Glucosamine therapy is just one aspect of caring for a dog with arthritis or other degenerative joint disorders. While glucosamine can sometimes repair damaged joint tissues, some dogs have such an advanced case of arthritis that all the glucosamine replacement therapy can do is to halt or slow further deterioration of joint tissues.
While this may not be the outcome a dog owner hoped for, it is still important as it can prevent her dog’s quality of life from further decline. There is still value in being able to prevent your dog from experiencing further pain. Knowing some ways to reduce his pain and make it easier for him to move around even with decreased mobility can maintain his quality of life and make it easy for you to continue to spend time with him.
Your vet may continue to prescribe traditional pain medications for your dog. It is important to keep your dog on these medications, as they are the most important tool in managing the pain he feels as a result of his condition. Resist the temptation to give your dog pain medications for humans; these are not approved for animal use and may make your dog sick. If you are concerned about the price of these medications, you may be able to find them for sale on the Internet for significantly less expensive than they are at your veterinarian’s office.
Exercise is important for dogs with arthritis. This may seem counter-intuitive, but unless your dog continues to exercise his joints, he will become stiffer and experience even more pain when he does have to move around. A sedentary lifestyle may also cause your dog to gain weight. This can be problematic since excess weight can make it even more difficult for him to get around.
Your veterinarian may recommend feeding your dog a special dog food formulated for weight control. When thinking about exercises your dog can do without further damaging his joints or causing him more pain, it is best to stick to short periods of activity several times per day. Dogs need about as much as exercise for their continued health as humans do: about thirty minutes of exercise per day, which is also what is recommended for humans. Your dog may not be able to take a single thirty-minute walk each day, so two fifteen-minute walks or three ten-minute walks may be an alternative. Keep up a steady pace that allows your dog’s muscles to stretch but that will not overexert his joints.
During cold weather, it may be best to keep your dog inside, since cold temperatures can sometimes aggravate arthritis-related joint pain. Indoor exercises such as simple play activities or even walking around the house may be best on these days. Playing tug-of-war or fetch inside is an easy way to keep your dog moving while keeping you from getting bored. Your dog may be able to use a treadmill set at a reasonably slow pace. If you choose to exercise your dog using a treadmill, be sure to monitor him, as he could fall down and injure himself if the speed is too fast for him.
If your dog is accustomed to sleeping in your bed at night or to sitting next to you on the couch, you may consider getting or building a ramp to allow him to access these places he would normally have to jump to get to, since jumping may hurt him even if he is still able to do so. Suddenly being unable to spend time with you as he used to could cause your dog to become depressed, which could lead him to refuse food and exercise. Installing a ramp near exterior doors that have stairs can also help him get around.
If your home has interior stairs, and your dog is too large for you to carry easily, you may wish to purchase a sling to help him walk up and down the stairs by supporting some of his weight with the sling while you walk up with him. You may need to keep stairs inaccessible to your dog, since he may try to use the stairs even though it hurts him to do so. He may fall and injure himself by doing this, which could cause problems, particularly if he has trouble healing in a timely way. Slip-proofing linoleum or hardwood floors with rubberized runners or area rugs can help keep your dog from falling. Placing food and water bowls at a more comfortable height to eliminate the need for your dog to bend over to eat and drink can also make him more comfortable.
There are other non-pharmacological ways to help manage your dog’s pain. Sleeping on the floor can aggravate your dog’s joint pain since there is little support for your dog’s skeletal system. Buying a pet bed may be the easiest solution, but it may not be necessary, particularly if you are concerned with saving money. If you have disused towels and blankets, or even an old mattress, you can make a thick, soft bed for your dog to sleep on that will support his muscles and bones while also keeping him warm.
This will also provide a place to wrap a hot water bottle or heating pad, which can help alleviate the pain even more. If you do choose to purchase a pet bed, consider a heated pet bed. If possible, keep your dog’s bedding inside as opposed to outdoors or in a garage, since these places can make it hard for your dog to relax and can get cold, particularly in fall and winter.
Adjusting to life with a mobility disorder can be difficult for both you and your dog, since it involves lifestyle changes and environmental changes. However, doing so can be rewarding, since it will help you and your dog to remain close despite his health problems. Making accommodations for him the way you would for any other family member with a chronic illness can maximize his quality of life and yours.