Simple Ways To Relieve Your Dog’s Joint Pain

Attractive young woman with labrador outdoors. Woman on a green grass with dog labrador retriever.

Has your dog lost their mobility over the years? Is the hyperactive puppy who enjoyed jumping, diving, swimming, and sprinting during the springtime of their life now a grumpy senior citizen "couch potato" in their autumn/winter years?

As dogs grow older their joints deteriorate, affecting their ability to participate in their favorite activities. In more extreme cases, joint conditions can even cause trouble with daily tasks such as walking or going up and down stairs.

There are many ways to help older dogs relieve their joint pain and restore proper function, as well as preventive measures to help younger dogs avoid or at least postpone the ravages of old age.

Symptoms of Joint Problems in Dogs

Preventive action is the most essential key to improving your dog's joint health. Try to support your dog's joints before there is pain or stiffness. All dogs experience joint issues as they age.

Limping is often the first sign of joint pain caused by injury, arthritis, or other health issues. Another visible sign is that your dog appears to be stiffer after waking from a nap.

In severe cases, your dog may howl — or even snap at you — if you touch a sore spot or push them too hard during an exercise session.

Another, less obvious, symptom that something is wrong is your dog's sudden reluctance to go on walks or play with you.

If your dog starts acting out of the ordinary, seems weaker or less stable in its joints, or just acts like "something's wrong," it probably is. It's always best to make a trip to the vet to have the dog examined for a proper diagnosis and possible prescriptions.

How to Improve Your Dog's Joints

There are many ways to improve your dog's joints. Whether looking for a natural alternative, such as CBD or fish oil, or you're curious about veterinarian-prescribed medication, you'll find plenty of tools in this article.

Dog laying on its back pretending to chest press a barbell

Medication

Your vet can help identify the cause of your dog's joint issues and recommend solutions to help alleviate pain and inflammation. A veterinarian may recommend medications such as Carprofen, Meloxicam, or Galliprant, to treat the condition by reducing swelling.

These anti-inflammatory medications can be administered by injections, oral tablets, or a topical formula rubbed on sore spots. It is important to know that over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs can be harmful to your dog.

"Tylenol, ibuprofen, aspirin, and other anti-inflammatory pain relievers can be severely toxic to your dog," San Francisco-area veterinarian Dr. Ayeley Okine said. "But some medications can be given — some designed specifically for pets and some for people that are safe for pets.

"Veterinarians may sometimes prescribe opioid medications for pet pain relief," Okine continued. "Talk to your vet about the best kind of medication for your dog. They'll be able to prescribe the right dosage based on your dog's weight."

Keep Your Dog on All Fours

When your dog is a puppy, it's tempting to let them stand on their hind legs next to you while you play with them and feed them treats. Unfortunately, over time this position can cause strain on the joints in their back, legs, and ankles. If your dog stands on two legs periodically, there should be no adverse effects. If it becomes a habit or regular practice, it can lead to joint problems later on.

It's best to train your dog when they are young to keep all four feet firmly planted on the ground. Instead of "stand and beg" — and yes, they can be very cute when they do that — teach them to shake hands, roll over, "play dead," or another safer and healthier trick they can perform when they want your attention. 

Stay Active

Exercise is essential for every dog but especially for those with joint issues. A dog's joints remain lubricated and become strengthened with frequent exercise.

How often do you take your dog on a walk? Walking is very important and should be incorporated into your dog's daily routine from a young age.

If you have a large fenced yard, playing with your dog throughout the day may be enough to keep them active — as long as the game involves moving their legs and joints.

Dogs that live sedentary lifestyles may develop many health issues — especially in the joints. Early joint problems can often be avoided by setting up an activity schedule for your dog and sticking to it. 

Human fingers press on a dog arm at a joint

Don't Allow Your Dog To Overexert Themselves

Do you have a hyperactive dog? If so, they often require more exercise than a normal canine. While keeping your dog active is essential, you also want to ensure they are doing it correctly.

Pay attention to your dog's age. If your dog is young, taking them on a long hike will help them burn off some of their energy. If your dog is "middle-aged" or elderly, don't take them on long walks, play too hard with them, or expect them to have the same physical fitness they did in their younger years. 

There are some tricks and positions that can be harmful to your dog's joints, particularly when they jump down from high points. Don't allow your dog to climb anything detrimental to their joints, jump on items such as a trampoline, or jump off a deck or other platform.

Even if your dog enjoys jumping from heights and doesn't appear to be hurt afterward, the hard impact will eventually cause joint damage and create issues for them in their later years that can easily be avoided now. 

CBD

CBD can help your dog by reducing pain and inflammation. While it is tempting to call this "cannabis for canines" or "pot for pooches," CBD is a chemical found in the hemp plant and does not contain the THC found in marijuana. Many tout the therapeutic effects of CBD for dogs — and their owners.

CBD can be consumed or used topically. Many dog treats contain CBD, which can improve your dog's joint health. You can buy drops and add them to their food or water or drop them directly into your dog's mouth.

If you're looking for a natural, easy way to ease your dog's joint pain, CBD is a great choice. It's relatively inexpensive, especially if purchased by the bottle.  

Dog is administered CBD oil by dropper

Massages

Massages are a great way to alleviate your dog's joint pain. Massaging your dog's joints can reduce the pain and inflammation associated with their joint condition. Dog massages can also improve circulation and increase the range of motion in the affected joints. 

When massaging your canine, don't overdo it. Massages release toxins within the joints and muscles that can cause stiffness or pain once released. Make sure your dog drinks plenty of water after their massage to prevent these issues from happening. If your companion suffers from constant or frequent joint pain, spend a few minutes several times a week massaging your dog, spend quality time with them, and show your canine how much you love them. 

Take Your Dog to the Chiropractor

If your dog has trouble getting around, it may be time to take them to the chiropractor. Just like humans, dogs can benefit from having their joints adjusted. Chiropractic care relieves pain and improves mobility in dogs of all ages.

Many pet owners are hesitant to take their animals to the chiropractor, but there is no need to worry. Chiropractors who treat animals are specially trained to do so safely and effectively.

Supplements For Your Dog's Health

Many supplements can benefit your dog's joint health. Here are two popular choices:

Glucosamine

Glucosamine is great for your dog's joint health. It's a supplement that can be administered to dogs to relieve joint stiffness and pain. Glucosamine also prevents future damage to your dog's joints. 

You can purchase this supplement in powder or pill form and add it to your dog's food, so they won't even know it's there! If you're looking for a safe supplement for your dog, glucosamine is very beneficial, as it's made naturally in the body.

Dog joint 3D rendering with red inflamed area

Fish Oil

Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids that promote joint health in your dogs. They can naturally consume fish oil from salmon, tuna, and mackerel sources, but you can also supplement it into your dog's diet. 

You can buy fish oil in liquid or capsule form, add it to your dog's food or a favorite treat, and provide them with plenty of essential fatty acids to keep their joints happy. Fish oil has a prominent smell that may be off-putting to you, but your dog — and their joints — will surely enjoy it. 

Don't Overdo the Carbs

Carbohydrates are essential to a dog's diet, but eating too many carbs can lead to joint problems. Excess carbs can cause inflammation in the joints, which can create symptoms of pain and stiffness.

Oats, potatoes, and rice are examples of carbs found in dog food. While these foods can benefit your dog's health, they're best eaten in small amounts regularly and not necessarily needed in large quantities for your dog's health to thrive. 

If you think your dog is eating too many carbs, ask your vet how you can adjust your dog's diet to ensure they reduce their carb intake and still receive all the nutrients needed to stay healthy.

Don't Overfeed Your Dog

A healthy weight is necessary to keep your dog's joints strong. Excess weight can put undue stress on your dog's body, and that can lead to joint issues down the road. Maintaining a healthy weight leads results in stronger muscles, and the muscles support the joints.

While ensuring your dog receives enough exercise is essential, the amount of food you feed them is just as significant. 

Schedule meal times for your dog. Only add food to their dish when the food level is low. Dogs don't have the same level of self-control as humans when it comes to eating. As a general rule, if they see it they will eat it. They will often eat until they can't take another bite — even if it makes them feel ill or bloated.

Feeding your dog healthy, nutritious foods will provide the necessary nourishment. Be aware that some dog foods contain more filler ingredients than nutritional ones. These items can cause your dog to gain weight because their ingredients aren't necessarily beneficial for the dog.

The amount of food your dog should eat and how often it should eat depends on your dog's age, breed, and size. If your dog is currently overweight, it's time to design a plan to help them lose weight, which should alleviate some of the pain and stress associated with its joint issues. 

Dog sits on a dog ramp near bed

Dog Ramps

Due to old age or health conditions, some dogs struggle to jump on the couch or into bed at night. Yes, it's easy to pick them up and help them down whenever they want to join you for a nap if your companion is a Chihuahua, but it could be challenging if they're a chow chow — or, even more so, a Great Dane.

Setting up a dog ramp that connects to your bed, couch, or any of your dog's favorite spots is an easy way to give them access. Ramps allow your dog to get into places that may be difficult because of their joint issues. It can also prevent your dog from any additional strain on the joints.

Be sure to buy a ramp with a height and width suitable for your dog's size.

Take Your Dog Swimming

Swimming is one of the best exercises for dogs because it is a low-impact sport that improves their overall health and well-being. Swimming is especially beneficial for dogs struggling with joint problems because it reduces pain and stiffness while providing a workout that is easy on their joints.

If your dog enjoys swimming, consider taking them to a local pond or lake where they can swim freely and get some much-needed exercise. 

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is not only for humans. You can use this ancient Chinese method on your dog's joints to relieve pain and improve mobility.

Acupuncture promotes healing within specific areas of the body. Multiple needles are placed on the body, which can reduce inflammation and pain. Many veterinarians who offer acupuncture also recommend massage and physical therapy to alleviate the symptoms.

Golden retriever jumps into a swimming pool

Prevention Is Key

No doubt you have heard Benjamin Franklin's sage advice: "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." It still rings as true as the Liberty Bell in the case of preventing joint problems in your canine companions.

The best way to keep your dog's joints healthy is with preventive measures — keep them active from a young age, maintain a healthy weight, and avoid causing joint strain from standing on hind legs or jumping from heights. 

Include joint-friendly foods in their diet to ensure they receive nutritional support to promote well-being.

If you notice your canine struggling to walk up the stairs or simply want to keep their joints working in top shape, as you've learned in this article, there are many ways to do so to keep your dog healthy and active.

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