Many senior dogs take after their human masters when it comes to their health. As they age, they develop arthritis. Arthritis in canines is a degenerative disease characterized by stiffness and pain in the muscles and joints. Any dog over the age of 10 is a likely candidate for arthritis.
Dogs who are inactive and those that are overweight are even more likely to develop arthritis in their later years as their joints suffer continued wear and tear. Although arthritis is seen more commonly in geriatric dogs, younger dogs can be affected by it if they suffer from hip dysplasia. Certain infections and diseases suffered by dogs in their younger years can ultimately lead to arthritis.
The most common arthritis in dogs is osteoarthritis caused by the cartilage losing its flexibility from overuse. Arthritis can cause a dog so much pain that they become lethargic. Because our best friend can't say, hey, I'm hurting; it's up to us to try to make them as comfortable and pain-free as possible.
As much as possible, gentle and regular exercise is essential for any dog suffering from arthritis because movement helps to stimulate fluid lubrication in the dog's joints. Swimming is a wonderful exercise activity for arthritic dogs and most dogs just love the water, but be sure to outfit your dog with a life preserver vest for safety.
Consider getting your dog a special orthopedic dog bed which makes it easier for him to stand up from a prone position. The special construction of this bed also helps to relieve pressure on the dog's joints and makes his sleep more comfortable. Be sure to elevate water bowls and feeding bowls up off the floor so that your dog doesn't have to lower its head and eat or drink in an uncomfortable position. If you notice that your dogs has trouble climbing stairs or jumping onto his favorite place on your bed, consider installing ramps that will allow him easier access.
Arthritic dogs can be more sensitive to the cold, so make sure your dog is wearing a sweater when taking walks in chilly or snowy weather. Switch from a regular collar to a dog harness when walking so that there is less stress on your dog's joints and muscles.
Ask your veterinarian if medication can help alleviate your dog's discomfort. And most important, be gentle and patient in dealing with an arthritic dog. Remember, just like you they are doing the best they can.