Learning About Orthopedic Injuries In Dogs

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Alternative Pet Therapy Treatments For Dogs With Arthritis

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Canine arthritis is a painful and debilitating condition that affects your dog's joints, and while anti-inflammatory medications can help improve a dog's range-of-motion and relieve pain, these medications can cause side effects. Common side effects of anti-inflammatory drugs include stomach upset and loss of appetite, and may even put your dog at risk for gastrointestinal bleeding and renal failure. Here are three alternative pet therapy treatment options that may help keep your dog pain free without the side effects that medications can cause.

Exercise As Tolerated

Your arthritic dog may experience morning stiffness and pain upon rising. Short walks will help improve mobility, while easing stiffness, but should only be offered if your dog is not in any visible pain. Walks may even increase the amount of fluid that is in your dog's joints to help make walking easier.  

If you are able to locate a holistic veterinarian, your dog may be able to participate in hydotherapy sessions, where the animal can swim. Low impact water exercises keep stress off your dog's hips and allows for smoother movements. While exercising and water therapy may not be able to reverse existing joint damage causes by canine arthritis, it may help slow the progression of future joint destruction. 


Massage therapy helps improve circulation, while relieving pain and stiffness in the arthritic dog. Not only can gentle massage minimize discomfort, it can also promote the release of "feel good" chemicals in your dog's brain. When these chemicals are released, your dog may perceive pain differently or may not feel it at all.

Massage also promotes bonding between you and your dog, which makes it mutually beneficial. When your dog feels safe and secure with you, pain tolerance may increase. Before embarking on a massage therapy session with your dog, demonstrate your technique to your veterinarian to make sure that your movements are beneficial and not adding to the animal's discomfort. 

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are abundantly found in fish, however, they are also available in supplement form, and in certain types of fortified dog food. Omega-3 fatty acids are also potent anti-inflammatory nutrients and may be beneficial in the treatment of canine arthritis.

According to Dogs Naturally, "a study published in Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, by the University of Bristolbacks up anecdotal claim that omega-3-rich diets can reduce the damage from osteoarthritis." Before you give your dog omega-3 fatty acid supplements, check with your veterinarian because they may interfere with your dog's current medications or may not be recommended when certain medical conditions are present.

If your dog has arthritis that is unresponsive to conventional medical treatment, consider alternative pet therapy. Either alone or in conjunction with traditional veterinary care, alternative pet therapy may be just what your dog needs to put the spring back into its step. For more information about alternative therapy, contact the Downing Center For Animal Pain Management.