It's not easy to watch a beloved dog become hobbled by the effects of arthritis. Larger, older dogs struggle most with this debilitating disease. Not only does their heavier weight put added stress on critical joints, but also impedes the gentle exercise that veterinarians recommend to keep arthritis at bay.
The bane of the big dog
Due to their size, large dogs are predisposed to joint and skeletal problems like hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, ligament ruptures and tears, osteochondrosis and other ailments that set the stage for progressive arthritis. Any injury to the legs can accelerate arthritic conditions.
While most big dogs are likely to deal with some form of arthritis as they get older, veterinarians and canine dieticians have developed effective treatments and prevention programs that can offer your dog relief.
5 tips for managing arthritis
Like arthritis in humans, canine arthritis is also difficult to treat and incurable. However, you can do a lot to make your dog more comfortable.
Weight Control. Extra pounds aggravate arthritis. If your dog is overweight, consider a change to a lower calorie diet. Your vet can recommend a formulation that's right for your breed.
Regular Exercise. Overworking a dog already struggling with arthritis makes little sense, but gentle exercise on a regular basis can help prevent arthritis in younger dogs and reduce symptoms in older dogs. If your big guy is sluggish, try your best to get him moving. Multiple short walks are better than one long walk.
Resting Comfort. Arthritis makes it hard for big dogs to maneuver, so it's important to create a more comfortable place for him to rest and sleep. Look for a soft baby mattress or foam rubber pad that's at least four inches thick.
Special Diets and Supplements. Many dog food brands now offer formulations specially made for dogs with arthritis. These usually include natural sources of glucosamine, chondroitin, and other vitamins and minerals that are recommended by veterinarians to promote joint health at the onset of arthritic symptoms.
Pain Relief. No owner wants to see a dog suffer. There are many medical options at a vet's disposal to promote relief. Generally, joint swelling, irritation, and the resulting pain of arthritis can be treated with anti-inflammatory drugs. It is critical to visit your veterinarian if your dog appears lame or is struggling with movement.