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Advice for Walking a Senior Dog with Arthritis


Canine veterinary medicine has come a long way in the last several years. Dogs are living longer, healthier lives than at any time in history.

A slower moving dog goes on a walk despite having arthritis.But this also means more senior dogs are developing arthritis than at any other time in history. Just like people, arthritis is one of the most common health issues for aging dogs.

In fact, the percentages are even similar - 23 percent of people and 20 percent of dogs will get arthritis in the golden years.

Just because your pup is diagnosed with arthritis doesn't mean you have to curtail those wonderful daily walks together. Read on for expert advice for walking a senior dog with arthritis.

Know the Symptoms of Canine Arthritis

There are several types of canine arthritis. The most common type is age-related osteoarthritis.

By learning about major symptoms, you can detect when your dog is uncomfortable or in pain and make modifications or contact your veterinarian for guidance.

According to veterinarians, there are six main symptoms of canine arthritis:

  1. A persistent limp.
  2. Thinner legs.
  3. Mood changes.
  4. Fatigue.
  5. Neck or back pain.
  6. New movement limitations.
  7. Pain, muscle atrophy, strange postures or movements, mobility problems and irritability can all signal the onset or worsening of canine arthritis in any one of its many forms.

Take Shorter Brisk Walks

The American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation states that regular exercise can actually help to reduce symptoms like pain and stiffness.

But here, the key is to take shorter, more frequent walks. The AKC gives the example of two 20-minute walks rather than one 40-minute walk.

Switch to Swimming

For dogs that have the ability and are so inclined, swimming is one of the best forms of daily exercise for arthritic pups.

Swimming takes all the pressure off painful, swollen joints while improving muscle mass. Be aware that some dog breeds that have brachycephalic muzzle shapes (short faces) should never swim. When in doubt, ask your dog's veterinarian for guidance.

Try Alternative Healing Therapies

Medications are available to help control the discomfort your dog may be feeling. But not all dogs can tolerate medications equally well.

Luckily, there are a number of alternative therapies available that don't require you to medicate your dog.

Canine massage and canine acupuncture is said to calm the nervous system, stimulate the circulatory system and promote healing. Canine chiropractic can correct spinal misalignment that may be contributing to join inflammation.

Walk On Stable Surfaces

Dogs with arthritis can feel unsteady on their feet. When there is pain and muscle atrophy that leads to weakness, your dog may learn not to trust their own body anymore.

This can in turn lead to a reluctance to walk that will make the pain worse. To help your dog, find places to walk that are on stable, comfortable surfaces.

You can even train your dog to wear special grip booties with traction tread. This special tread gives your dog more traction on smooth surfaces, which can be an especially important safety feature during winter walks when conditions get icy.

Be Sure to Keep Your Dog's Nails Properly Trimmed

It is particularly important to keep your dog's feet and nails well groomed after arthritis starts to set in. Too-long nails can exacerbate walking difficulties caused by stiff, sore joints.

Canine veterinarians state that you will know your dog's nails are the right length when they do not touch the ground while your dog stands up.

If you don't feel comfortable trimming your dog's nails at home, ask your veterinarian for a recommendation (or a nail trimming lesson).

Supplement With Glucosamine, Chondroitin, & MSM

Glucosamine and chondroitin are recommended by the AKC since they may help with arthritic dogs.

Research published by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) highlights how glucosamine supplements deliver results that some may not expect.

Just because glucosamine and chondroitin are natural doesn't mean they don't need to be used with care. Always start with the lowest recommended dose for your dog's age, weight, breed and symptoms. When in doubt, consult your dog's veterinarian for guidance.

Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements come in many forms today. Some foods for senior dogs add these supplements into the food. There are also soft chews, capsules and even paw pad balms that give you a range of options so you can find the one that is easiest for your dog to take in.

Supplement with Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Research published by American Veterinarian showed that supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids works well to reduce symptoms of canine arthritis.

Omega-3 fatty acids are readily found in fish or fish oil. Fish oil is often added to senior dog food and can also be taken in capsules. The capsules can be broken open and added to food or treats.

Schedule Canine Rehabilitation Therapy

Physical rehabilitation therapy can be an important part of helping your dog get moving again after a diagnosis of canine arthritis.

Animal physical therapy may include ultrasound, water aerobics, massage, exercises to increase joint range of motion, heat and cold therapy, muscle strengthening exercises and more.

Effective canine rehabilitation can help your dog feel more confident in their body and regain enjoyment of daily walks and play time.

Make Adjustments At Home for Your Dog's Comfort

A big part of helping your arthritic pup cope with a new diagnosis is making modifications to increase comfort and mobility at home.

These can range from elevating your dog's bed to laying down traction mats on smooth walking surfaces to increasing the room temperature to help your older pup maintain body warmth while at rest.

When it is less painful for your dog to get up and move around, it will become easier to get out the door for daily walks together.

Be Prepared to Be Patient During Walks

Finally, once your dog develops canine arthritis, it will be important to take your cues from your pup while you are out on daily walks.

Be sure to stay on familiar pathways that your dog knows well. This minimizes the chances that an unexpected walking path or strange surface will cause a stumble or fall.

Let your dog stop frequently to rest and time your walks so you can turn around and head for home before you think your pup is getting over-tired.

Try to walk during the most temperate time of day to keep your dog's body and joints warm. During winter, this may be at high noon. In summer, this may be at dawn and dusk.

Buying a winter jacket for your senior dog can also help keep body heat in on walks.

By using these tips and consulting with your dog's veterinarian as needed, you can help your senior dog continue to enjoy daily walks with you.

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