Arthritis is a painful and debilitating condition that affects many dogs, causing stiffness, decreased mobility, and discomfort. Older dogs most often develop this degenerative disease, but young pups can also have arthritis. Watching your arthritic dog struggle with everyday activities is difficult to bear, but by providing proper care and pain management, along with some simple home modifications, you can help ease their pain, increase their mobility, and improve their quality of life. Our Roosevelt Animal Hospital team shares simple home adjustments to make life easier and more comfortable for your dog with arthritis. 

Canine arthritis causes 

Canine arthritis is a degenerative joint disease that occurs when the cartilage between a joint’s bones breaks down. When the joint loses this protective cushion, friction occurs between the bones, causing inflammation, pain, and decreased mobility. Arthritis can develop in any joint in your dog’s body, but the most commonly affected joints are the elbows, hips, knees, wrists, and lower back. Although any dog can develop arthritis, certain factors can increase their risk, including:

  • Aging
  • Congenital joint disorders (e.g., hip and elbow dysplasia)
  • Old injuries
  • Repeated joint trauma
  • Being a former athletic or working dog
  • Obesity
  • Metabolic diseases (e.g., diabetes, Cushing’s disease)
  • Breed (e.g., large- and giant-breed dogs)

Home modifications to support your arthritic dog 

A dog with arthritis can still enjoy a happy and fulfilling life, and you can support them at home by creating an accessible environment. Follow these tips to make your home safe and comfortable for your furry friend.

#1: Add traction to slippery surfaces to prevent your pet from falling

Dogs with arthritis may have difficulty walking on slick surfaces, such as tile or hardwood floors. Adding traction in areas where your dog spends most of their time, such as the living room, kitchen, and bedroom, can help prevent injuries from slips and falls. To help your arthritic dog more easily navigate your home, add traction by providing the following:

  • Rubber mats — Rubber mats come in various sizes, and you can place them in high-traffic areas to help your dog maintain their balance. 
  • Carpeting — Carpeting offers both traction and cushioning for your arthritic dog. If you don’t want to carpet your entire house, you can place it in areas where your dog might easily slip, such as on the stairs. Another option is to place carpet squares in high-traffic areas of the house. 
  • Traction tape — Traction tape is textured, and this material can easily be applied and removed without damaging your floors. 

#2: Install ramps for your dog

Your dog may have less mobility, but they still want to curl up on the couch or snuggle under the covers at night. Install a ramp next to their favorite resting areas to eliminate their need to climb or jump. A ramp can also be helpful when your dog is getting in and out of the car.

#3: Support your dog with mobility aids 

While ramps are extremely helpful, some dogs require a mobility aid’s additional support. A sling or harness with a handle can help you take some weight off your dog’s joints when they are rising, climbing into a vehicle, or walking across uneven ground. Use a harness or sling to help your dog get up from a reclined position and keep their paws under them as they walk.

#4: Provide comfortable bedding for your dog 

A soft, supportive bed provides cushioning and joint support for your dog’s arthritic joints. Orthopedic beds can significantly improve joint stiffness and discomfort in dogs with arthritis, and hip and elbow dysplasia. In a University of Pennsylvania study, dog owners reported a significant improvement in their pooch’s quality of life, mobility, and energy after using an orthopedic bed. In addition, consider providing your dog with a heated pad or blanket to provide additional warmth and comfort.

#5: Elevate your dog’s food and water dishes

When an arthritic dog lowers their head to eat or drink from their bowl, their weight shifts forward, applying pressure to their neck, shoulders, and elbows, which causes pain and balance loss. Elevated food and water bowls can make mealtime more comfortable for a dog with arthritis, as the increased height reduces the strain on their neck and back. Use a raised feeder to elevate your dog’s dishes, or place them on a step or box to create a more natural angle.

Arthritis is a painful condition, but by making simple modifications to your home, you can help keep your dog comfortable and active, and increase their quality of life. If your dog appears stiff and sore, and struggles to perform activities they once enjoyed, schedule an appointment with our Roosevelt Animal Hospital team. Our new facility will open in August 2023, and we look forward to helping ease your furry pal’s aches and pains.