Arthritis is common in dogs — common, and painful! Here’s what I told a reader who wanted to know how she could help her dog feel better.
Q: My dog seems really stiff, and the veterinarian says he probably has arthritis. Is there anything that can be done to help him feel more comfortable?
A: I feel for him. My joints are achy these days, too. We know in both human and veterinary medicine that pain management is crucial for any condition that interferes with normal activity: For dogs, those things include getting up or lying down, walking around, getting petted and just the ability to feel good during the day.
It’s not possible to eliminate pain completely, but treatments and medications are available that can help your dog get along without suffering. Pain management is successful when a dog can engage in normal activities: eating, sleeping, going for walks or just moving around the house, and interacting with his humans or other animals.
Several types of medications can help. For instance, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, for short) help to reduce inflammation and are often used to treat chronic pain conditions such as osteoarthritis. Your veterinarian may suggest a combination of drugs from different classes that work in different ways to provide the best pain relief for your individual dog or to reduce the risk of side effects.
If your dog is overweight, dropping a few pounds can relieve stress on his joints and decrease pain. Some dogs with lameness from painful, arthritic hips have improved with weight loss alone.
Some veterinary hospitals now offer complementary therapies in tandem with medication. Complementary therapies that may help to relieve arthritis pain include acupuncture, cold laser, hydrotherapy and massage.
Finally, you can make environmental changes that might ease his stiffness. Look for an orthopedic pet bed that offers good support for those achy joints. Some are heated, which is also soothing. Provide steps or a ramp to make it easier for him to get on and off the sofa or bed or into the car.
Read more, including how to find a lost cat, in this week’s Pet Connection!