Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant, and author of Brain Training for Dogs.
What to Do at the First Signs of Aging
Your dog has reached seniority. They may wake up in the morning feeling stiff or have difficulty jumping out of the car. This may bother some owners who are used to seeing their dog romping around all day, but the good news is that if you swiftly take care of your pet when you see early signs of arthritis, you have a good chance of preventing the condition from progressing.
It is, therefore, vital that you take your geriatric dog to the veterinarian at the first signs of lameness. This will help your vet rule out other more serious conditions such as Lyme disease or bone cancer.
Home Relief for Arthritis in Dogs
1. Keep Your Dog Lean
The leaner your dog is, the less strain there will be on his joints. Try to not overfeed them, especially if they do not get enough exercise. If your pet is obese, consult your vet so he/she can plan a weight loss program to help them shed the pounds. There are also many prescription dog foods available today that will help reduce weight.
2. Invest in Ramps
If you dog has difficulty getting around, there are special ramps that can help them climb up the bed or up those painful stairs. These ramps can also make it easier for them to get in and out of a vehicle.
3. Follow Prescription Diets
The food brand Hill's produces a prescription diet called J/D (joint diet), created specifically for dogs suffering from arthritis. Because it is a prescription diet, your dog will need to be evaluated in order to have it prescribed. There are many testimonials written by owners who have witnessed great improvement once they put their dog on this special diet.
4. Offer Comfort
If your dog sleeps on the floor, give him/her a nice comfy bed so that he/she will wake up with less stiffness in the morning. For people and pets suffering for arthritis, getting out of bed after a long night of sleep can be really painful, so it is best if the dog sleeps on something soft in order to minimize the discomfort.
5. Exercise Your Dog
It may sound odd but exercise may actually help your arthritic dog. Of course, the exercise should not be strenuous. A moderate level of exercise will strengthen muscles and ligaments which helps provide support for the joints.
6. Create Slip-Free Areas
I used to see poor arthritic dogs at our vet's office. After lying on the floor, they had difficulty getting up and would slip. You could almost feel their pain.
If you toss a few rugs on your tiled or wooded floors, your dog will really appreciate it. If your pet is having trouble getting up and walking due to hip problems, place a towel under his abdomen. Grab the two ends and gently pull upwards. By lifting your dog, it reduces the strain on his hips.
How Arthritis Is Detected
Arthritis is detected though a physical examination and x-rays. Large dog breeds that are 7 years of age or older seem to be the most affected, but arthritis can affect just about any breed.
Once diagnosed, your vet will prescribe some anti-inflammatory drugs, often known as NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). The most common ones include Rimadyl, Previcox, Etogesic, and Deramaxx. Be sure to discuss the side effects with your vet as Rimadyl and Previcox have been known to cause major health problems in some dogs.
NSAID Alternative Treatments
This is not really a medication but rather a supplement. When dogs have degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis, their joints lack good quality joint fluid and cushioning which results in bone degeneration. Glucosamine helps lubricate the joints.
Also known as Glyco-Flex or Cosequin, this supplement is derived from a mussel called Perna canaliculus (hence the fishy odor). Always consult with your vet before giving your dog any supplements. Not seeing a vet may worsen symptoms or cause a delay in treatment because your dog may be suffering from other serious disorders not related to arthritis.
This medication is injected into the muscle and spreads throughout your pet's body. The maximum effect is felt after 48 hours and relief lasts for 72 hours. The injection works by stimulating cartilage and fluid production in joints. There are very few side effects when compared to NSAIDs. In some cases, dogs may get an upset stomach post-injection, and in very rare cases, they may suffer from a bleeding disorder. Discuss this option with your vet.
There is an increasing number of practitioners offering this option for our four-legged friends. Dogs show great physical improvement after an acupuncture session, especially those with chronic disorders such as arthritis. This practice is surely worth a try should you be looking for an alternative therapy to NSAID.
While aspirin is not really recommended for long-term use in pets, under a vet's supervision it may be used for arthritis relief. Discuss this option with your vet and discuss the potential side effects. Never start your dog on an aspirin regimen without first consulting your vet.
Arthritic Dogs Can Lead Healthy Lives
An arthritic dog is not like a rusty car soon to be demolished. On the contrary, many arthritic pets lead healthy lives thanks to veterinary advances and tips you can easily follow at home. Some people have witnessed their senior dogs returning to their rambunctious "puppy" personalities after using some of the therapies listed above. Hopefully, these tips will help your dog feel better and maybe even extend his/her life.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
Question: My dog is 10 years old. She has started limping on her front paw the past few days. Any ideas what may be causing this?
Answer: In a dog of this age, there may be several conditions going on and this warrants a vet visit to play if safe. A simple sprain can be a cause and these tend to generally improve with rest in about 48-72 hours; however there are several more causes to consider. If your dog is able to bear weight, then that usually rules out emergency issues like fractures or nerve damage. Other possibilities include elbow dysplasia, a pulled tendon/ligament, bicipital tenosynovitis, arthritis, a thorn/splinter in the paw, tick-borne disease, a type of tumor (bone cancer, a nerve sheath tumor etc). This is just a general list as there can be more possibilities. The best option is to see your vet. Your vet may x-ray the leg to gain better insight.
Question: My five-year-old American Cocker Spaniel is limping on her rear left leg. Why is this? She has no injuries.
Answer: A common cause for this is a knee injury. Tearing or partial tearing of the anterior cruciate ligament is quite common in dogs. Another possibility is a general soft tissue injury -like a deep muscle bruise or twist of a joint - similar to a sprain or strain. There can also be an issue with the hip or just general arthritis flare-up. Although you may not have witnessed an injury, injuries can still take place because we can't see what is happening internally and a dog can injure a leg without manifesting obvious signs of pain like yelping.
Question: My 6-year-old Jack Russell terrier can't use his back legs. Why?
Answer: Loss of function of back legs can be due to a variety of factors. Anemia from a bleeding cancer, severe arthritis, orthopedic and spinal issues, muscle disorders are just a few possibilities. Your dog is fairly young, so this is worthy of investigating with the help of your vet. If the problems mostly occur on slippery floors, here are some tips until you see the vet: https://pethelpful.com/dogs/How-to-Keep-an-Old-Dog...
Question: My 12-year-old pug won’t put weight on one of her hind legs. I don’t think she had any traumatic injury. Why is this?
Answer: So sorry your pug is going through this. Three possible common scenarios come to mind: she may have sustained a sprain or strain of a muscle. She may have a luxating patella. This happens when the kneecap in small dogs pops out of place. This can happen suddenly. Surgery may sometimes be needed to repair this. Another possibility, is a torn ligament of the knee which makes the knee very unstable causing dogs to not bear weight on it or toe touching. I think seeing your vet is in order for a physical exam and possibly, x-rays ro see what is going on. Other things that may be going on include a fracture (usually in this case, the pain is intense and there is swelling), exacerbation of degenerative joint disease (arthritis) and trauma to the paw.
Question: Are there dog physical therapists?
Answer: Yes and it is an expanding career path that is gaining more and more popularity. To look for one you can search in the Canine Rehabilitation Institute database. The goal is to offer dogs improved pain reduction, healing, and function injured, recovering, or aging. It may encompass therapies such as cold laser, passive range of motion exercises, underwater treadmill etc.
© 2008 Adrienne Farricelli
ElanGee on July 05, 2018:
asked to try Rose Hip Vital for my dog's athritis. It worked after 10 days and she shows no sign of pain or stiffness. Does anyone else use it?
ElanGee on July 04, 2018:
asked to try Rose Hip Vital for my dog's athritis. It worked after 10 days and she shows no sign of pain or stiffness.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on November 23, 2017:
Bob, did the vet rule out an ACL tear? Did he do a drawer test?
Bob G on November 12, 2017:
Our 7 year old miniature schnauzer has a right rear leg limp after sleeping or resting for a period of time. Once she gets moving, she walks fine. It first occurred after she received her rabies shot in the right hip. She's been on rimadyl for about 7 weeks and we've exercised her but not excessively. The condition has not improved but she does not appear to be in pain. Our vet is puzzled. Your thoughts please.
robin savage on October 22, 2017:
i gave my dachshund can food with omega with two of them will do it tomorrow plus i will give him some heating pad today on warmth; pl;us i gave him some treats with omega in it he i moving alot better i will continue doing this
linda sweet on September 20, 2017:
my dog runs happily but limps when she walks
deb on June 18, 2016:
be sure to have him evaluated for hip displasia.
munro1as on May 12, 2016:
I have a 16 month 65 lb male lab. He would sometimes limp after playing his daily dose of fetch, when this happened we would just have him rest for the remainder of the day and his limping would go away. We noticed recently that after getting up from lying down for a while, he would limp for a little bit. Yesterday, after playing fetch, he started limping significantly. We had him rest and even this morning his limping did not go away like it normally would. I felt around the area, his right front leg and paw, no signs of any cuts/thorns etc, he doesn’t whimper when I touch and feel around it.
Could this be a sign of early Arthritis?? Or a possible strain that we didn’t know about that has never fully healed?
Didge from Southern England on April 30, 2012:
Impressive hub alexadry! Good post.
Paulart from 2510 Warren Avenue Cheyenne,Wyoming 82001 on January 24, 2012:
I like your hub information its very informative for all pet owners.