Soothing Solutions

Help your arthritic dog live more comfortably.

By Marcia King | Posted: Tue Jun 28 00:00:00 PDT 2005

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First, Prevention
Additionally, you can help prevent or delay the onset of arthritis in your pet. Here's how:

  • Keep your dog or puppy trim. Excess weight puts additional force on the joints, basically wearing them out more quickly. Shedding extra pounds can decrease lameness associated with arthritis, as well as delay the onset of clinical signsobservable manifestations of the disease, says Ross H. Palmer, DVM, American College of Veterinary Surgeons diplomate and associate professor of small animal orthopedics at Colorado State University's veterinary teaching hospital.

  • Feed an appropriate diet. Large or giant breed puppies that are fed high levels of [energy-producing ingredients] and calcium are at much greater risk for developing orthopedic problems as young as 4 to 5 months of age, Millis notes. For super-size breeds, choose a large breed puppy formula; it will contain reduced amounts of energy ingredients and calcium.

  • Exercise appropriately. Exercise helps preserve joint and muscle health and aids in fitness and weight control. Keep training sessions, repetitions, and intensity limited, however, until a growing dog's skeletal system is mature. Explosive, high-impact activities such as flyball, coursing, and agility can put a lot of stress on developing bones and joints, Millis says.

    Ditto for aging dogs. As the animal and the cartilage age, switch from explosive, concussive activitiesrunning hard on a daily basis for long periods, jumping from high places, low-impact, aerobic exercise.

  • Exercise sensibly. Prior to sustained or hard-on-the-joint activities such as jogging and agility, provide a proper warm-up period by stretching your dog's muscles and slowly warming them up, gradually increasing the speed over several minutes to the desired level of performance. Add a cool-down period by slowing the level of activity, stretching, and possibly applying ice packs to affected joints.

    Back off if your dog displays post-exercise pain or stiffness. Let recovery happen, Millis says.

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