Part of being the parent of a senior dog or cat is dealing with aging. While all pets "slow down" as they age, many of them develop arthritis and other chronic pain conditions. Of course, it is hard for us to watch our family members suffer. Fortunately, there are several things that we can do to help our pets. Some of them, like providing a comfy dog bed, are easy for us to do ourselves. Others require the help of a vet or other professional.
Get a diagnosis
Before starting arthritis treatment, it is important to rule out other possibilities. Dogs and cats can move more slowly than usual for many different reasons. For instance, dogs that do not feel well are likely to prefer their comfy dog bed to running and jumping around the house. Likewise, if they are having trouble moving around, get grumpy, or show signs of discomfort when petted, it's time to investigate.
While each of these symptoms can be caused by arthritis, there are other potential explanations. A massive stomachache, for instance, is likely to make a pet grumpy. Minor injuries, especially those sustained in vigorous exercise, can also result in discomfort. If your pet is struggling in these areas for more than a couple of days at a time, you should talk to your veterinarian.
Once you know why your dog is not feeling well, you can comfort it more easily and accurately. Especially with arthritis, you now know that you are dealing with a common condition that is relatively easy to manage. Some of these tips will work any time your pet needs comfort, while others are more arthritis specific.
One thing that works almost as well for dogs and people with arthritis is getting enough exercise. Exercise allows the dog to move its joints, which in turn helps to keep them in good condition. To explain what this looks like, consider what happens when you have been sitting for too long in one position. Often, when you stand up, your joints will feel a little bit stiff, and they stay that way until you have walked around a bit. This is the same thing that happens when a pet has arthritis, except the problem is more severe. With moderate exercise, your dog will move around better.
However, as with any exercise, be careful not to overdo it. Like their pet parents, animals can experience pain and injury when they are exercised too much. Let your pet choose its own pace when being walked or exercise. Since stiffness tends to be worse in the morning, you should be especially careful after your dog has spent the night on a comfy dog bed.
Watch that weight
Being overweight increases the stress on joints and ligaments for both people and animals. If you know someone who carries too much weight, he or she will tell you that joint pain is one of the unpleasant side effects. The same is true with dogs. Combine the added joint stress with arthritis, and it is easy to see how significant suffering can result.
To combat the effects of arthritis, many pet care experts recommend that you carefully manage your pet's weight. Your vet can advise you on an appropriate target weight, and if necessary, how to lose the pounds. Sometimes this involves a special diet, but exercise can also help. Whether you are using diet, exercise, or both to manage weight, a comfy dog bed can also help reduce strain on joints.
Consider physical therapies
As with people, pets often find some arthritis relief through physical therapies. That can include traditional physical therapy, massage, acupuncture, or other methods. All of them follow the same basic strategy: improve mobility and reduce inflammation so that the animal can enjoy life better. For physical therapy and acupuncture, you will have to make clinic visits on a regular basis. While the expense can add up fast, they are a great way to help your dog have more energy for playtime.
Massage, on the other hand, can be taught to pet parents. Here, you apply targeted pressure to affected areas. As with human massage, the goal is to release tension and reduce pain. As an extra advantage, you will learn more about how his body works and when he is hurting. Best of all, this is a great way to spend time with your pet while making it feel better. Then, you can let your dog retreat to its soothing dog bed while you watch TV or make dinner.
Medications can help
Over the years, scientists and vets have developed a wide variety of treatments for arthritis. Some aim to slow down the disease, while others try to dull the pain in some way. In consultation with your vet, you can try nutritional supplements. If these strategies do not go far enough, there are prescription therapies available. Experienced pet parents generally recommend encouraging your dog to take pills using a treat. Both commercial ones and homemade varieties work, so long as you choose something that is vet-approved. This way, giving meds or supplements becomes a way to nurture that special bond.
Adapt to their needs
Finally, comforting an arthritic pet often involves adjustments to the set up in your home. For instance, you might decide to add stair treads to your steps. These allow the dog to get more traction going up and downstairs, relieving the effects of mobility issues. This way, they can move to their comfy dog bed upstairs while you sleep and back down in the morning.
Another adaptation that you might consider is changing to a fur dog bed designed for pets with arthritis. Made of memory foam, these rectangular nap mats cushion a dog's bones and joints. Vets have recommended orthopedic beds for decades, and they work very well. These can be a replacement for the old bed or a supplement to what you already have. Check out our range, which includes options for pets of all sizes.