Debbie Gross Saunders is an expert in canine physical therapy. In the decade plus that I’ve known her, she’s helped me help many dogs in my care. She has dogs, loves dogs and knows dogs. Recently I asked her for 3 ways to help with dog arthritis.
Top on her list (and mine): weight loss. Extra weight on arthritic joints makes everything harder and more painful. But she wisely adds to this mandate “… and that includes a good diet.” Our dogs can have an excellent diet and lose weight. Personally, I am not a fan of low-fat weight-loss diets for dogs. I’ve found through the years that these can leave some dogs intensely hungry with sudden increases in trash and counter-top raiding. Instead, feed an excellent diet in smaller amounts. Bulk those meals up with high-fiber additives like green beans or plain canned pumpkin. For wet meals, pack Kongs to make meals take longer. For dry meals, use a food-dispensing toy – ball or wobbler. The biggest aid to canine weight loss? A measuring cup.
Regular exercise is Debbie’s next suggestion: -“Shorter periods of exercise to increase blood flow and movement are beneficial to keep the joints lubricated, muscles worked and improve balance and proprioception. Older dogs tend to lose their balance more – very similar to older people. So exercises that work on balance are important – gentle rocking, slow leash walking, and balance challenges.”
Debbie is a master of simple exercises you can do at home to help your dog feel and age better. It’s as easy as learning how to pet your dog a little differently. How great is that? She offers detailed instruction on 18 such easy, life-style shifts and additions in her DVD: Osteoarthritis and Your Dog (Flash: She’s offering us $5.00 off . Use the code: DOGEXPERT ) The DVD includes:
- Types of Arthritis and Their Causes
- Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
- Treatments of Osteoarthritis
- Modifying Exercise
What You can Do For Your Dog – includes 18 exercises and practical solutions demonstrated on dogs with osteoarthritis
Her third recommendation is to help dogs get in and out of cars – steps or ramps are great to make sure the dog does not jump in or out of the car. Throw rugs work great on slippery floors to reduce the chances of slipping, and a good bed with support works great as well.
Debbie says: “I have found that it does not take a lot to improve the quality of life of dogs with arthritis. A regular exercise routine, pain control, and balance exercises usually do magic! I encourage owners to rock their dogs hips back and forth, switching weight from side to side to assist with the balance throughout the day, makes a big difference. 2 ten minute walks a day is also hugely beneficial. And keeping the older arthritic pet part of the family mentally is key – even older and arthritic – they are still a key component of your life.”
Thank you, Debbie, for all that you do!
Debbie Gross Saunders, DPT, MSPT, OCS, CCRP, Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner, has been working in the field of small animal physical rehabilitation and wellness for over 17 years. The benefits of working with animals and improving their quality of life is paramount to her. Her motto includes “every dog should have the best quality of life for the longest time possible”