Updated: Mar 12, 2020
I have this talk with people everywhere and every day. I just had a long discussion about it at the dog park in regards to a gorgeous Great Pyrenees puppy. This is the "arthritis talk" in standard blog form.
No dog is immune to arthritis and it can effect any age dog. Unfortunately, not every breeder is on a quest to end hip dysplasia. From puppies to seventeen year old dogs, arthritis causes a painful condition. Arthritis also doesn't care about what size your dog is. Chihuahuas with bad knees are just as common as German Shepherds with bad hips.
So what exactly is arthritis? To put it simply, arthritis is inflammation of the joints. Arthritis in dogs is comparable to arthritis in people. Arthritis worsens with time, it worsens with pressure on the joints, and it worsens with overuse of the joints. Think of a seventy year old person getting out of a sports car.
What can you do about this horrible condition called arthritis? You can do as many things to help your dog, as you can to help a human. Because this blog is focused on over-the-counter care for arthritis, I'm only going to talk about things you can do right now. Your veterinarian can provide a much larger array of treatments for arthritis, which usually involves medication and in-patient care.
Dogs That Have Been Diagnosed as Overweight
Has your veterinarian ever told you that your dog could stand to lose some weight? If so, read this next paragraph. If not, move on to the next section.
FIRST and MOST IMPORTANTLY, you MUST get any extra weight off of your dog. Added weight is added pressure on the joints. Carrying around extra weight will eventually effect your dog, even if they do not seem effected in the moment. This is where you have to be honest with yourself for the health and well being of your dog. This is not a time to anthropomorphize your dog. If they are overweight and you're the one that feeds them, it's up to you to stop overfeeding them and/or start exercising them. If diet and exercise doesn't help your dog achieve weight loss then you need to bring them in to your veterinarian for a thyroid check.
You should consider getting this pet feeder, if you have multiple small dogs and some are grazers while others are 15 pound garbage disposals. This pet feeder uses your dog's microchip or a provided RFID collar to allow access to food. Get one for each small dog, so they can no longer share (aka steal) food. Again, this is only helpful for small dogs. The good news is that larger dogs are rarely grazers, so you can simply feed them twice a day. And if you have multiple large breed dogs, make sure they are separated when eating, so there is no food sharing.
Small Dogs with Bad Knees and Big Dogs with Bad Hips
Small breed dogs are known for having bad knees, formally known as medially luxating patellas. So many tiny dogs suffer from this condition, that you may think your dog's signs and symptoms are normal behavior. If your dog has been diagnosed with this condition, there is something that you can do immediately. You can put them on a supplement that will help slow down further damage to both knees. People with bad knees take the human version of this supplement, called OsteoFlex. There's a dog version which has similar ingredients and is scaled down to suit a full range of dog weights. My favorite version of this supplement also has turmeric and fish oils, which both act like natural anti-inflammatories.
Phycox has a full range of products from chewable treats to granules that you can sprinkle on dog food. These treats will benefit any size dog. They also have a hypoallergenic version of all of their products. Phycox Max has cranberry to help with urinary issues as well. Small bites are best for dogs that weigh under 20lbs. Please make sure you get the right size for your dog!!! Read the instructions!!!
Pup's with short legs and long backs, like dachshunds and chihuahuas, should never jump off of high surfaces. One jump could put their knees at risk or worse, blow out their fragile backs. Stairs leading up to sofas and beds are always a good idea with smaller breed dogs. There are many options for stairs leading up to high surface, which may include simply re-arranging the furniture so there is an ottoman at the foot of the bed. I've also had clients that were creative and used couch cushions to build a staircase. Don't forget that if your older Great Dane still likes to hop into bed with you, he will benefit from stairs as well.
This is for the stubborn ones that won't use stairs. If your pet won't use stairs to go down (Stairs are scary when you're 5 lbs), using an inside ramp for all of your sofas and beds may be a better option. This is also adjustable so you can move it around and adjust accordingly to your furniture. Also, this particular ramp is client tested and client approved for small chihuahua's.
Dogs with bad hips are usually large breed dogs. Not everybody can provide care for a large dog that is having difficulty getting around. Some dogs weigh almost as much as a person. There's a few things that you can do to help your big guy get around more comfortably, that won't break your back (or your bank!).
Every older dog needs a ramp when getting out of the car, just like every super star needs a red carpet. They're old, they earned it! This prevents slips when exiting a vehicle and creates a seamless transition onto solid ground. And again this is something that gives you an opportunity to get creative. I've seen people make these on their own using thick carpeting and plywood. No matter what material is used, having this ramp can prevent some major mishaps and save your older dog from a trip to the vet. Unless you use Vet 2 Door, then I'll come to you!
If your older dog isn't excited about a ramp, you may have to try another avenue. A dog lift will come in handy for an array of situations besides getting in and out of the car. You can use this sling to help your older dog up stairs and also to provide support when your dog is doing his business out in the yard. The major goal here is to prevent a fall. Just like in older people, one major fall can cause a significant amount of damage to an older dog's hips. You don't have to hold your dog up with this sling, but you can use it to provide gentle support to ease the strain of navigating around uneven surfaces.
Every older dog needs traction for all four paws to prevent harmful and painful slips. Nothing I'm about to mention is going to be as helpful as carpeting all the surfaces in your home. The tips I'm about to mention will, however, be more practical. If you can at least cover as much of the hardwood or tile surfaces as possible with carpets and runners, it will decrease the risk of your dog falling. Many people do this and realize that their older dog will only walk on the carpeted surfaces. Keep in mind that you can find affordable runners at Home Depot and Lowes. You can also go to your local carpet store and ask if they have any leftover carpeting that you can buy. (I've had clients buy 8'x8' scrap carpeting for $80 from a local carpet store - AND it looked amazing!)
Okay, these are a stretch. I tried them on my 14 year old Jack Russell and the results were laughable. I didn't have to worry about a fall because she wouldn't move at all. But not every dog is as stubborn as a Jack Russell and some older dogs are only up and moving for a few hours a day. Many have tried these with varying results. For less than $20, you may want to try them on your older dog to create traction on hard floors. I guarantee that covering the floors with carpets will work better, but not everyone finds that aesthetically pleasing. For those that have nothing to lose (But $16.95) you may want to give these a shot. Based on reviews for this particular product, you may want to size up or get a few different sizes to try.
This is like hairspray for your dog's feet. Similarly, it last about as long as hairspray does for me, which isn't very long. I used this on my dog and it worked well, but only for a short amount of time. My dog also doesn't know she's old. So this may be your go-to if you're taking your older dog out somewhere that has slick flooring, but I would bring the can of Firm Grip with you. Maybe you can use this when you take your older dog to Home Depot. To buy carpeting. Because I have found that carpeting is pretty much the only form of traction that is reliable, and I'm not in love with carpets anymore than most people. But they help older dog's navigate the house better, so I advocate for them. A lot.
It's also important for older dogs to have comfortable support while they are resting. Orthopedic beds are as important for dogs as they are for people. If you have a problem with your older dog choosing to lay on the hard floor instead of a bed, it may be because they appreciate the cool surface. Try turning on a fan and aiming it at your dog's bed or placing your dog's bed underneath an AC vent, for the same desired cooling effect.
Big Barker dog beds may be the only products on Amazon that I've seen gain consistent 5 star reviews. I've recommended them for years. But you don't have to spring for the big-times when creating a padded surface for your dog. Twin size mattresses work just as well and you can find a used bed on OfferUp or Craigslist. You can also kick your kid off the bed and let the dog sleep on it (Joke) PLEASE make sure that you have a plastic mattress cover on your dog bed if your older dog has issues with incontinence or has been known to have accidents. You can find cheap mattress covers in the children's department at Wal-Mart. Place a sheet over the plastic cover so your pup is more comfortable.
Here is a list of honorable mentions:
- Dr. Buzby's Toegrips for dogs: https://toegrips.com
- Water Therapy - for those of you with pools. Here is a great video documenting how
successful water therapy can be for older dogs:
PLEASE use a life jacket when providing water therapy to your dog! This is the life jacket
that I have and love for my dog. It looks new after 5 years of hard use:
But keep in mind that there are definitely cheaper alternatives for a canine life jacket.
Written with Love