10 Things to Help Arthritis Pain in Your Dog

Canine arthritis is one of the most commonly diagnosed health issues in dogs. The treatment consists of medical pain management and modification of home and exercise. But there’s more you can do to help your furry companion! Here are 10 ways how you can help your dog to get relief from arthritis pain.

What is Canine Arthritis?

Osteoarthritis is one of the most commonly diagnosed medical conditions in our canine companions. The disease which is also known as degenerative joint disease (DJD) leads to restricted movement and mobility issues. When a dog is diagnosed with osteoarthritis, it means that the affected joint is in a state of chronic inflammation and pain.

dog arthritis
These joints are most commonly affected by arthritis.

Although it is true that any joint in the body could potentially develop osteoarthritis, the most commonly affected joints in dogs are those in the limbs and lower spine.

Unfortunately, osteoarthritis cannot be cured. When managed well, however, the course of the disease can be slowed down.

1. Pain Medication

Sufficient pain relief is the cornerstone of successful arthritis management. There is a wide range of different pain killers on the market. Most vets will prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) for your dog as they have pain modulating and anti-inflammatory effects at the same time.

The most commonly used NSAIDs for dogs are:

  • Firocoxib (Previcox)
  • Caprofen (Rimadyl)
  • Meloxicam (Metacam)
  • Grapiprant (Galliprant)
  • Robenacoxib (Onsior)

Please do not try to treat your dog’s pain with human medications as painkillers used to treat human pain may be toxic for dogs!

Make sure your dog receives their medication as prescribed and don’t change the dose without talking to your vet. My experience is that some dog parents wean off medication after a while because they feel it stopped working. Don’t so this, as the reoccurrence of pain symptoms indicates the pain got worse. And an adaption of the pain management plan might be necessary.

2. Avoid Slippery Surfaces

Walking on slippery surfaces poses the risk of losing grip and falling. This may even make joint pain worse and your dog less confident walking around your house.

If your flooring is hard and slippery, consider putting down non-slip carpeting to help provide your dog with something to grip while trying to walk. If the stairs are hardwood or another material that can be slippery, consider adding something like stick on carpeting to help provide a less slippery surface. 

A good way to provide traction for arthritic dogs is to use toegrips or dog boots.

Pet Gates

Convertible pet gates are an easy solution for rooms where you don’t want to use rugs to protect your dog from slipping. They also may be used to prevent your dog from taking the stairs or leaving the house.

3. Supplements may Improve Joint Function

There’s a never-ending list of joint supplements for arthritic dogs. Although their efficacy should not be overestimated it’s worth having a closer look at them.

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids are believed to suppress inflammatory processes in the body. As a consequence, they slow down the progression of the disease and provide a certain degree of natural pain relief. First results are not to be expected before giving them for at least 6-8 weeks. In fact, there’s promising scientific evidence for the use of omega-3 fatty acids for canine arthritis.
  • Glucosamine is a building block of the joint cartilage and one of the best-known supplements for arthritis. It is often combined with chondroitin sulfate. Both are given to improve joint function. Even though there’s mixed scientific evidence for its efficacy it’s definitely with considering.
  • Chondroitin Sulfate protects the joint by inhibiting enzymes that destroy the joint cartilage. As mentioned before, most arthritis products contain chondroitin anyway. It’s a good idea to use this supplement early in the disease process or even as a preventative in fast-growing dogs.
  • Green Lipped Mussel Extract
  • Devil’s Claw
  • Tumeric
  • Vitamin E

4. Get a Ramp for Your Car

Jumping in and out the car puts a lot of weight on the joints. This may hurt and a adds further injury to the arthritic joints. Dogs having sore hip or stifle joint may also have difficulties jumping.

Ramps can be installed over short stairways to help your dog come and go. Additionally, if your dog frequently rides in the car or sleeps in your bed, consider lightweight ramps that can help them climb in and out.

I just saw there’s a discount on this ramp. Check on Amazon if it’s still on sale.

5. A Comfortable Dog Bed for a Good Night’s Sleep

There have been many advances made in the field of bedding and not just for humans! Many companies make supportive bedding, often constructed from memory foam, for dogs with osteoarthritis. 

Not all memory foam or supportive beds are the same so be sure to do your research and read reviews before making a purchase. Consider a bed that is large enough for your dog but that isn’t too high and difficult to get in and out of.

6. Acupuncture and Chiropractic Care

Acupuncture is a safe and proven method that has been used successfully to treat thousands of dogs around the world. It is used to treat pain and joint inflammation by stimulating the body’s self-healing power. Find out more about acupuncture in this article.

dog receiving acupuncture treatment

Chiropractic Care is a manual therapy used to treat a variety of health and mobility issues. It focuses on the adjustment of spinal subluxations causing dysfunctions and pain throughout the body. Arthritic dogs benefit from chiropractic care as blood supply to the affected joint is optimized and joint mobility improved. In fact, chiropractic care can play a major role in a dog’s holistic pain management plan.

7. Massage and Acupressure

Do not underestimate the benefits of physical therapies such as massage, physiotherapy and acupressure! The good news is, you can even save a lot of money by learning some basic techniques that help restore your pet’s mobility and provide some pain relief.

Consistency is key! The best results are achieved by treating your dog regularly. Many dog parents make it their habit to treat their furry companion a few minutes per day. You’ll be surprised how much you’ll achieve by just spending 5-10 extra minutes with your dog each day!

Check out my illustrated guide on acupressure!

8. Laser and Infrared Light Therapy

Laser therapy is gaining more and more popularity. As science is supporting that it’s working a growing number of vets provide this new treatment option. The beauty of laser therapy is its non-invasiveness and its low costs for the pet owner.

An even cheaper and, according to many pet owners, very helpful way to provide non-invasive pain relief to your furry friend is the LumaSoothe low-level light therapy device. It can be used for a variety of health problems from inflammation to skin issues. You can buy the LumaSoothe on Amazon, check here for the current price.

9. Keep Your Dog Lean

Overweight is not good for arthritis for several reasons. The extra weight of the fat doesn’t only put additional weight on the joint, it also releases hormones that fuel the inflammatory process.

A body condition score (BCS) greater than 5 is considered too high and weight loss a recommended.

Source: WSAVA, https://wsava.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Body-Condition-Score-Dog.pdf

How to Reduce Weigh in Your Dog

Like in humans gaining weight is much easier than losing it. But the good news is, your dog won’t sneak to the fridge late at night to have a snack. You’re in full control on how much your pet is eating! Here is what you can do to bring your dog’s weight back to normal:

  • Track your pup’s weight by making it a habit to weigh him once per week. Many vets also provide weight management clinics. Use them as this is a great way to stay on track.
  • Calculate the amount of food your dog really needs. Overweight dogs need far less food than recommended on the bag.
  • Use diet dog food! The dog food industry adapted to the needs of our pets and offer a variety of low caloric products to help lose weight without feeling hungry.
  • No Treats! No, not on a Sunday and not as a reward, simply no treats!
  • Exercise more! There’s no one fits all recommendation for exercise as it depends on the severity of arthritis and overweight. Start with slow indoor exercise and increase intensity from there. Don’t go beyond the comfort level of your dog.
  • Use Slow Feeders or a Kong they keep your dog occupied for a while and slow down eating.

10. Adapt Your Exercise Level

Getting the exercise level right is crucial for pets suffering from arthritis. Yes, it’s important for dogs with arthritis to keep moving. This will help them to retain their muscle mass and it will help to prevent stiff joints. It’s important for the exercise to be low-impact. Consider the following:

Swimming 

If there is a safe and clean place to take your pet swimming nearby and they enjoy this activity, do it! The water helps to support your pet’s weight and also prevents them from making any extreme, quick movements. 

Walking

Walking is gentle enough to be a good form of exercise for arthritic pets. Be sure to start out slow and let your pet warm up. Don’t let them run or leap and try to avoid stairs or sharp inclines. 

Exercise should be done for 15-30 minutes every day. 

Understanding your dog’s pain tolerance level is key. Many dogs will power through the pain and do further damage to their joints simply because they are excited. Even if they are thrilled about participating in high-impact sports like frisbee or agility, they will likely feel serious discomfort later on.