You have a senior dog, and it has just been diagnosed with arthritis. Your pet has  been prescribed painkillers, joint supplements and exercises that will help minimise your dog’s pain and discomfort. You come home and wonder what else you can do as a pet parent to help? Here are a few pointers to keep in mind.


Diet and Supplements 

The aim is to maintain a healthy weight in your dog in order to avoid undue pressure on the joints. Foods containing high amounts of sugar or salt, grains and table scraps must be avoided as they may cause weight gain and aggravate joint inflammation. Foods rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants like vegetables (pumpkin, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach), fruits (blueberry cranberry, banana), oils (salmon oil, mackerel oil, coconut oil), protein (chicken, mackerel, sardine, salmon), turmeric and flaxseed should be incorporated into your dog’s diet.


Accessories

Since your dog may find it difficult getting up or walking on tiled flooring, a simple thing that can be done is to lay out anti-skid rugs or carpets to cover larger floor areas and staircases. Use of rubber bottom boots may help provide the necessary traction for your dog to move comfortably. You may also notice that your pet shows difficulty getting on and off the car or bed, using ramps or small pet steps can help circumvent this problem. A support harness with two handles can also be used to make lifting and moving easy. A doggy wheelchair can be used in dogs with advanced mobility issues for walks and outdoor adventures. Wheelchairs provide dogs with the freedom to move around all while minimising the pain and discomfort. A memory foam or orthopaedic bed is best suited to arthritic dogs.


Compression

Since stiffness and pain associated with joint issues is heightened in cold or windy conditions, it is ideal to use heating pads in such weather. Hot compression should also be done prior to exercise or physiotherapy to ensure smooth joint mobility

Exercise

A substantial part of keeping a dog with joint pain healthy is exercise or outdoor activities, this helps keep your dog happy, mentally sharp and maintain the ideal weight. Exercise may include short walks or outdoor excursions on doggie wheelchairs, a 10-20 min walk depending on your dog’s ability is sufficient

Warm water hydrotherapy helps reduce pain, inflammation and muscle stiffness; it also minimises joint impact while strengthening the muscles. It has also been reported to improve blood circulation to damaged tissue and aid in weight loss

Physiotherapy includes a number of techniques that help decrease pain, improve motility and strength. It is necessary to consult your veterinarian or a trained physiotherapist prior to starting your pet on physiotherapy as incorrect exercises may cause further damage to the joints

Rehabilitation

Acupuncture is a minimally invasive technique carried out by trained professionals which involves insertion of very fine needles into the skin at particular points. This helps relax muscles and improve blood circulation and helps release endorphins and serotonin which reduces pain

E-Stim or electrical stimulation is the use of mild electric pulses into the skin, targeted to stimulate injured muscles and nerves and reduce pain. Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy is the use of electromagnetic fields to promote tissue healing and help in pain management. 

Infra-red lamps are composed of a lamp with a red glass bulb with a tungsten filament, when an electric current is passed through this filament it emits infra-red rays. These infra-red rays on exposure cause heat generation and dilation of blood vessels which promotes increased blood supply, reduced inflammation and healing. This can easily be done at home. The lamp must be placed 50-60 cms away and exposure time must be gradually increased up to a maximum of 15 mins. Care should be taken to not expose the eyes to infra-red light.

Grooming

A common problem faced by owners of dogs with advanced joint disease and reduced motility is soiling. This can lead to serious infections hence it is advisable to use doggy diapers, dry shampoos, wet wipes and mild shampoo whenever necessary. Regular clipping and trimming of hind-quarter fur helps avoid accumulation of urine and faeces. Ensure your pets nails are clipped and paws free of fur.