Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition which cannot be cured and will progress with time, but it is a manageable condition.

Once your dog has been diagnosed with OA then there are a number of treatment options that are available to help keep them comfortable.

The best approach is a multi-modal one, meaning that the treatment plan should encompass a number of different aspects including medication, joint supplements, complimentary therapies (such as physiotherapy), exercise modification, home adaptations and weight loss.

This type of  approach combines both medical and non-medical aspects to create an effective treatment plan. These are represented by two interlocking triangles in the diagram below.

When it comes to medical management, liaise with you vet to establish a pharmaceutical protocol that works for your dog. There  are a number of different drugs available including a group called NSAID’s (non-steroidal antiinflammatory drugs) along with other medications that can provide pain relief.

Complimentary therapies such as physiotherapy and hydrotherapy are very beneficial for dogs with OA to help enhance their quality of life.

Physiotherapy encompasses a range of techniques and modalities from LASER to massage to therapeutic exercises.

The main aims of physiotherapy for a dog with arthritis are:

  • Relieve joint pain – LASER is great for reducing inflammation and relieving associated pain.
  • Relieve muscular tension – massage can be used to address areas of muscular tension and trigger points (knots in the muscle).
  • Maintain joint range of movement – stretching helps keep joints as mobile as possible.
  • Muscle building/strengthening – therapeutic exercises target specific muscle groups to help keep them strong enough to enable the dog to be capable of completing functional activities in life e.g. walking, sitting, toileting
  • Weight loss – if necessary, incorporating an appropriate exercise plan.

Weight control is very important, if your dog is carrying excess weight this will put additional pressure on their joints.

Use a body condition scoring scale to assess their current weight and adjust their diet if necessary to keep them an ideal weight.

Finally, last but by no means least are environmental adaptations. There are a number of small changes that you as an owner can make to your dog’s home environment and exercise routine which can make their life a whole lot easier.

Here are five top tips:

  1. Remove slippery floors – replacing all your lovely wooden floors would be a bit extreme but putting rugs down to cover such floors is a simple and cost effective solution to avoid any slips if your dog is a bit unsteady on their pins.
  2. Support them getting in and out of the car – lifting them or using a ramp can make car access much easier, even if they think they can still jump they might not be as sprightly as they once were and could take a fall.
  3. Minimise going up and down stairs – negotiating steps can be more difficult for arthritic dogs and can be hazardous if they slip. Baby gates are useful for keeping them contained on the ground floor.
  4. Exercise modification – little and often is the golden rule! Break their walks down into 2 or 3 shorter walks a day rather than one long trek to give them time to rest and recover in between.
  5. Adapt their playtime – chasing a ball is not the best activity as it puts a lot of pressure on the joints. Get creative and try changing to ‘brain training’ games such as using their nose to find a ball that has been hidden. That way they are keeping mentally active too, bonus!

If you would like any further advice or information regarding physiotherapy treatment for a pet with osteoarthritis please get in touch.