Dogs are not only our best friends, they are a vital part of our family. Their happy welcoming bark and excited wagging tail is one of the best things about coming home, but it may have been a decade or more since they first came home as a puppy. Now, they're in their twilight years and it's showing. In addition, they've got a few aches and pains and we want them to be with us for a good many years, so that means doing all we can to keep them healthy and in tip top shape.
The best way to keep your fur baby strong and healthy into their senior years is to start early - prevention is better than cure. Next is to know what symptoms to look for so you catch the problem in its early stages, and finally, knowing your options for treatment.
Starting On The Right Foot
Although some degenerative and “old age” illnesses cannot be prevented, ensuring that your dog gets the right amount of exercise, proper diet, care, and mental stimulation is key to keeping your dog healthy, happy and active well into his golden years. As each breed has different requirements and levels of activity that is right for them, ensure you check what is the best diet and exercise routine for your dog.
Arthritis - A Common Problem In Older Dogs
There are many health issues that can come up as our best friend gets older, and just like us humans, one of the first things to develop are joint problems and Arthritis. This is natural due to wear and tear on the joints, but can also be the result of chronic, low-grade inflammation which can cause the immune system to release proteins that damage joints resulting in pain and more inflammation.
As dogs do a good job of hiding their pain, it's especially important to take note of these common symptoms, all of which could be signs that your dog may have Arthritis or other joint issues:
• Slowing down during walks or other activities, sleeping more than usual
• Stiffness or liming, especially first thing in the morning or after lying down
• Change in posture such as a lower head, humped back, or favoring one leg
• Change in behavior such as having less enthusiasm to play, reduced appetite, or even depression
• Difficulty doing common things such as going up and down stairs, climbing onto the bed or car
As there are a number of other issues such as hip dysplasia
, torn ACL, and other that could display similar symptoms, it is always best to have your vet do a thorough physical of your pet to be sure.
My Dog Has Arthritis, Now What?
If your dog has been diagnosed with some form of arthritis or joint disease your vet may prescribe one of the popular Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) like Rimadyl, Metacam, Deramaxx and Previcox. Before giving your dog any drug, make sure you understand not only what the drug does but also the risks associated with these drugs. Some of these medicines, much like Aspirin, act as blood thinners which can cause other issues for your dog.
An article published in Dogsnaturally magazine, titled 'Pain Meds, Why they cause more harm than good', quotes Dr Colin Burrows, an internal medicine specialist at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, who states: “Aspirin and other NSAIDs frequently cause gastritis or peptic ulcers and should be avoided unless absolutely necessary. NSAIDs designated for human use, such as ibuprofen…, should never be used in dogs or cats. These drugs cause severe, frequently fatal gastric and intestinal ulceration.”
If you are thinking that there are no other options, be assured that there are various natural remedies that, although will not cure arthritis permanently, can go a long way to help relieve pain and give your dog the ability to continue to enjoy his years with you.
What Natural Ingredients Can Benefit Arthritis In My Older Dog?
More and more humans are turning to natural ingredients for their own health, and pet owners are doing the same for their fur babies. Supplements with ingredients like Glucosamine and Chondroitin help to form chemical compounds that protect joint tissue and slow down the breakdown of cartilage. Giving your dog these supplements can help reduce inflammation thereby lessening the pain, aches and soreness associated with Arthritis. Another natural substance with miraculous powers is Turmeric. This spice is also a natural anti-inflammatory, which happens to work well for dogs too, and can help with joint pain, digestive issues, strengthening the immune system, as well as helping to relieve pain that comes with Arthritis.
Other options include herbs, a change in diet and homeopathic remedies
. We highly recommend BestLfe4Pets' Walk Easy
remedy, an all-natural formula designed to reduce your pet's pain and increase their mobility. These options are very effective, safe and do not have the negative side-effects common to prescription drugs.
What Other Natural Ways Can I Help My Aging Dog?
There are many natural alternatives to help your dog ease into his golden years. Here are just a few:
Aquatic Or Aqua Therapy For Dogs
There are many natural ways to help your ageing dog, and some of them are quite enjoyable for him, like aqua therapy. Aqua therapy is where your dog is placed in a shallow tank of water with a treadmill on the bottom of the tank. Your dog doesn't have to be able to swim, because he just walks in the shallow water on the treadmill, which helps him exercise his joints while taking the pressure off and reducing the pain of walking on the hard ground. Also referred to as Hydrotherapy, this treatment can help with general conditioning, pain control, injury prevention, and post operative rehabilitation as well as providing your dog with many other health benefits.
In addition, the benefits of Hydrotherapy for dogs outweighs almost any other type of therapy, and it can be used all year round. Each Hydrotherapy facility is different so it's always better to visit one first to ask any questions you may have ahead of time, and to set up a schedule. Moreover, Aqua therapy is also extremely good for building muscle, especially after surgery where a pet has had to rest for a long period of time and lost some muscle.
Massage Therapy For Dogs
Massage therapy has been around for thousands of years for humans, and it has more recently been used on animals with great success. Massage can increase your dog’s overall wellness, reduce stress, and give a general sense of calming. However, there is much more to massage than people realize, when performed by a certified professional working with your dog's individual needs, therapeutic massage can be used to increase flexibility and movement, provide pain relief and pain reduction, increase blood circulation, remove toxins from the body, and even decrease recovery time for those that have had an operation. Therefore, do not be shy when hiring a massage therapist for your older pet, as many think this is only for humans, your older pets can greatly benefit from these professional services too.
Physiotherapy For Dogs
Physiotherapy is another long and trusted form of therapy for both humans and pets alike, and works especially well when combined with any or all of the other treatments mentioned. Furthermore, there are numerous benefits for using physiotherapy for your dog, like when his temperament changes, he's walking more stiffly, paralysis, showing a reluctance to play, walk or go upstairs, lame or limping, or after a surgical procedure. In these cases physiotherapy can restore your dog’s independence and mobility, improve performance and overall well being, and prevent further damage or injury.
You Know Your Dog Best
You know your dog the best, but with any procedure or treatment it's always good to have regular checkups with your vet. Be sure to tell your vet about any changes in your dog’s behavior no matter how small you may think they are as they may be a sign of something more. Remember that early detection gives you and your pet a better chance of being treated in less invasive ways.
Whatever the issues that old age brings, always look for a variety of options including some natural and alternative approaches that can be just as effective as more traditional drugs. Good early habits, proper monitoring and detection, as well as having a clear understanding of all available treatment options will ensure that you spend many happy years with your best friend.