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Information Connection: Caring for Your Senior Dog

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Top 10 Tips To Help Your Arthritic Dog

Dr. Debra Primovic

Dog arthritis is one of the most common diseases that affect canines, especially large breed dogs (60-90 lbs). Just as human arthritis, dog arthritis tends to get worse with age.

Here are 10 tips that may help your arthritic dog:

  1. Slip-free Flooring. Hardwood and tile floors are slippery and can be very difficult for dogs with arthritis to move around. Placing carpet or area rugs will help secure your dog's footing. This can help prevent your dog from slipping and getting injured.
  2. Soft Bed. Soft bedding can help support your dog’s bones and joints and make your pet more comfortable. This can be especially important in thin dogs in which bony prominences are likely to rub on hard surfaces. Some beds are made especially for dogs with arthritis, such as waterbeds, hammock beds, and beds with plenty of extra cushion.
  3. Ramps or Cubes. Stairs and furniture can become difficult obstacles for your aging companion. Ramps or specially designed cubes can help pets safely climb stairs, get into or out of bed or get in and out of your vehicle. Ramps can be made of plastic or wood and are available from many pet catalogs. A product called "Puppy Stairs" consists of soft modular cubes that fit together in combinations that permit pets to climb up or down from beds or sofas. These cubes are made of soft rubber. They have rounded corners and washable covers.
  4. Medication. Various medications are available that can help your dog feel better. Medications include drugs such as Deramaxx®, Rimadyl® or Etogesic®. These drugs are classified as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and work to suppress inflammation and pain.  Other medications such as Cosequin® can also be beneficial by providing your dog’s body with necessary nutrients for cartilage repair and function. See your veterinarian to discuss if any of these medications could benefit your dog.
  5. Peace & Quiet. As your dog ages, he may not be as tolerant or patient as he used to be. Sore joints make it difficult for your pet to enjoy rambunctious playful children. Supervise playtime and consider keeping your dog away from very young children. Even parties and holiday time can be distressing for an arthritic dog. Your dog may want to join in the festivities regardless of the discomfort. To reduce joint pain and inflammation, you may want to limit your arthritic dog’s time as the center of attention.
  6. Massage. By massaging your dog, you can increase his or her flexibility, circulation, calmness and a general sense of wellness. Professional animal massage therapists are available to provide your pet a more thorough treatment.
  7. Weight Control and Dietary Therapy. Arthritis is more of a problem in obese pets. Weight loss can be beneficial by reducing the workload on your dog’s bones and joints. In addition to basic weight loss, there are diets formulated for dogs with arthritis that may be beneficial for your dog. Diets, such as Hills® Science Diet® j/d™ and Purina® JM Joint Mobility™ have been shown to help dogs with arthritis maintain weight, reduce pain and improve mobility.
  8. Exercise. Modest daily exercise can help some dogs. Special care is needed, so it is important to first see your veterinarian, who can recommend an appropriate exercise program. Exercise can strengthen your dog’s muscles and ligaments thus reducing your dog’s injury potential and risk.
  9. Extra Time. Don't rush a dog with arthritis. It often takes them extra time to walk, climb stairs, or get in and out of the car. Support and help your arthritic dog if needed or just give your pet the extra time to get around.
  10. Grooming. Grooming should not be neglected, especially in the older dog. Arthritic dogs have a difficult time keeping themselves clean, especially in those hard to reach areas. Help your dog stay clean by trimming the hair around the rear end. Brushing will help remove mats and tangles, which can injure delicate older skin.

Follow these top 10 tips, and you’ll be able to keep your arthritic dog living longer, stronger, happier and healthier.

Editor's note: Another problem dogs of all ages, and humans, face is light-induced sleep deprivation. Melatonin, which is essential to proper sleep, requires darkness. As we (and dogs) age, melatonin is harder to produce and our sleep is less productive. Light at night interferes with melatonin production. Reducing or eliminating night-time light reduces this problem, and we need all the help we can get. So do our pets!

Remove indoor night lights, if possible. If that's not possible, then look at ways to shield or reduce the light output away from sleeping areas. If you are using outdoor solar lights, either replace them with properly shaded lights that illuminate only the walkway, or remove them.


About the Author 

With her columns, Dog safety and health expert, Dr. Debra Primovic has helped thousands of dog owners keep their dogs living longer and stronger. For more information, check out for 8,000+ veterinarian approved articles guaranteed to keep you from compromising the care of your dog.

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