Humans with arthritis will tell they are in more pain in the cold and wet days than they are in the summer. If your big dog or aging dog has arthritis, he will also be suffering more joint pain in the cold days of winter than he does in the summer.
A reason for this additional pain and joint ache your big dog is suffering could be because a drop in the air pressure can cause tissues to swell and this can lead to stiff muscles. A stiffening in the muscles can cause pain for a dog that isn’t suffering canine arthritis.
What is canine arthritis?
There is a common type of arthritis that both animals and humans suffer. This is the arthritis that comes from old age and simple wear and tear and is called osteoarthritis. The damage starts in the cartilage in the joint. The cartilage is a connective tissue found between the bones – it is both firm, but flexible.
Cartilage in the joints that starts to erode because of wear and tear or age or cartilage that is damaged because of an injury will eventually erode and damage the bone. Weight-bearing joints such as the hips, knees, shoulders and spine suffer the most from this erosion of the cartilage.
Your dog may exhibit signs of discomfort in the beginning stages of arthritis, but over time it will cause more pain. Arthritis is a progressive disease that has no cure, but pet owners can help alleviate the pain their big dogs feel. There are many treatment options available and they include:
- Laser treatment
- Weight reduction
- Therapeutic exercise
- Therapeutic massage
Taking your big dog on regular walks and making certain she gets exercise daily will help alleviate pain – a joint not used will seize up and become more painful. If your dog is in pain, start with short walks and work up to longer walks. If the weather is not conducive to an outdoor walk, undertake fun indoor activities with your pet to keep him moving.
If you have access to a swimming pool, that is a great exercise because it allows your dog to exercise without putting any pressure on her aching joints.
A little exercise is better than no exercise at all.
Your veterinarian may prescribe anti-inflammatories or recommend you give your dog over the counter supplements such as glucosamine. Dietary supplements don’t require a prescription from your veterinarian and they include: glucosamine and chrondroitin sulfate. Your doctor may recommend injections that will promote cartilage protection and enhance repair.
Along with exercise, you need to assure that your pet is at a healthy weight. Take him to the veterinarian for an examination and ask whether he is at an ideal weight. If not, take measures to get him to a healthy weight – whether that means upping his exercise, cutting back on treats or simply cutting back on the amount of food he is getting.
An overweight dog will suffer more from arthritis simply because of the additional pressure on his already aching muscles and joints.
Feed your dog a high quality, low calorie, low fat diet to help him shed any additional weight he may be carrying. Ask your veterinarian whether it might make sense to put your pet on a prescription weight loss food to help him safely get to an ideal weight.
Remember to not switch your dog from one kind of food to another without a transition period. Mix the new food with the old adding more new as time goes on. A quick change in food can lead to stomach upset.
Holistic healing methods are being embraced by humans and they are also seeking these treatments for their pets. Alternative healing methods can include herbal baths, massages, acupuncture or reiki. If you don’t know how to correctly massage your pet, take a class or look online at a reputable source; if you don’t you risk hurting your pet and maybe even getting bitten if you inadvertently press too hard on a particularly sore area.
Dr. Osborne, Chagrin Falls Pet Clinic, who has been a vet for more than 20 years, practices integrative veterinarian medicine. Her practice offers traditional and holistic services. “We can individualize and optimize therapies for all of the pets we treat,” she explained. “We combine traditional therapies with holistic methods to provide pets the best of both worlds.”
Keep him warm
In the winter, if your big dog tolerates it, dress him for the cold. Put a sweater on him. Wrap him in a blanket when he’s lying on his bed. Keep his bed in a warm location in the house, look for a pet-safe heated blanket to add to his comfort when he’s lying down.
If your dog has a hard time getting into or out of the car, invest in ramps to help him. Use stairs or a ramp to help her get on or off the furniture or your bed if she sleeps with you. Make certain he can easily walk in your house – clipped toenails and not having to walk on hardwood floor or linoleum help him navigate with more confidence.
If you notice your dog exhibiting any signs of aches or pains when he is going up and down stairs or getting up out of bed, it might be time to talk with your veterinarian and start him on a treatment plan to alleviate any potential issues he is having with arthritis or other joint pain.
Download our Canine Arthritis Guide.