As elder puppy owners, we have to be aware of signs of discomfort. Furthermore, we need to know how to help our fur-babies stay as comfortable as they can be during their adult years. According to Robin Downing (DVM), osteoarthritis in dogs (or OA) is a complex condition that involves inflammation and degeneration of one or more joints. Dogs with OA experience pain that hinders the activities of daily living. Downing notes, “OA is diagnosed through a combination of a thorough physical examination, a palpation (feeling with the fingers to localize pain and determine its intensity), and additional diagnostics including x-rays or other imaging technology.”
Aging can be an uncomfortable process for our animals, but we can help. The following article will identify 15 strategies that owners can implement at home to keep Osteoarthritis in dogs manageable. While aging can be a pain, it’s in our power to help our pets feel their best and provide proper care.
**This article is not intended to give professional medical advice. If you are concerned about your pet’s health, get a professional opinion right away. Veterinarians have your pets best interest in mind and can offer trusted, professional advice.
15 Manageable Tips To Comfort Dogs With Osteoarthritis
1: Maintain a consistent environment and routine.
It’s helpful for anyone to have a predictable routine. It’s beneficial to give your dog the opportunity to know what to expect, especially when they are dealing with Osteoarthritis pain. Avoid things like frequently rearranging furniture or leaving obstacles laying around the frequented paths. It may be helpful to stick to a general timeline where the dog has a sense of predictability, and can feel comfortable and confident with their surroundings.
2: Adapt routines that may cause extra stress.
We tend to tense up in times of stress, which can cause strain on the body. If you notice consistent times that your pet struggles, look at potential situational stressors. Are the humans hustling and bustling? Are there rambunctious kids or animals around? Or could vacuums be the scariest thing ever? Look at the situational environment and consider ways to make it more calm. Maybe the humans could wake up 5 minutes earlier. Or, maybe the vacuum can make an appearance at a subtle, strategic time.
3: Avoid unnecessary risks.
It’s important to keep your elder pup’s regularly visited areas away from risk or harm. This might seem obvious, but there are plenty of hidden risks lurking around. In some cases, maybe the dog with OA isn’t safe on furniture (due to the risk of falling), or may need some kind of step stool to help them get where they need to be. Adapt the environment where you can. Some other examples to help your dog avoid risk include:
- Ensuring your dog has proper grip on the floor
- Staying away from staircases or steep areas
- Limiting exposure to outdoor elements
- Keeping the home at a fairly consistent temperature
- Watching out for sharp or dangerous objects
- Ensure there aren’t tripping hazards laying around
4: Provide your dog a number of comfortable spaces.
If you’re a busy bee around the house and your dog follows as closely as your shadow, you might set up small relaxation stations for your loved one. Even setting blankets on the floor in a few areas around the house can signify that it’s an area your dog can use if they want to be near you, while having a comfortable spot to rest. Ensure proper cushioning and padding, because nobody (especially someone with stiff joints) wants to lay down on a hard surface.
5: Avoid touching areas affected by OA.
You may notice certain areas on your dog are flared up with pain; Osteoarthritis in dogs tends to affect the joints. If you notice that your dog is nipping, wincing, crying, biting, or exhibiting other unusual behavior, try not to touch that particular area. This might even mean not picking up your furry friend or giving classic scratches. It’s also possible there could be another cause of pain, and it’s a good idea to talk to your trusted veterinarian to get their opinion.
6: Look for signs of change.
Change can come in many forms. A change in behavior, appetite, mood, energy, bathroom habits, or even the way they bark can indicate something is bothering them. Adaptations around the house might help, but it’s wise to consult a professional if you notice significant signs of change. A keen eye for observation is helpful because chronic issues don’t usually happen overnight. Change is a part of the aging process, but can be a major indicator that something else is going on. It’s a good idea to document the changes you notice. Noting the day, time, and any external factors is also useful information in tracking your dog’s health.
7: Continue watching for other signs of ailment.
Unfortunately, OA is not the only thing older dogs may encounter in their aging years. Depending on a number of factors including breed, diet, size, age, genetics, environment, and potential preexisting conditions, your pet may be at risk for other afflictions. It’s a good idea to find a trusted source and read up on how to care for your dog considering these factors and more. Your vet also has helpful information to help keep your buddy at their best.
8: Keep up with the usual grooming.
Unless otherwise directed by a professional, it’s good for your dog to maintain their normal, healthy hygiene habits. Things like brushing fur and getting a regular hair cut, brushing teeth, cleaning the ears and those gross eye boogers, carefully cutting the nails, and regular baths are helpful for their wellness. Maintaining good hygiene is important for everyone- and we can help with the things that don’t come naturally to them (although it would be pretty great to see your dog brushing their own teeth). There are many online resources considering dog hygiene, such as this Go-To Grooming Guide: https://old.furzly.com/stories/dog-grooming-at-home-the-go-to-guide-for-grooming-your-pup.
9: Keep your dog with OA active.
Within safe, recommended limits, keep your dog moving. This may look different from dog to dog, as a walk or trip to the dog park could be great for one dog but not ideal for another. In general, it’s good to keep their joints active throughout the day. This may be as simple as getting up and walking around the house for a bit. Avoid frequent long periods of time where the joints are completely immobile; this can cause more stiffness and discomfort for dogs with osteoarthritis. Look for a good balance between rest and activity.
10: Engage your dog in safe, comfortable play.
Beyond being active, playing with your elder pup can be great for both their body and mind. So get on their level and play tug-of-war or toss the ball out to fetch! Take them to see one of their favorite friends (animal or human). But definitely consider the ways your dog might need adaptations within the realm of play. You don’t want them to overexert themselves. This may mean letting your dog win in tug-of-war. Get them up, engaged, and having fun. Just because a dog is aging doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy being a puppy!
11: Observe the little things and make helpful changes.
Osteoarthritis is fairly common in older dogs. This likely means your elder pup will start showing signs of discomfort gradually, and the differences may be subtle. Maybe your dog is showing some discomfort bending down. One potential solution might be to elevate the food and water dishes to a comfortable level. Aging is a natural thing, but arthritis doesn’t go hand-in-hand. If you notice changes that are outside what you feel is the norm for your aging pup, consult your veterinarian. Check out these elevated dish options from Chewy! https://www.chewy.com/b/elevated-bowls-1423
12: Ensure your dog consumes typical amounts of food and water.
If you notice a significant change in diet, consult your vet as soon as you’re able. Your dog needs the appropriate nutrients and a good amount of water to keep their joints and bodies healthy. It’s also good to ensure your dog has access to hydration if you’re out of the house, such as on a walk or relaxing together on the pontoon. There are some fun options out there for travel dishes to ensure your pup has the chance to hydrate.
13: Give your ol’ pup lots of love and attention.
Don’t forget to make your sweet dog feel loved! It can sometimes be hard to remember to slow down, take a moment, and show your furry friend how much you love and appreciate them in your life. You know your pet best- think about what they love! Ear scratches? An extra treat after dinner? Investigating around the yard? Treat them to something they enjoy! They’ll absolutely love you for it. And remember, by considering their best interest on a daily basis you are showing them you love them. Your pet appreciates it even if they can’t verbalize it.
14: Talk to your veterinarian about Osteoarthritis.
When in doubt, this is your best option. Sometimes there just aren’t enough ways to ensure their wellness without consulting a professional. There are a variety of supplements & medications that can help with Osteoarthritis in dogs. Vets will talk to you about options and will take into account different treatments, therapies, medications, dosages and individual circumstances based on what they feel will be best for your loved one. If you are concerned about your pet’s health or well-being, consult a professional as soon as you’re able. If for some reason you don’t trust the advice your vet had to offer, get another professional opinion. Be an advocate for your buddy.
15: Take care of yourself.
By doing what you can to maintain your own health and happiness, you’ll have more energy and consideration for what it takes to keep your pet on the right path to wellness. Be kind to yourself and remember if you keep considering your pet’s wellness, you’re taking good care of your pet. Give yourself credit. Aging is a natural part of the process, and our loved one’s health will sometimes take more maintenance. But they’re worth it. Do what you can where you can, and remember to show both your dog and yourself lots of understanding, patience, and love.
A Brief Conclusion…
As your loved one ages, they will most likely need a number of adaptations (while providing consistency) around the home to help them feel more comfortable. Osteoarthritis affects many older dogs, but there are resources available to help you care for them properly. Consider your individual pup, their environment, and the small details along side the big picture of their wellbeing. Be aware of any changes your dog may start to show, and remember these things can be gradual. Your dog loves you unconditionally and relies on you to care for them. They appreciate the effort you put into their wellness. Always talk to your trusted veterinarian about any concerns you have about your animal’s health.
References: “Arthritis in Dogs” By Robin Downing (DVM, DAAPM, DACVSMR, CVPP, CRPP), https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/arthritis-in-dogs
**This article is not intended to give professional medical advice. If you have a concern about your pet’s health, consult a veterinarian as soon as possible.