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Chronic pain couldn’t stop Baxter, the therapy dog with arthritis, from comforting hospice patients.
The 19-year-old Chow-Labrador mix couldn’t walk because of the pain, so his dog mom, Melissa Joseph, towed him in a wagon from hospital bed to hospital bed. Joseph would heave Baxter onto a patient’s bed and then Baxter would dispense cuddles and kisses.
Baxter “eased peacefully from this life” in October, according to Joseph.
As in Baxter’s case, arthritis can be severe. In some cases, pet parents make the difficult decision to euthanize their pets because it is difficult to manage the disease, according to The Dog Daily.
Dogs with arthritis are suffering from inflammation of the joints, according to Healthypet.com. There are different types of arthritis. The most common is osteoarthritis, where the cartilage that cushions joints wears down and bones rub against each other. The friction can damage the bones themselves.
Arthritis in dogs may not be apparent right away, since animals can’t complain about the pain. When a dog first gets arthritis she may start avoiding activities she used to enjoy or become agitated when touched. The animal may get depressed, change eating habits or become grumpy.
The veterinarian will test the dog to see what type of arthritis she has. Sometimes a bacterial infection inside a joint or an autoimmune disorder can cause arthritis. Hip or elbow dysplasia can cause arthritis but can be treated surgically.
Veterinarians stress that pet parents shouldn’t try to medicate their four-legged companions on their own. Human anti-inflammatory drugs and supplements can be dangerous to animals.
After diagnosis, veterinarians can determine the best course of treatment. It could be steroids, anti-inflammatory drugs, operations, dietary supplements, acupuncture or massage.
Taylor Truitt, a veterinarian and certified veterinary acupuncturist, advises pet parents to feed their canine family members supplements of glucosamine and chondroitin. Chondroitin is found in cartilage, and the body produces glucosamine. Both can increase the sponginess and elasticity of cartilage which helps the dog’s mobility, Truitt said.
James Cook, a veterinarian at the University of Missouri-Columbia, may have found a way to diagnosis arthritis, according to The Dog Daily. Cook and a research team examined the fluid that surrounds and lubricates joints, and identified seven proteins that may be linked to arthritis.
Arthritis can be treated but is permanent, and pet parents must take steps to help their furry companions cope, such as making alterations around the home to make it easier for the dog to move around, according to Healthypet.com. Pet parents should think about making activities easier for Spot.
You can also take the following steps to help your arthritic dog:
- Give your dog a padded surface in a warm, draft-free spot to cushion her joints where she sits and sleeps.
- Groom your dog regularly since she has lost her flexibility and can’t stretch as much to scratch.
- Your dog might stumble on slippery floors. Make floors safer by applying a non-skid runner, available at most home improvement and hardware stores.
- Ramps will make it easier for your dog to get on the couch, porch, etc. and keep her from jumping. You can construct one from a sheet of heavy plywood lined with carpeting. Made sure both ends are completely secured and the angle isn’t too steep.
- Your dog may try to climb the stairs even though she’s stiff. Supervise her when she’s doing this to make sure she doesn’t fall and hurt himself.
- A homemade sling of thick durable fabric can help support the weight of a large dog as she moves. Slip the sling under her chest and hold one end in each hand. Pull the ends to help her stand and get her balance.
- Warmth can soothe a sore dog while she sleeps. Wrap a hot water bottle in towels and place it in your dog’s bed.
- An arthritic dog needs to avoid strenuous exercise that could damage her joints. But light exercise is good for strengthening muscles, maintaining weight, keeping ligaments and tendons flexible, and circulating blood to stiff joints. If your dog is reluctant to move, entice her with an incentive such as a treat-filled Kong toy. Make these easy workouts enjoyable with lots of affection and maybe a healthy treat afterward.
- A healthy diet and weight management are also important to dogs suffering from arthritis because extra pounds increase stress on joints. Consult with your veterinarian to determine the best ways to make life more comfortable for your dog.
Find A Vet HOW TO articles are intended for informational purposes only. You should always consult with your veterinarian about any health issues affecting your dog.