Arthritis in my pet, things I can do to help

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West Queanbeyan Veterinary Hospital
158 Uriarra Road
NSW 2620

(02) 6297 5542
(02) 6299 3594

Arthritis in My Pet, things I can do to help

Diet and Nutrition

What your pet eats and how much it eats throughout its life will affect arthritis in its later years. If your pet is overweight, reducing its weight, slowly, to a healthy level is one of the most important things you can do to reduce its discomfort.

Pets love to eat, that, and your company, are its chief pleasures in life. So if it has too much food in front of it, or if its food is not healthy, it will likely over eat.

Rather than rob your pet of its pleasure, feed it a lower caloric diet. Many are available commercially and you can make wonderful ones at home. If you don’t have the time or inclination to prepare them, at least add low caloric items like cooked cabbage, greens and carrots to your pet’s current diet to keep it satisfied while dieting.

All major pet food manufacturers offer “senior” brands of food. They tend to be lower in calories, higher in fibre, with added glucosamine, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. None have been adequately tested to see if they actually help older dogs, but they are all nutritious.




Canine athletes, such as sled dogs and working greyhounds, just like human athletes, tend to develop arthritis earlier in life. But a moderate amount of daily exercise, like taking walks and interactive play-time, is thought to delay arthritis. There is no dog data or studies, but there are human studies that can be applied to dogs.



Good Nail and Foot Care

It’s important that you keep your pets toenails clipped properly so its normal walking and running gait is not distorted. Over grown toenails are a lot like uncomfortable and poorly designed shoes that can also lead to arthritis in humans. They place abnormal stress on the joints and ligaments of the feet. There are rosin sprays that you can apply to your pet’s foot pads to help it walk more confidently. Never remove too much toenail at a time. Trim them off in multiple sessions over a period of weeks until they just touch the floor when your pet is standing.

Whirlpool, Heat Treatments and Hydrotherapy

Hot tubs, whirlpools and controlled swimming are great for pets with arthritis. Short periods of increased warmth, interspersed with cold, can decrease your pet's aches and pains. Added heat from heating pads and soaks in heated water relax muscles, increase circulation in the affected areas and has a lessen pain. Those effects persist for many hours after the external heat source is removed. (Just be sure not to scald or overheat your pet!)


Other Physical Therapies

Most dogs feel better and are more active after a good massage. It’s not only the increased circulation that helps, pets really love your touch and attention and they will feel better after it. Good sensations block bad sensations and you will see a difference in your dog when you have finished.

Dealing With Incontinence and Bed Wetting

Older pets, often find it hard to get up to go outside to relieve themselves. In some cases in females, the problem is related to flabbiness of the sphincter muscles of their lower urinary tract. Some of these dogs benefit when given phenylpropanolamine (PPA,). In other female dogs, chronic urinary tract infections are the cause. Still others are over-drinking due to kidney deterioration, some are diabetic, and some are just feeling the effects of diminished brain function. Your veterinarian has treatments available to minimize or eliminate these health problems in your pet. Special pet bed liners are also available to prevent urine scald in your pet.

Extra Padding for Comfort and Traction

Your pets balance and coordination are not what they once were. Old dogs do better on carpet or other soft surfaces. Not only are they more confident when they walk on padded surfaces, they are also less likely to form calluses and pressure-point sores so common in the elderly. The only drawback is that these pets, particularly female ones, are also often incontinent. So be sure there is a waterproof membrane below the carpet and that it can be removed for cleaning or replacement occasionally. Open cell foam pads are softer than closed cell products. But it is almost impossible to re sanitize open cell foams.



More Convenient Dish and Water Bowl Placement

Senior pets are often more comfortable eating and drinking from elevated containers. A low step stool works well for this because their rubber coating keeps the bowls from slipping around. Older, large breeds are more susceptible to gastric bloat. So feeding your elderly pet multiple small meals, rather than one or two large ones, is a wise idea.

A Warm Cosy Bed

All elderly pets appreciate a warm bed. Safe heating pads are available to ease the aches and pains that come with arthritis. I prefer electric mats that are encased in water proof plastic and have a chew-proof cord. Purchase one that cannot rise above 38 . Make entry and exit from your pet's bed as easy as possible with at least one low side. Be cautious if your pet can not move away from the pad, should it get too hot. Puppies and elderly dogs are more susceptible to heavy flea infestations because their immobility assures that they are always conveniently available to the fleas. Fleas can get out of hand rapidly in both the very old and the very young. If there is a possibility of a flea problem, be sure bed liners can be easily run through a dryer cycle and use one of the modern topical products to control fleas on your pet.


Wood ramps, covered with carpet are a real help for pets that can no longer climb stairs. Just be sure they are stable. Make the slope as gentle as possible. Keep one that hooks securely, in your car to help your pet get in and out. Canvas slings work well for this too.