Caring for Pets With Arthritis

*This article was also published on My Pet Savings in 2011

With age, arthritis can strike any dog or cat, but is more common in larger animals. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis that strikes pets, and once they start experiencing this ailment, pets will need extra steps taken to provide comfort. While drugs will likely be recommended by a veterinarian, there are many steps that can be taken at home to provide the arthritis suffering pet with comfort.

One of the easiest ways to keep an arthritic pet comfortable is to keep the area where they sleep at night warm. This is especially important if the pet sleeps outside in cold conditions. If this is the case, consider letting the pet sleep indoors, because the cold air is hard on the joints and will cause pain. If not, make sure the animal has an insulated retreat that has protection from the elements.

Providing an orthopedic bed is another great way to give your pet comfort. Some beds do have the proper filling to ease joint pressure, and some bed stuffings get pushed and moved around until the animal is ultimately laying in between the cushioning and not on it. Orthopedic beds can be found at most pet stores and are made of thick layers of memory foam that cushion the joints by providing an even amount of support. Even better than an orthopedic bed is one that is also heated. If you don’t go the heated route, there are other natural ways to soothe joints with heat therapy.

Sue Stephens, a veterinarian in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, states that applying “moist heat” directly to joints offers comfort. This can be done by soaking a towel in warm water and applying it directly to the joints, or doing the same with a warm water bottle. Stephens does not recommend using a heating pad, because they often get too hot and can burn the pet’s skin.

Low-impact exercise, like swimming, is especially helpful in helping dogs who have arthritis. Swimming let’s the dog maintain muscle strength without causing stress on the joints. If access to a lake, pond, or ocean isn’t available, there are animal care facilities where dogs can participate in water therapy specially for healing.

Arthritis discomfort is difficult for the caring pet parent to deal with because of having to see their pet in pain. Luckily, pet owners today have a variety of solutions for pain management that can be combined with traditional medical solutions, as well as alternative therapies.


Hoffman, Matthew, ed. The Doctors Book of Home Remedies for Dogs and Cats. New York: Rodale Press, 1996. 251-54. Print.

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