How to take care of arthritis in dogs

Dec 30, 2011 at 7:30 p.m. ET

As we get older, we may notice new aches and pains -- and the rules of aging also apply to our canine counterparts. In fact, one in every five adult dogs in the United States is affected by arthritis. Luckily, you can help your pets manage and treat this painful illness.

Woman playing fetch with dog in park


No one can predict the toll Mother Nature will have on our furry friends. Taking all necessary health precautions as early as possible gives your pet a better chance at long-term health. A few tips to keep in mind:

Food does not equal love

We all love to shower our pets with love in the form of food and treats, but too much "love" can harm their health. Just like humans, excess weight can lead to a variety of health problems. Make sure you read your pet food labels, follow the recommended daily portions and keep the treats to a minimum. If you have a tough time ignoring your pet's plea for a snack, carrots make a great healthy alternative to fattening treats.

Keep your pet active

Daily exercise helps keep bones and muscles in tip-top shape. Play with your cats' favorite toy or take your dog for a run to help them keep joints working smoothly and maintain a healthy weight. As an added benefit, this is a great way to spend extra bonding time with your pet.

Schedule routine visits to the vet

As your pet ages, it becomes more important to check her health on a regular basis. Discuss a proper time frame of checkups with your vet and schedule them accordingly.

Early detection

We do our best to monitor our pet's well-being. Unfortunately, risk factors like genetics and aging are out of our control. Knowing how to read the signs that your pet doesn't feel his best can help jump-start their treatment and reduce pain. No one knows your pet better than you, so keep an eye out for changes in behavior that are out of the ordinary and respond accordingly.

Some tell-tale signs that your four-legged friend feels poorly:

  • Limping
  • Reluctant to walk or get up in standing position
  • Sleeping more
  • Decreased activity
  • Lack of interest in play
  • Attitude or behavior changes


There are many forms of pet arthritis and a variety of pain medications to discuss with your vet. For "at-home" ways to help keep your pet at ease and pain-free, try the following suggestions:

Shed the pounds

Reducing the amount of weight resting on your pet's joints greatly reduces your her discomfort. Focus on strict a strict feeding regimen and non-strenuous exercise like swimming or walking.

Pet vitamins

Daily supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin can help loosen the joints and ease the pain. Be patient, as the supplements may take a few weeks to kick-in.

Make omega 3 fatty acids part of their meal plan

Fish oil pills provide a great way to incorporate omega 3 fatty acids that work as a powerful anti-inflammatory agents. Slowly work them into your pet's feeding regimen and carefully track health results.

More tips for pet owners

What to look for in pet food ingredients
How to maximize quality time with your pet
Using GPS to track your pet