**Disclaimer: Always consult with your pup’s veterinarian before adding any medication or exercise to his/her dogly life!**
The last thing any pup parent ever wants to see is their dog suffering. Few things cut to our hearts faster than seeing our once agile buddies limping or wincing in joint pain, whether the discomfort is age or injury related.
But if your dog is one of millions experiencing joint discomfurt, there are many steps you can take to ease their pain and get them up and active again!
1. Maintain A Healthy Weight
Over 50% of America’s pet population is overweight and obesity puts pups directly in the path of joint issues. Extra pounds put more wear, tear, and trauma on a dog’s bone structure over time, long before the damage is visible on X-rays. So what to do? Consult your dog’s vet for a healthy weight management plan from puppyhood to avoid extra plump before it starts. And of course, exercise! Both you and your dog can benefit from multiple daily walks, and play and training sessions are not only fun, but calorie burning! Keeping it low impact is key.
2. Get wet!
On the calorie-burning and physical therapy lines, hydrotherapy is massively beneficial for alleviating joint pain while providing fun exercise. Getting in the water can be done via underwater treadmill, weighted laps, or just plain old swimming. But despite the method used, the rewards are plentiful, including increased tissue healing, relief of swelling and stiffness, gait modification, improved core strength, and much more. Low impact? Check!
3. Pedicure your pup
Good nail and foot care is essential for keeping your pup’s walking and running gate normalized. Having overgrown nails for a dog is like wearing misshapen shoes for hoomans: they distort comfortable walking and place abnormal stress on foot joints and ligaments. So keeping nails trimmed and regularly at the same length? It’s like getting a great pair of running shoes for your pup.
4. Turn up the heat
Heat therapy needs to be used with extreme caution and under vet supervision, but heating pads and soaks in heated water can help relax muscles, increase circulation, and lessen a pup’s pain. And the best part? The benefits of heating things up last hours after your dog is no longer a hot puptato.
5. Massage it away
Sore joints in dogs mirror those in humans, and arthritis frequently attacks hips, the lower spine, knees, and the shoulders and elbows. And guess what? Just like a massage feels ever so rebarkable to us, so too does it inspire those “ahhhhhhhs” in our pups. Experts suggest frequent 10-15 minute sessions, rather than intense spot-specific massage marathons. Learn more techniques here.
6. Incorporate supplements
Adding hip and joint supplements to your dog’s daily regimen is a great way to give them a boost of glucosamine and chondroitin. These joint-friendly ingredients can help reduce pain, keep cartilage in good shape, and make it easier for your dog to get up and move around.
7. Ramp it up
The easiest way to avoid the pain of jumping up the stairs? Don’t jump up the stairs! 🙂 Building or buying ramps, especially those covered with carpet, are a huge help to to pups in need of low-impact living. Make the slope as gradual as possible, secure it in place, and put ’em by the bed, the stairs, the car, the backyard, etc. The possibilities are endless, and so is the comfort.
8. Replace deflated mattresses
A good night’s sleep goes a long way! You don’t sleep on a paper thin mattress (I hope!), so try to replicate your Sleep Number for your dog. Consider an orthopedic memory foam bed to provide proper support and comfort.
9. Food and water: a little bit lower now!
The less energy your dog has to use to do simple tasks like eating, sleeping, and drinking, the more energy they’ll have for play. Keep bowls and toys close to the ground for ease and comfort of consumption.
10. Carpet or tile? Carpet!
Every time a pup steps on a hard surface, that impact can be felt in sore joints. So, the softer the surface, the lower the impact. Consider carpeting floors in your home where your pup frequents. Not only will they enjoy the soft cushioning, they’re also less likely to slip!
11. Help ‘Em Up—Literally!
Consider utilizing a Help ‘Em Up Harness, the first and only dog-lifting mobility harness. Available in many different sizes, this harness has strategic handles to give your buddy an extra lift when in need.
Special thanks to Dr. Alexis Holroyde of Tribeca Soho Animal Hospital for her consulting expawtise in writing this article!