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DO get your dog to follow a weight control and adapted nutrition programme. Joint problems are aggravated by excess weight. If a joint is not working efficiently, carrying excess weight causes both additional pain and increased damage to the joint. Therefore, it is important that your dog maintains his or her ideal weight. You should refrain from over-feeding young dogs and should avoid over-supplementation with calcium and protein. Feeding your dog smaller portions of less-fattening food and cutting out ‘extras’ is the best way to control dietary intake and bodyweight. Your vet will be able to advise you on the most suitable diet for your dog’s needs.
DON’T stop your dog from exercising.
Moderate, monitored physical activity can help control clinical signs in dogs with osteoarthritis, by helping to:
• Prevent obesity and maintain muscle mass
• Improve strength and range of motion
• Reduce the need for pain relief
Regular, gentle exercise helps maintain mobility, as joints that do not have regular movement may stiffen up, encouraging your dog to become less and less active. Exercise may take the form of walks on the lead or more extensive types of recreation. Frequent gentle walks are of more benefit than highly energetic activities.
DO try hydrotherapy to relieve your dog’s osteoarthritic pain if recommended by your vet. Hydrotherapy is an increasingly popular complementary therapy for dogs with osteoarthritis and can reduce the need for drug therapy. Hydrotherapy involves purpose built pools that allow safe, controlled swimming for your dog. Swimming helps build muscle mass which will support the joint. It is a ‘low impact’ exercise which won’t aggravate joint pain.
DON’T stop anti-inflammatory treatment as soon as you can see a slight improvement in your dog’s mobility. Continuing the treatment for as long as your vet recommends will help your dog long-term. As osteoarthritis is a continuous degenerative process, continued treatment can help to prevent relapses.