How to Help a Dog With Arthritis At Home

image showing how to treat a dog with arthritis at home

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If you’re like me, you’re always looking for a new way or the best way to help treat your dog’s arthritis so they are pain-free and as mobile as possible. All of these suggestions come from my TRUE experience helping dogs with arthritis at home.

These are 20 things that help a dog with arthritis at home. The first 10 are either completely free or just require a few supplies at the grocery store. The 2nd group of 10 are products that greatly assist you or your dog when dealing with arthritis around the home.

We’ll start with the 10 free (or nearly free) ways to help:

10 Things you can do around the home that will help your dog with arthritis.

1. Incorporate Morning Oily Fish Treats

One jar or can of salmon, sardines or mackerel is pretty cheap at the grocery store and are natural foods that studies show decrease inflammation associated with arthritis. Give your arthritic dog one or two sardines each morning for an omega fatty acid boost.

For best results, make sure the sardines are packed in water or oil and not tomato or spicy variables. Give the treats daily so your arthritic dog benefits from the compound effects of fatty fish oil.

2. Disable your Doorbell

I know you weren’t expecting to see this, but you came for different ideas right? I did this at my own home because the sound of the doorbell makes my 90 pound arthritic dog go bananas. On one occasion he flew down the stairs so fast, he slipped, fell and limped for the rest of the day….and that was the day the doorbell was disabled. I can only imagine how many solicitors rang my doorbell while I wasn’t home only to aggravate my dog for no good reason.

It’s really simple to do: turn off the power – I’d like to say they are all low voltage, but you just never know how someone’s doorbell is wired. Unscrew the doorbell or if it’s attached with little nails, pry it. Disconnect the wires and tape them off.

I put my doorbell back together so it looked normal (otherwise people would bang on the door). Now, people press the button and think it works.

You know what? I wish I’d done it sooner. Turns out anyone who really needed me to answer the door knew my phone number.

3. Turn on a T.V or Radio when You Leave

If your dog is arthritic and having real mobility issues it might be beneficial to leave a tv or radio on when you leave. This helps drown out incidental noise such as children playing outside or other dogs barking, or the mail being delivered all which make your dog: “leap into action.”

At a certain point and as arthritis progresses, these extra precautions help keep your dog from injuring herself further while you’re not home.

4. Go For Arthritis Relief Walks

A sedentary lifestyle is not good for dogs with arthritis (or people). It’s important that your arthritic dog gets a beneficial walk every day. A beneficial walk for arthritis is one that doesn’t allow sniffing at every tree or post.

An arthritis relief walk starts slow for 5 minutes, and then you increase to a manageable pace for 10 full minutes, then a slower, cool down pace for the final 5 minutes.

Try to keep your arthritic dog moving non-stop for 20 minutes per day before allowing her discovery time. Or, even better would be 2 walks, each 20 minutes per day.

5. Cooked Sweet Potato

Most dog’s find sweat potato very easy to digest. Offering a cooked sweet potato will provide your dog with a beta-carotene boost which helps fight inflamation associated with arthritis.

Don’t add any butter or milk, just cook the sweet potato in the oven or stove-top in water and give some to your dog after it has cooled.

If your dog gets a little oily fish in the morning and a little sweet potato at night on a regular basis, it should help reduce the arthritis inflammation and the pain associated.

6. Limit Mobility Commands to Only When Necessary

Surely your dog has earned a lifetime supply of treats simply because they’re awesome. Now that your dog has arthritis and you’re trying to treat the condition at home, it’s a good time to stop insisting that your dog “sit”, “lay down” “shake paws” etc, in order to receive a treat.

If you still want your dog to perform for treats, you could ask for a kiss , hug or a bark or hide them in places that are easy to find and access.

7. Give Your Dog a Daily Massage

Massage therapy is great for arthritis and some pet boutiques charge big money for a dog massage. You can do this for free! Use long gentle strokes and always push blood toward your dog’s heart. Massage gets blood flowing to the arthritic area and can reduce pain and stiffness for several hours.

You can actually do this massage in combination with the next suggestion which is heat therapy.

8. Apply a Heating Pad

A dog’s arthritis can feel a lot better after a 15 minute round of heat therapy. Using your heating pad on LOW, sit with your dog and lay the pad on top of his arthritic spots. Don’t let your dog lay on the pad though as this promotes leaving your dog unattended. Put your hand between the pad and your dog regularly to check the temperature. It should just be warm, not hot.

A good way to verify your low setting is low enough is to place the heated pad against your inner thigh. If you can handle it, it should be okay for your dog. When in doubt, use a towel between the pad and your dog.

If you don’t have a heating pad, you can microwave dry peas, beans or rice and then put them into a ziploc bag. They will stay warm at least 20 minutes.

9. Keep Dog Nails Trimmed

Nails that impact a dog’s mobility can be heard. If you hear clicking when your dog walks, it’s time to cut her nails or have them done. One rogue toenail is enough to make your dog distribute her weight in a way that aggravates her arthritis.

To verify your dog’s nail length is not aggravating her arthritis, make sure you can slip a piece of paper between her nail and the floor when she’s standing. For a refresher on how to trim nails see this article: Senior Dog Nail Trimming.

10. Provide a dog bed in every room where family spends time.

Some dogs have one dog bed and it may not necessarily be available to the dog until bed time. This is fine with young dogs, but older, arthritic dogs need something to cushion their protruding joints wherever they spend time with humans.

If your arthritic dog is laying on a cold, wood floor of a game room while the kids play for hours at a time, your dog will thank you for placing a dog bed in the game room.

Now lets move on to products that can be added as budget permits.

10 Products that will help a dog with arthritis at home

1. Stair Treads Help Arthritic Dogs

If your arthritic dog has to use stairs (whether inside your home or out) have a look at the stair treads.

For indoor staircases, steps that are all wood or linoleum are prime candidates for temporary step treads. The styles that work best for dog paws are the rubber backed treads with double tape (product link)   or the self stick gritty tape kind (link to product).

For outdoor steps, most steps are fine until they are wet or snowy, then they are downright dangerous. I know my own deck steps get really slippery after it rains and that’s why I have the sticky, gritty roll tape (product link)on my outdoor deck steps and on my front porch I tacked down the outdoor carpet stair treads.

TIP: Stair treads that don’t work well for dog paws are the decorative open pattern rubber style. This style easily traps a dog’s toe or paw and should be avoided (they also trap high heels). The other style that doesn’t work well for dogs is any style that is slippery or that does not get securely fastened.

2. Install Area Rugs or Mat Flooring

I used to be really proud of my home’s gleaming hardwood floors, well, I guess I still am but they are currently covered in area rugs because they are not good for treating dogs with arthritis at home.

It’s really hard for bigger dogs to get up from a hardwood floor and all that strain makes the progression of arthritis more rapid. On top of that, an arthritic dog simply doesn’t have the core muscles necessary to confidently walk across slippery hardwood.

If you have wall to wall carpeting, that is great! If not, a bunch of sturdy area rugs will work. Just make sure they have grip backs or place them on top of something like this: rug gripping material (product link) or use carpet tape (link) so your arthritic does doesn’t have a wipe-out.

The other solution is those roll out mats with rubber backing. They are excellent, don’t move and will stop your arthritic dog from sliding.

3. Pet Stairs for Beds or Cars

I should have prepared for this day sooner because it happened out of the blue. One day, my dog wouldn’t hop into the backseat and he had to get lifted into the car.

After several weeks of research, I bought 2 styles and tested them out. One style was made of plastic with carpeted steps and the other style was folding steps that attach to the back of my SUV. I bought both styles with the full intention of returning the one my dog didn’t like. Turns out, both styles are perfect for different reasons and I kept both.

You can see my full review here: Car Steps for Dogs and you can watch my dog using both styles in this video:

Why I Use the Foldable Pet Steps

When transporting my dog in the back of my jeep, I use these: fold-able stairs style (link) and they were friendly on my budget. If you’re looking for something even more substantial, check out the price and reviews on this product: High End Dog Stairs (link) that hooks to the hatch latch.

I was very worried that my 90 pound dog wouldn’t acclimate, but he did a great job after about 10 or so tries. Now he uses them without hesitation, but I still stay by his side and guide him.

I keep the foldable stairs right in my SUV and they also come in handy at the dog wash. My dog will not use the steep, skinny ramp that leads him into the high tub for his bath, but I can bring the fold-able steps inside and he’ll use them. Hallelujah!

When I Use the Plastic Pet Steps

When it’s just me and my dog, I use a sling style hammock and he rides along in the backseat instead of the back of jeep. This is my preferred method of travel as I have easy access to him the whole time.

When we travel like this, these plastic steps by Pet Gear (link to product) are PERFECT for using at the jeep’s side door. He steps right up onto the seat and coming out is just as easy.

Both sets of stairs have helped him (and me) tremendously.

4. Indoor Pee Solutions

Hold off on the turf style until absolutely needed because they require commitment to daily cleaning (like a litter box). You know you’re ready for this when your arthritic dog simply cannot make it outside to do her business.

Arthritis and bladder control kind of go hand-in-hand. They both occur as dogs age and at some point, you’ll look for ways to make accidents easier to deal with.

Pee blankets are a really good start. If your arthritic, older dog is home several hours a day without a bathroom break, pee blankets spread across the floor will not stop her from peeing, but they’ll make life easy when she does.

You simply roll it up, toss it in the washer and put out a fresh one tomorrow. These ones are my personal favorite and come in a 2 pack Dog Pee Blanket (link to product), which is ideal if you just can’t handle a load of laundry when you get home.

Another indoor pee alternative is indoor pee turfs. I was surprised to learn that tons of people in high rise apartments use these because taking their dog out at night is such a hassle. I had no idea they were that popular.

In any case, indoor pee turfs could appeal to dogs who are not incontinent, but who just aren’t mobile enough due to their progressing arthritis. I have not used an indoor pee turf as we are in the pee blanket stage so I cannot honestly recommend one.

5. Install Small Step in Front of High Step

Even before your dog’s arthritis gets really bad, you could help him out by installing a small step in front of a high step. These high steps are really common in capes and ranches or even off decks. Even though it’s just one step, it’s a killer on arthritis. These small steps (stutter step or half step) keep your arthritic dog independent longer and the relieve joints from the stress caused by having to navigate a high step up.

Most stutter steps can serve a dual purpose, for instance, you can use it on your high step and then move it to your van or SUV as needed. Just make sure that it is not too narrow. TIP: To save money, and enjoy a better quality, get the kind that are made for elderly or disabled people like this: Anti-slip half step (product link).

6. Install Gates – Lots of Them

When it comes to keeping your arthritic dog safe from further injury the old saying “prevention is the best medicine” rings true.

Stair Gates: You remember early I talked about disabling my doorbell after my dog injured himself flying down the stairs, well if I had installed a gate, the injury would never have happened.

Gates will also stop your older arthritic dog from falling down the stairs at night or when you’re not home. This one little preventative measure could save your arthritic dog from taking a fall that impacts mobility permanently.

I highly recommend gating off staircases on the bottom and the top if your arthritic dog is prone to running down stairs or is becoming visually impaired or suffering night vision loss.

The cheaper wood expandable gates will work, but you have to remove them every time you want to go up or down the stairs. I have this, but you’ll have to measure to see if they’d work for you: Stairway Gate with Access (link to product).

Room Gates: can also be used to isolate your dog to one room during the day, which is my preferred method, thus limiting your arthritic dog’s exposure to accidents throughout the home.

Porch Gate:Now this only applies if your porch leads to your front door where people come a knockin’.

If you’re thinking I’m crazy to disable my doorbell and install a porch gate, then you probably don’t have a solicitation problem. But I live in a highly canvassed, highly solicited neighborhood and am subjected to these unwelcome home invaders on a daily basis.

As for a porch gate, I made my own barrier out of an old futon frame and I can personally attest that it keeps most solicitors from entering my porch and getting my arthritic dog all riled up.

Since installing my front porch barrier, I’ve watched the door-to-door salespeople stand at the end of my yard with their clipboard, assess the barrier and walk on by. That to me is priceless.

7. Hock Supports (Hind Leg Support)

These are an actual thing and they help stabilize both or (more often) one hind leg that is weak, turning or dragging due to arthritis or other injury. My dog’s arthritis is in his spine and hips which causes his rear leg to twist inwardly when his arthritis flares.

These hock supports give him the stability he needs, especially if I know we are traveling or going on a longer walk (such as during camping). They come in a pair (though I only use one).

They are nice because they don’t cover the paw as most dogs don’t allow things on their paws for too long. If your dog has hind leg weakness, check out these affordable braces: dog hind leg braces (product link)

8. Helping Hand Hoist

I really wish I’d had this when our good friends brought their dogs for a weekend visit 3 years ago (before my dog was arthritic).

Their oldest dog was extremely arthritic and about 95 pounds of love. She couldn’t manage our back deck steps and that meant we had to carry her down the steps every time she needed to relieve herself. No one enjoyed that…least of all the dog.

If you have a really large arthritic dog like I do, then you’ll eventually need to help her get into the car, climb up or down the stairs, go from lying down to standing or just have that extra peace of mind while walking.

Much like arthritic people take the arm of someone more stable, a dog hoist or strap lift provides reassuring support and stability to your arthritic dog. Some people see them and think they are for carrying their dog around, but it’s really just the equivalent of a helping hand.

And if your dog is heavy, this product will be invaluable if the day comes when you have to get your dog into the car all by yourself in an emergency situation. I have the double strap version hoist (link to product) because I could actually use it to carry my dog if I had to.

9. Hot & Cold Therapy Wraps

We talked about a heating pad earlier, but arthritis pain can be alleviated with hot and cold treatment. Usually, apply heat before long walks, travel or exercise and apply a cold therapy AFTER the long walk, travel or exercise.

Think: Warm-warms up muscles and Cold-cools inflammation.

There is a great product that offers both options based on what is needed for your arthritic dog. These hot/cold therapy actually get strapped onto your dog so he can wear it for 20 minutes – leaving your hands free to whip up dinner.

If you are finding success with a heating pad, these strap on arthritis therapies (link) make your life a little easier. Plus, you can get the right style for your your dog’s arthritis. They can be geared toward the arthritis of the spine, hips, elbows or all.

10. Orthopedic Dog Bed

To make my life easier, my senior dog has a few dog beds in rotation. He’s a large dog and his beds take up a lot of space but they are really important for keeping his inflamed joints off of the cold or hard flooring.

Not all of his beds are orthopedic, but his main bed IS orthopedic and it makes a huge difference in his stiffness and mobility. When my dog takes a nap on his main orthopedic dog bed, he gets up without limping and can rise to his feet with ease.

If, however, he takes a nap at the bottom of the stairs on his regular, mat-style dog bed, he definitely has to “walk it off” after rising and getting on his feet takes a lot more effort.

I can tell you from experience, if you’re able to invest in an orthopedic dog bed for your arthritic dog, you’ll very likely see a marked improvement on limping and mobility like I did.

Before making your purchase, take a look at this guide to orthopedic dog beds so you can choose a bed that lives up to your expectations. The article link is: Best Orthopedic Dog Beds for Arthritis

Finally-Medications that will help your dog with arthritis

I have an entire medicine/supplement page dedicated to sharing my personal experience with medications and supplements that are supposed to help a dog’s arthritis. I go into great detail listing the pros and cons for the exact products that have worked for my 90 pound arthritic dog and I also cover products that didn’t seem to help.

If you’re looking for over the counter supplements or medications for arthritis, read this page for my unbiased reviews and opinion: Arthritis Pain Relief For Dogs. 

Final Thoughts on How to Treat a Dog with Arthritis at Home

I hope out of these 20 ideas, something brings your dog a little relief from the pain of arthritis and maybe even makes your life easier too.

As with most ailments, a multi-pronged approach to helping your dog with arthritis can really improve your dog’s quality of life. The good feeling of knowing you improved your dog’s mobility or reduced your dog’s pain lasts a lifetime.

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