Dog with Arthritis
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Arthritis is the inflammation of a joint structure which, over time, results in the thinning of the cartilages covering the articulating surfaces at the ends of bones. An acute arthritis is characterized by pain, redness and swelling, and sometimes a loss of function in that joint.

Arthritis can be hereditary, or can be caused by poor diet and/or excessive, repetitive activity. Not all dogs are subject to arthritic changes but many breeds or breed mixes are affected. Among the most common one we find the Labrador retrievers, the German shepherd dogs, the Golden retrievers, and the Rottweilers.

Arthritis is crippling. Most dogs with arthritis have demonstrate the following symptoms:

  • less active
  • trouble getting up
  • trouble lying down
  • reluctant to do stairs
  • lameness at different gates – walk, trot, canter.

Because of the progressive onset of arthritis, some dogs may just start to be slower as they move around and become more reluctant to do what they "used to do". Regular massage applications will secure good blood supply resulting in good exchange of oxygen, nutrients and assist the removal of toxins. Frequent stretching exercises will maintain optimal flexibility.

Also there are several other aspects of your dog life you can influence to lower the incidence of arthritis.

  • Keep your dog at his ideal weight. Excessive weight increases the workload on the articulating surfaces of the leg joints and onto some aspect of the hip and spine. Arthritis is much more of a problem in obese pets. Weight loss is beneficial as it reduces the workload on the bones and joints.
  • Exercise your dog. Provide him moderate amounts of exercise, proportionally to his physical condition, fitness and age. Even modest daily exercise can help an older arthritic dog. Consult your veterinarian for proper advice and recommendation on an appropriate exercise program. Activity will strengthen the musculoskeletal system thus reducing the risk of injury.
  • Secure a soft bed for your dog. Sleeping on hard surfaces is hard on the joints of the skeleton especially in thin dogs in which bony prominences are likely to rub on hard surfaces. If you suspect arthritic changes in your dog, provide him with a bed with plenty of extra cushion. Soft bedding will help support the bones and joints without causing discomfort and pain, making your animal more comfortable. Some beds are made especially for dogs with arthritis, such as waterbeds, hammock beds and others.
  • Avoid slippery flooring. Hardwood and tile floors are often at the origin of a joint injury as dogs will easily slip and fall hard. Slippery floor are especially difficult for dogs with arthritis to navigate. Simply place a rug or carpet to secure your dog's footing.
  • Food supplements and good diet. Consult your veterinarian for recommendation on a good quality balanced diet and on supplements that contain a natural source of glucosamine and of chondroitin sulfate. These two supplements will provide your dog with necessary nutrients for cartilage repair and function. Also inquire on good source of antioxidants to encourage a strong healthy immune system. 

By implementing these preventive steps you will be able to slow down the progression of arthritis changes in your dog. When dealing with an elderly dog or a genetically deficient dog crippled by arthritis, consult your veterinarian for more invasive medical help. There are various medical and surgical treatments available to ease a dog's discomfort and restore some mobility.

Your daily home care with massage, stretching and hydrotherapy modalities will also maintain optimal fitness of your dog musculoskeletal structures. Arthritis most often creates pain which cause the animal to tense up. But more muscle tension will put more pressure on the joint they affect, causing more pain. You can break this vicious circle by massaging your dog regularly. The release of this very tension coupled with the caring feeling of your hands will make your dog very comfortable and very happy. By feeling more relax he will be more inclined to be playful and sociable. He will love you for it. Please, read the article “Massage and the Arthritic Dog” for a full account on how to proceed.

I hope you enjoyed this article and found the information useful.  My goal is help you provide quality home care for the benefit of your animal. 

Please visit our FREE library. Our many articles address important aspects of animal wellness and fitness. Take the time to scroll through our free library to find out how you can actively contribute to your dog’s wellness.

Animal Awareness also offers a large video library with over a 100 mini-videos that will show you how to easily perform the various massage and stretching techniques talked about in this article. These videos offer you the correct start and visual guidance. With this knowledge, you will be able to develop a good home care program for the benefit of your animal friend.  He will love you for it.

Enjoy your new Awareness!

Jean-Pierre Hourdebaigt, LMT

A regular application of the “Full Body Massage” (CV006) will be a great preventive measure. Also, the use of various “Hydrotherapy Modalities” (CV008) combined with “Stretching Exercises” (CV007) will maximize the benefit of your home care program.

The “Trigger Point Massage technique” (CV010) and the “Stress Point Massage Technique” (CV011) are strongly recommended to assist the muscular compensation often seen with arthritic animals. The “Trouble Spot Massage Routine (CV018) will give you a sense of accuracy in your preventive effort to best assist your pet companion.

If you are just starting with your home care program, consider our “Introduction to Animal Massage” package,a 20% discount value on the first 7 DVDs, to secure a sound foundation in your animal massage skills. Then take advantage of our other packages to increase your knowledge of home-care protocols for the benefit of your dog(s).