Arthritis is common in older dogs. Symptoms of arthritis in a dog include stiffness in all four legs, difficulty negotiating stairs and being reluctant to move. These symptoms tend to be worse right after the dog wakes up, or when he is cold. All dogs with these symptoms should see a vet to be sure it is arthritis and not something else. After a diagnosis, treatment can begin.
Arthritis is worse in overweight dogs. According to both The Doctors Book of Home Remedies for Dogs and Cats and the Arthritis Foundation, the best thing any owner of an arthritic dog can do is make sure she is put on a low-fat diet to lose any extra weight. As the dog loses weight, she will have more energy to exercise, which will in turn boost her weight loss.
Stiff joints become more supple with gentle exercise. Avoid exercising the dog in cold and damp weather, because that may be asking too much of the joints. If the dog is resistant in the morning, go for a walk in the afternoon or evening, once his limbs have a chance to warm up. Swimming is great, non-impact exercise for a dog.
The Doctors Book of Home Remedies for Dogs and Cats also recommends hot water bottles or hot compresses for dogs having an arthritis flareup. Hot water bottles or warm water compresses can be placed next to or on top of a stiff joint. If the dog yelps or shrinks away from the bottle or compress, it is too hot.
Acupuncture is the use of hair-thin needles placed at strategic points. Sometimes these needles are given a mild electric current. Many dogs fall asleep during treatments. These treatments are done periodically and combined with diet, exercise and other therapies. According to one study (see Resources), the use of acupuncture alone did not significantly help dogs with elbow arthritis.
Do not give dogs human arthritis medications, painkillers or nutritional supplements. These will be far too powerful for dogs, especially small dogs. Doses of medications are based on body weight. Know what your dog weighs. The general rule for aspirin dosage in a dog is 325 mg for every 10 pounds the dog weighs. Never give your dog a human medication of any kind without your vet's approval.