How You Can Ease Your Senior Dog's Arthritis Pain

Arthritis in Older Dogs

You recognize the signs... the slow hobble to greet you at the door where once your dog (may have literally) leapt at the chance to put his paws on you; the laborious clamber from a resting position to standing. These are clear signs of arthritis pain, and it affects 60–70% of older dogs. In fact, it's the most common condition veterinarians treat in senior dogs. Other signs include (but are not limited to) limping, reluctance to go up and down stairs, and general lethargy where once there was an active pooch.

When you think about it, it’s not surprising that arthritis pain slows down even the most enthusiastic dog. After all, it’s a condition where the joint cartilage (cushioning) has worn away, and now your dog experiences bone grinding against bone.

Like in humans, age-related degeneration of the joints can have many different causes. Canine arthritis can arise from joint tissue destruction due to an infection, damage to the joint or its supports due to activity, stress or trauma, congenital defects affecting the joint, immune system disorders, and more. Moreover, some dog breeds are more predisposed to arthritis than others, like Labs, German Shepherds, and Golden Retrievers. However, any dog - no matter its size and history - can have arthritis, and the reason for it may not be readily apparent. 

Sadly there’s no “cure” for arthritis, but there are treatment plans you and your veterinarian can employ to ease the pain. 


Ways to Ease Your Dog’s Arthritis Pain

Exercise - You might not think that walking your dog is a great way to ease arthritic pain, especially not when s/he seems to hobble. We’re not suggesting marathon hikes of course, but moderate and gentle exercise can reduce pain and stiffness. Moving the joints actually produces synovial fluid which lubricates your pet’s joints.

The ASPCA recommends daily walks for arthritic dogs. Not only does your dog benefit from more mobile joints but it also helps keep him/her at a healthy weight. How often should you walk? Two to three 15-20 minute walks a day will be beneficial.

Another low-impact activity is swimming. If your dog likes to swim and you have a place for him to do so, swimming will help increase mobility, too.

Supplements and MedicationsYou may be able to ease your dog’s pain and slow down the progression of arthritis with supplements and medications. If your pet is in a lot of pain, your veterinarian may prescribe an anti-inflammatory for your dog. There are many canine-specific prescription-strength NSAIDs (non-steroid anti-inflammatory) that may be suitable, or you may find a combination of Omega 3 fish oils and glucosamine-chondroitin works well. Be sure never to give human medications without your veterinarian's express approval - many of them are highly toxic to our pets.

Laser and Massage Therapy - Laser therapy can help ease your dog's arthritis pain by reducing swelling and inflammation using deep-penetrating light that stimulates healing in injured cells. This treatment is also very well-tolerated by most dogs (they usually find the laser soothing) and can have dramatic effects in helping your dog regain mobility. For chronic conditions like arthritis, laser therapy patients usually receive a number of treatments over a short period of time (the induction period), followed by a transition period when the treatments gradually reduce in frequency, and then followed by the maintenance period in which patients receive one treatment every 1-4 weeks (depending on the patient and his/her needs).

Massage therapy, given by a licensed canine massage therapist, can also help reduce pain and increase mobility by stimulating blood flow to affected areas, which can help relieve stiffness and soreness. Like laser therapy, massage therapy schedules depend on the patient's needs and are customized to each dog.

If you would like to try either of these therapies, you can talk about them with your vet at your dog's next visit, or give us a call or fill out our online form to schedule an appointment with (our very awesome) vet tech, Becki.

Maintaining a Healthy Weight Even a little extra weight can make a big difference when it comes to pressure on the joints. Excess weight puts more pressure on the joints which makes it even more painful for your pet to get around. 

At-Home Assistive Products - If your dog used to leap onto your bed or into the back of the SUV but now s/he hesitates before doing those things, it may be because it hurts to land. If your dog is behaving this way, dog ramps/steps will help him/her get to where s/he wants to go without risking injury. Additionally, orthopedic beds offer extra cushioning, and some of them have gel inserts for cooling inflamed joints. They’re also designed to help your dog go from lounging to standing upright more easily. Finally, raised dog bowls hold your pets' food and water bowls closer to their mouths. Some dogs have arthritis in the neck or shoulder joints, and it’s hard for them to raise and lower their heads to reach the dishes. When you raise the bowls, you remove that concern for your pet.


As you can see, there are many ways you can ease your senior dog’s arthritis pain, and the most effective treatments combine multiple methods. It all starts with paying close attention to your dog’s behavior and discussing your options with your veterinarian. If you suspect your dog has arthritis or is getting worse, please book an appointment today to have him/her evaluated so your furry friend can start to feel better soon.


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