As our beloved dogs start to slow down in their old age it can be a distressing time for us owners, however there can be many ways we can help them stay comfortable and keep a high quality of life.
Many older dogs experience osteoarthritis (OA) at some point towards the end of their life. OA is chronic degenerative condition. It can present at any age but it is more prevalent in older animals. OA affects 4/5 elderly dogs and 90% of cats over 12 years old. Structures within the joint degenerate over time and this results in pain causing reduced movement in the affected limb. Consequently, surrounding structures become weak and the body overcompensates in other areas, therefore causing more pain and tightness throughout the body.
OA cannot be cured and it does progress. However, with owner compliance and veterinary and physiotherapy care, steps can be taken to alleviate pain and improve quality of life.
6 top tips to keep your old dog more comfortable:
1) Weight Management - make sure they are nice and slim, carrying more weight will put more strain on the joints.
2) Exercise Management - make sure to keep them moving and exercising to prevent them getting stiff but not overdoing it and making them painful the next day. When on walks make sure they can have regular rest stops and take it at their own pace.
3) Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatories - these are helpful in reducing inflammation in the joints. Talk to your vet about what is the best course of action for your pet.
4) Supplements - there is varying evidence out there about joint supplements. As long as they are for dogs they are safe to use but it is still unsure about whether they do make a difference.
5) Physiotherapy and Hydrotherapy - these can both be very helpful in managing arthritis and improving the quality of life for those suffering. Massage can help release all the muscle tension due to compensation, LASER therapy can provide additional pain relief to the affected joints and hydrotherapy can help with exercise while reducing the weight-bearing through the sore joints.
6) Environmental Management - slippery floors, steps and drafts in the house can all aggravate OA in dogs. Your physio can advise you on any environmental changes that may be needed to be done around the house to make your dog more comfortable.
If you suspect your pet may be suffering from OA, please don't hesitate to get in touch with myself or your vet.