Osteoarthritis, also known as arthritis, or degenerative joint disease is a progressive and permanent deterioration of joints, vertebrae, and phalanges. Dogs of all breeds and of all ages can be affected.
The joint is a collection of different parts that work together for movement. Osteoarthritis affects the entire joint, including the bones which are the foundation of the joint, the ligaments that act to stabilize the joint, the cartilage that is the shock absorber of the joint and the synovial fluid and membrane that lubricates the cartilage.
Arthritis results in painful movement(active or passive), swelling around the joints, decreased activity, restricted movement, and irritability due to discomfort. Dog arthritis symptoms can be a change in gait, lameness or limping after resting, stiffness, difficulty or inability to get up, getting tired easily, reluctance to walk, run or climb stair, loss of appetite, irritability or other behavioral changes. Massage therapy for dogs with arthritis can potentially offer relief.
The primary cause of osteoarthritis in not known but it can occur as a result of congenital joint disorders such as hip or elbow dysplasia, abnormal joint mechanics or from injury or repeated traumas. Less common is inflammatory joint disease usually caused by a bacterial or fungal infection. Also tick borne parasitic diseases, Lyme or Rocky Mountain spotted fever, can be a cause.
Canine massage can be a very effective approach to minimize the aches and pains and to control management of arthritis. Massage can greatly enhance an arthritic dog’s quality of life.
Massage Therapy for Dogs with Arthritis Helps in Several Ways
- Dog massage increases circulation to joints and surrounding tissues damaged by degeneration.
- Dog massage breaks up adhesions in connective tissues that cause stiffness.
- Massage therapy can reduce pain, inflammation, muscle spasms and stiffness.
- Muscles and tissue get restricted around joints; massage can loosen these increasing flexibility, range of motions and mobility.
All of these benefits of massage therapy for dogs with arthritis make it easier and more comfortable for a stiff, arthritic dog to walk and get around.
Along with massage there are other things you can do for your arthritic dog.
Complimentary therapies such as acupuncture and laser therapy can help arthritic dogs be more comfortable and mobile. Also, regular exercise that is appropriate for the age of the dog and extent of arthritis. Short walks and non-weight-bearing exercise such as swimming or the use of an underwater treadmill may be an option. Consult with your veterinarian or a Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner for help designing an exercise program. The Rehabilitation & Mobility Service Veterinary Health and Wellness Center at NC State Veterinary Hospital in Raleigh, NC can provide lots of assistance.
Keeping your dog at a heathy weight and good nutrition with supplementation is important for an arthritic dog. Check with your veterinarian for recommendations for what is right for your dog.
Canine massage is very complimentary to other therapies in the management of canine OA and arthritis and is suggested by the AKC Canine Health. Massage can be done as part of the rehabilitation program or you can hire a Certified Canine massage therapist.
Mari Vogel is a canine masseuse in Durham, NC. If you have any questions or would like to provide a massage for your dog, please call 919-452-3467.