds can also be born with problems), he was clearly born with the problem.
Some people work their young dogs so hard, with repetitive and jarring movements that dysplasia’s, injuries and arthritis can be caused by unwitting owners.
In the early days of agility, it was found, that young dogs constantly practicing the weave poles were causing damage to the spine.
Even consistent running on a hard surface has been shown to cause damage.
That is not to mean that puppies don’t need exercise! They do! But safe exercise needs to be taken into account so as not to create damage that will last a lifetime.
Ask your vet how long your dog will be considered a puppy and when you can begin structured and intense exercise!
Probably one of the biggest causes is being overweight, especially young dogs.
I see more and more puppies that are way too fat.
A lot of puppies are too busy to over eat, they seem to monitor themselves with what they need to grow.
However some puppies are simply fascinated by food and would eat until they get sick. These puppies need help from their owners to make sure they don’t put on too much weight too quickly.
I helped lift a 120# 9 month old Lab puppy into the tub the other day, I feel horrible for him because his owners are killing him with food. Being overweight while you grow puts an immense amount of undue weight onto joints and can actually disfigure dogs.
Could you imagine being 300 pounds or more at 10 years old? Can you picture how carrying that extra weight would distort and deform your frame?
So why then do we not draw the same conclusion with our pets?
Not only does added weight cause arthritis and joint issues, it can also cause early onset diabetes.
And, if you think diabetes is hard to control in humans, envision how difficult it is in an animal who can’t tell you how he feels!
Arthritis can also be caused and exacerbated by weight later in life.
The older and chubbier I get the more my left knee hurts. The lighter I am the less I suffer from pain and can indulge in painless exercise.
I do extreme sports with my dogs, and in order to keep them safe while they play, they must be fairly skinny.
Weight causes less activity and less activity can cause weight gain!
However! Don’t fall under the guise that it is all about the “exercise”. While exercise is crucial it also comes down to calories. If I ate 5,000 calories and ran 5 miles a day, I still probably would not lose weight and the muscle I put on would be buried under the fat.
Remember to cut calories AND add exercise!
How to Help
So how do you help a dog suffering from pain, dysplasia, and/or arthritis?
Cut those Calories!
A lot of owners with overweight dogs, free feed, or leave the food out and available 24/7.
And dogs are like people, they eat out of boredom sometimes.
But, unlike humans, dog are genetically hard wired to be hungry all of the time. Because in the wild, dogs sometimes go many days without eating, so when they have food available they often gorge because they don’t know when the next meal will come.
Even though our dogs are domesticated, most are still always hungry as a means of survival.
So even though he “thinks” he is hungry, it doesn’t mean his body can handle the extra weight and calories.
Measure how much your dog is eating and cut back by ¼ of the total amount at a time.
And, if you must add to his meals (because he thinks he is starving) you can add fresh or frozen green beans, canned green beans contain too much salt and are bad for your dog. Green beans provide high fiber with low sugar so your dog doesn’t feel as hungry.
Don’t fall for “carrots” as low calorie treats.
Carrots are fairly high in sugar for us humans, although they have significantly less sugar than most human snacks or sodas.
For dogs eating a carrot is like eating a candy bar is for us people. Carrots are high in sugar for your dog, taking into account size difference.
Carrots are not bad treats… but they aren’t “diet” food or low in calories for your dog!
Even if your dog has arthritis or problems with dysplasia, controlled and low impact exercise is crucial. Low impact exercise keeps muscles from deteriorating and can keep dysplasia from worsening.
Long, stress free walks and swimming are great ways to keep your dog’s body functioning properly.
I run across people with arthritic dogs who’s owners completely avoid exercise because they don’t want to cause pain.
However, laying around and moving very little is worse and eventually more painful for the dog.
Start slow and play it by ear, but add exercise to your dog’s daily regimen.
As a personal trainer, I learned that after 3 days of inactivity (in people) the body starts to break down muscle tissue and use it for calories before it burns fat. Burning muscle is easier for the body to metabolize than fat. So unless you are burning fat by building muscle, you are losing muscle mass.
And, dogs with arthritis need muscles to help hold everything in place. Seeing dogs waste away to nothing and suffer in pain is terrible for everyone involved.
If in doubt, ask your vet how much exercise your dog needs to stay healthy.
I am not a very homeopathic kind of person. Having worked in the veterinary and “medical” field, I tend more toward traditional medicine however I am a believer in fish oil and the wonders it can work.
It can help lubricate joints and is also great for the skin.
Although I don’t usually tout specific products, I have seen canine 3V caps make a huge difference in dogs with allergies and those with arthritis. These capsules contain not only fish oil but also other omega 3 fatty acids and specific vitamins that dogs can handle in higher doses, like vitamin A, D and E.
Massage is also another great technique that can aid in the relief of pain.
If you don’t know what you are doing, I suggest you find a professional and certified canine massage therapist. Because if you hit a painful spot not only can you cause more damage, you can also incur a bite. Even the nicest dogs will bite when they are in pain.
Infrared massage can also help!
I know I said earlier I lean toward more traditional medicine. But I have witnessed the effects of acupuncture on animals.
I have never had it done on myself (although I’d like to someday), I have seen it work miracles on arthritic animals, and even animals with illness and disease!
If you can afford it and stick to it fairly regularly (after a few sessions the need is based on the specific dog and how long the sessions aid relief) give it a try. It is amazing! Only a veterinarian can give your dog safe acupuncture.
Talk to Your Vet
Vets are in the business of helping dogs with pain.
There are many pain medications and drugs that can help a painful dog lead a more normal life, however your vet must take into account the “whole” picture of your dog before utilizing drugs. Blood work with liver and kidney values must be done prior to and after administration to make sure that they are safe for your dog.
Even narcotics can help in severe cases.
Do NOT use any over the counter medicines. Tylenol, Ibuprophen and other drugs can kill your pets!!!! Even Asprin can cause bleeding ulcers.
And, there are all kind of other protocols that vets can use to alleviate pain.
As I was getting out of vet teching they were just beginning to use a dog’s own plasma to lubricate joints as a means of helping with pain management.
And, there are vets who specialize only in pain management and helping dogs find a good quality of life. Many times veterinary schools are most knowledgeable about pain management or pointing you in the direction of someone in your area.
Quality of Life
What it comes down to, is quality of life.
Overweight dogs that can’t jump into their own cars don’t have a great quality of life.
Neither do dogs that live only in the house and never get outside for exercise.
Each dog is different and should be evaluated
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.