Top Ways to Help Older Dogs With Joint Problems And Other Mobility Issues
Mobility issues in dogs may be due to a number of disorders including arthritis, back problems, dysplasia, tumors and more. Help a dog with mobility issues with changes in diet, exercise, pain medication, massage, supplements, laser therapy, homeopathic and herbal remedies and more.
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The causes of mobility issues in dogs are due to a number of disorders that could trigger the onset of pain and difficulty in moving, such as the following:
Arthritis – one of the main causes of mobility problems and a condition that usually occurs in the senior years.
Arthritis occurs more often in older dogs as well as overweight dogs, as the excessive weight puts extra strain on painful joints.
There are several types of canine arthritis
Osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease as it is also referred to, has many causes, including developmental defects, trauma, poorly formed joints, as well as instability. One in five dogs suffers from this form of arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis – although frequently confused with osteoarthritis, this condition is very different. It is an extremely erosive/destructive type of arthritis that causes the immune system to affect the limb’s major joints. With time, damage to the joints becomes so severe, that they become deformed and unappealing to the eye.
Immune mediated arthritis – almost the same as rheumatoid arthritis, this is a condition that causes high fever and the immune system to attack the major joints. There are three types of immune mediated arthritis, namely Type 2, Type 3 and Type 4, each of them causing different issues. If all these condition can be treated and cured then arthritis symptoms can also be resolved.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus – this is a very rare type of arthritis that also affects other systems inside a dog’s body, including the brain, the nerves, the skin and the kidneys.
Septic arthritis – this type of arthritis is extremely painful and caused mainly by bacterial infection inside a joint, usually after surgery to the joint, penetrating injuries, or an infection that has spread from a local area. It occurs suddenly, usually affecting one large joint. Generally, the joint becomes swollen and hot to the touch and if not treated immediately, can result in severe osteoarthritis.
Signs that a dog has arthritis include:
- Spinal issues
- Difficulty or slow in standing up
- Easily tired
- Muscle wastage
- Chewing, biting and licking
- Swelling and thickening of the joints
- All-over stiffness
- Mobility issues
- Abnormal gait
Other causes of mobility issues in dogs include:
Back problems – especially those involving the spinal column, can also hinder a dog’s natural movements. Injury or constant physical stress, as well as certain diseases, can also result in back problems.
Dysplasia – even though it is possible for all dogs to suffer with elbow or hip dysplasia, it occurs more often in the large and giant breeds.
Neurological disorders — strokes, meningoencephalitis and in some cases certain poisons, can also be the cause of a dog finding it difficult to stand or walk.
Tumors – benign or malignant tumors can impede a dog’s natural movement and could also cause pain when the dog tries to move.
Hints and tips to help a dog with mobility issues
Your main aim when your dog is in pain is to make him feel better as quickly as possible. As luck would have it, there are a number of ways that you can relieve the pain caused by mobility issues in dogs and these include:
Diet – decrease the load on your dog’s joints by feeding him the appropriate amount of good-quality dog food to keep him slim and trim.
Exercise – although it is important for your dog to get exercise, make sure to monitor the way he walks, runs and plays, on a soft surface, if possible.
Keep your dog warm and dry – cold, damp conditions aggravate arthritis, so consider getting your dog a padded bed and apply warm compresses to his painful joints.
Pain medication – talk to your vet about giving your dog pain medication like anti-inflammatory drugs and disease modifying drugs for osteoarthritis, since these can go a long way in helping to reduce arthritic pain.
Supplements – giving your dog supplements such as chondroitin and glucosamine can improve joint functioning and mobility in dogs suffering with arthritis.
Adjust your home environment – there are a few things you can do to adjust your dog’s environment at home to help relieve his symptoms of arthritis. These include things like ramps to help him get in and out of the car or onto a bed, putting down plenty of rugs to improve traction when he walks, adding non-slip stair treads, as well as plenty of soft, supportive bedding to cushion his aching joints.
Acupuncture – this treatment isn’t only for humans! It has also proved to be of help to animals suffering with arthritis. Acupuncture needles work on the nervous system to reduce pain.
Laser therapy – with laser therapy, the blood flow to tissues is stimulated, improving arthritis conditions significantly.
Homeopathic and herbal remedies – inflammation and pain are reduced with Devil’s Claw, but should not be given to dogs that are diabetic. Vitamins C and E help a lot with mild cases of arthritis. Turmeric, with its anti-inflammatory properties, is an antioxidant that is also frequently used as a treatment for arthritis in dogs.
Grippy socks or booties – let your dog wear these to help him cope better with slippery wooden floors.
Lift Harnesses – A dog lift harness that wraps around your dog’s body can be used to reduce some of the weight off your dog’s hips, spine or legs, by gently pulling up on the handle as they walk or jump.
Doggie wheelchair – this is great to use when you take your dog for a walk. It will provide a stability that will give your dog more confidence and freedom of movement.
CBD oil – this is a natural pain reliever. CBD oil helps to control pain by reducing pain signals being transmitted to the brain. It also helps to suppress chronic inflammation, thus improving your dog’s quality of life in a big way.
How to keep a dog with mobility issues comfortable
If your dog has mobility issues, there are several things that you can do to ensure his comfort, such as:
Bedding – you can reduce the pressure on your dog’s joints by providing him with dome-shaped, orthopedic foam bedding placed in a warm spot out of draughts. Your dog will be able to get in and out of this type of bed a lot easier too.
Elevated water and food bowls – your arthritic dog, especially if it is a large breed, will find it more comfortable drinking and eating from bowls that are elevated particularly if he has a stiff back or neck.
Have your dog’s nails clipped regularly – it is important to keep your dog’s nails at a reasonable length to prevent them from hooking on carpets and other types of flooring, to stop them from curling round and becoming in-grown and also, to prevent infection. Long nails can change the way your dog walks and carries himself and over time, cause significant pain to his joints. His chances of falling and the likelihood of him breaking bones in the process, is increased as well.
How dogs with joint problems can benefit from exercise, massage, weight management and hydrotherapy
Apart from providing the right bedding, good grooming, ramps and so forth, there are a few other ways that you can enhance the quality of life for your dog, if he suffers from joint problems. Besides helping to ease his aching joints, he will enjoy every minute of it too!
Exercise – although many people believe that exercise can make arthritis worse for your dog, this is far from true. The benefits your dog will enjoy from exercising include:
- Supple joints and a longer life
- Getting out of the house a few times a week to take a short walk around the neighborhood will make both you and your dog happier
- Relief from stiff joints
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Help to prevent cardiac-related illnesses
- Help your dog to sleep better
Massage – The medical benefits of manipulating the superficial and deep soft tissues gently are as follows:
- It prevents adhesions of tendons, ligaments and muscles
- Massage reduces swelling, joint stiffness and muscle spasm
- Tissue relaxation, blood flow and muscle flexibility are increased with massage
- Muscle mass is maintained, while pain is decreased
In addition to all the above benefits of massage, your dog will enjoy it immensely!
Weight management – If your dog is overweight, his general health will improve tremendously if he loses that excess weight. Weight loss will do the following:
- Reduce the pressure on joints
- Relieve pain and joint damage
- Reduce inflammation in the joints and prevent other health issues from developing
- Reduce the progression, pain and discomfort of arthritis
However, before putting your dog on a diet to lose weight, ask your vet to recommend the best way for you to do this, since a sudden change in diet could result in serious problems if your dog has health issues that you know nothing about. It is also a good idea to ask your vet to recommend the best possible dog food to feed your dog.
Arthritis causes pain, stiffness, lameness of varying degrees and a reduced range of mobility. Because of the symptoms, dogs tend to become sluggish and reluctant to move too much. Gentle, regular exercise in the form of hydrotherapy can do a lot to alleviate the symptoms of arthritis in a dog.
Hydrotherapy allows the dog to exercise his joints, maintain muscle mass, as well as move around in the warm water with very little discomfort. The best thing about exercising in water is that the dog can do it in an environment that is entirely non weight-bearing and being buoyant, makes it ideal for dogs suffering from the symptoms of arthritis.
Studies show that the benefits a dog gets from time spent in hydrotherapy, far outweigh the benefits he enjoys for the same length of time, when exercising on land.
Studying pet nutrition and health has always been a passion of mine. When my pets started aging, I realized that nutrition for older dogs and cats was something I needed to understand better, so in an effort to learn and share what I have learned, I wrote two books about natural, holistic diets for senior dogs and senior cats.