Top Tips for Dogs Living with Osteoarthritis

Updated: Apr 17, 2020

Osteoarthritis affects 1 in 5 dogs and this increases with age.

For most dogs, living with the discomfort of osteoarthritis is a daily occurrence. This post contains my top 5 tips for you the owner to implement at home to make things a little easier for your furry friends.

- Avoid having them on slippery flooring. When dogs slip on tiles/wooden floors they can cause injury to themselves by twisting something. Also, if a dog has fallen before on these types of flooring, this can cause them to brace in anticipation of a fall which in turn can cause muscle spasms throughout the body (a bit like how we tense up when we go ice-skating, waiting to fall) and this can cause lasting damage.

- Play games that don't involve sudden movements or jumping like when throwing a ball. Maybe a game of tug or hiding treats under cones is a great mental stimulant. Your dog may not show signs of pain if you were to throw a ball for them to catch or chase after, but you may notice that for a couple of days after that actually they're very stiff and slow to move about unlike before.

- Little and often

When going for walks, make them short so that your dog doesn't become too tired. No more than 15 minutes at a time. To keep your dog active and mobile however you might want to do this twice or three times a day depending on how fit your dog already is.

- Orthopaedic dog beds

Although these can be expensive and are an investment, it can make the difference between a good and a bad nights sleep for your pooch. As people we're always told how important sleep is for our health and quite frankly it's no different for our furry friends. A comfortable bed can leave your dog more energetic and able to carry out activities that maybe they hadn't been able to for a long time.

- Heat therapy

Something you can do at home using a heat pack out of the microwave or a hot water bottle, heat is an excellent pain reliever and is very good at increasing the synovial fluid in the joints making them more mobile. This is really important for our older dogs suffering with OA. This could be applied before exercise to increase mobility before hand almost like a 'warm-up' or it could be used simply in the mornings over painful joints to get them started for the day. Heat therapy is most effective when used consistently.

How can I tell if my dog is in pain?

There are a number of ways in which you may be able to see signs of pain from your dog. First of all, understand that there are many more indications of pain than just a vocal 'yelp' from your dog. Here are 10 things to look out for:

1. You might see that they're no longer able to get in or out of the car as they used to.

2. Your dog may struggle with stairs now, perhaps they don't tolerate a harness where they once did.

3. You may notice them constantly licking at joints, if this is chronic they may begin to lose hair where they are constantly licking.

4. It may be as simple as them putting their tail between their legs when you go around to their back end, or maybe they don't allow you near their back end and will always turn to face you. These can be indications that there's pain in that area and they do not want you to touch it.

5. You may notice them turn to bite (or bark or growl at) you when you stroke them in a certain place.

6. Struggle going to the toilet

7. Difficulty getting comfortable

8. Postural changes

9. Change in behaviour/mood

10. It could be a limp that you notice which would indicate pain.

All of the above are examples that your dog is in pain. Once you get the diagnosis for your dog from a veterinary professional you can be referred for physiotherapy to take the necessary steps forward.

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Please note that Veterinary Physiotherapy is not a replacement for Veterinary Medical treatment by your Vet. Also, no treatment can be administered by a Veterinary Physiotherapist without permission by your Vet.