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As a dog ages, it becomes prone to illnesses and conditions that impact its quality of life. These conditions often result in pain, weakness, and lethargy, which may slow your pet down and keep you from enjoying your time together. Osteoarthritis, degenerative joint disease, intervertebral disc disease, cancer, bladder infections, arthritis, hip or elbow dysplasia, and cruciate ligament disease are common causes of pain and discomfort in aging dogs. Fortunately, some strategies could lessen the pain and make your senior pet more comfortable.

Signs That Your Aging Dog is In Pain

A dog that has undergone a surgical or dental procedure or suffered injuries can be reasonably assumed to be in pain. But pain from some of the conditions mentioned above can be hard to decipher because dogs instinctively conceal their pain. But there are still signs to observe. Although they are quite subtle, carefully monitoring your dog will reveal these signs of pain.

Some signs of pain to look out for include:

  • Squinting eyes
  • Limping
  • A hunched posture
  • Reluctance to walk, run, climb stairs, or jump into a car
  • Resistance to being picked up or handled
  • Lagging or stopping altogether during walks
  • Being quiet, anti-social, and withdrawn
  • Ears lying flat against the head
  • Difficulty getting up after a rest
  • Decreased appetite
  • Personality changes
  • Increased licking of a sensitive or painful area
  • Uncharacteristic aggression when approached
  • Restlessness and panting

If you notice any of the above changes, your dog may need to see a vet to establish the source of the pain, and your intervention with the strategies below should help lessen the pain.

Strategies To Effectively Manage Pain For Aging Dogs

Here are strategies that may help reduce your aging dog’s pain significantly:

1. Using CBD Oil

Scientific data to indicate the effect that CBD has on dogs is scarce. However, scientists have proven that cannabinoids in CBD interrelate with the endocannabinoid receptors in a dog’s brain’s central and peripheral nervous systems, just as they do in humans. One study found that drug supplementation with CBD reduced chronic osteoarthritis pain, reduced inflammation, and helped with anxiety management. Although the scientific data is limited, there’s enough information to lean on and proceed with administering CBD to dogs for pain management.

Even so, the anecdotal evidence from dog owners is overwhelming. Many pet parents have used CBD to treat pain, particularly neuropathic pain, and they gave a favorable report. CBD is said to contain anti-inflammatory benefits, pain management benefits, cardiac benefits, appetite stimulation, anti-nausea effects, anti-anxiety impacts, and even anti-cancer benefits. Although there is no conclusive data on this, the overwhelming positive feedback is something to note.

CBD for pets comes in two primary forms: CBD pet treats and pet CBD oil. CBD oil for pets (cats and dogs) is particularly helpful when you have pets of different sizes, and you can administer CBD according to the instructions given for each pet. Some pet owners drizzle CBD oil on the pet’s treats or food or use it as an ingredient when making homemade treats. You could also buy the premade treats in pre-measured doses and flavors. There are plenty of CBD dog treats for calming to choose from, and to avoid getting confused, we suggest going with the kind your pet likes and their physiological needs.

2. Giving Supplements

Nutritional supplements have also been found to help bring down pain and inflammation. They are used alone or combined with other medications for full medical benefits. Supplements with glucosamine or chondroitin benefit pets with joint pain from arthritis. They help preserve the dog’s mobility by reducing the discomfort and slowing the deterioration of degenerative joint disease and arthritis. Omega-3 fatty acid supplements also help reduce inflammation when given at a relatively high dose.

If your dog is over seven years old and has been diagnosed with a joint medical issue or arthritis, ask the vet to prescribe a joint supplement. It should keep your dog comfortable by preventing further cartilage breakdown, encouraging new cartilage growth, decreasing pain, reducing inflammation, and maintaining mobility.

3. Administering NSAIDs

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) are pharmaceutical drugs designed to treat mild to moderate pain and inflammation. Each medication has a unique mechanism of action, which gives each a unique efficacy level. Examples of NSAIDs are naproxen, carprofen, meloxicam, ketoprofen, ibuprofen, aspirin, and others. There is a difference between NSAIDs meant for humans and pets. Therefore, work with your veterinarian to ensure that the medication you are buying is safe for your pet; some drugs, like aspirin, can cause significant stomach upset or cause the stomach lining to bleed. So, always opt for a professional’s opinion to avoid aggravating your pet’s situation.   

A common problem observed with pet parents is that they only administer NSAIDs when the dog is visibly in pain and immediately stop when they see some improvement. However, many NSAIDs are designed for daily use and not to be used reactively when the pain increases. Since conditions like arthritis are incurable and do not go away, it’s best to take the medication daily, as the veterinarian directs.

4. Administering Opioids

Opioids are a class of pain-relief medication designed to target more severe pain. It includes fentanyl, morphine, hydromorphone, tramadol, codeine, and buprenorphine. Opioids are often used to relieve severe postoperative pain, severe arthritis pain, and pain from advanced cancer.

Opioids are often combined with NSAIDs to minimize dosage and lower the risk of side effects. But, overall, opioids are safe and have a low dependence potential when advised. With opioids, the quality of life of your ailing dog should improve significantly.

5. Weight Loss

Losing weight does not do much to relieve pain from cancer, but it is a significant factor when relieving pain in the joints. The less weight a dog has to carry around, the easier its movement becomes. Therefore, keeping your dog fit and healthy is a critical step to relieving your aging dog of hip or knee pain.

6. Exercise

Exercise is among the primary treatments for arthritis and osteoarthritis in humans, and anecdotal reviews suggest it could produce similar results in dogs. With humans, swimming, running, and resistance training have demonstrated positive results. Similarly, regular exercise customized to an ailing dog’s ability is likely to have a positive outcome.

Start with low-impact exercises. As long as the dog’s condition is not worsening with increased activity, gradually increase the intensity. Underwater treadmill walking has been beneficial to dogs with osteoarthritis because of the resistance, buoyancy, and hydrostatic pressure the water gives. Nevertheless, there’s a need for caution when handling severely affected dogs because of the rapid joint movement in the water when swimming. But, generally, underwater treadmill walking is recommended because it allows controlled velocity and stimulates joint extension and flexion.

7. Thermal Modalities

Thermal modalities include cold and heat therapy.

  • Cold Treatment Therapy

Cold treatment therapy, called cryotherapy, is a helpful intervention. Studies show that cryotherapy benefits dogs with osteoarthritis, leading to less pain and stiffness and an enhanced joint range of motion. The cold also brings down inflammation and stops bleeding.

Cryotherapy at home involves applying a gel ice pack or a bag of frozen vegetables to the affected muscle or joint and securing it firmly with a bandage for compression. Do not place the cold compress directly on the pet’s skin. Instead, place a thin piece of cloth, such as one cut from a pillowcase or a t-shirt, to create a safety barrier. Also, ensure that the ice session does not last longer than 10 minutes.

Ice and compression therapy are recommended for 72 hours after surgery or an injury. It can also be used after working a joint during an exercise or walking to dull pain and enhance recovery.

  • Heat Treatment Therapy

Heat treatment therapy may help relieve pain, stiffness, and muscle spasms. It may also enhance tissue extensibility, which increases the limb’s range of motion and makes it easier for the dog to move around. For example, you could apply heat to the joints of a dog with arthritis to make walking or exercising easier and apply an ice compress after exercising. But be careful not to use a heat compress in areas with edema or swelling, as it may exacerbate the inflammation. Heat should only be applied after the swelling has gone down.

Heat treatment therapy involves exercising in warm water or applying a heat pack to an affected area. Ideally, the heat pack should be applied for only 10-20 minutes. Also, be sure that the pet can respond to the heat by moving away if the heat is too intense to keep the skin from getting burned.

Take A Gradual Approach When Managing Pain

The methods quoted above are easy to implement. However, in your quest to offer quick relief, be careful not to overwhelm your elderly dog. Start small and advance as more relief is needed. Always work with your veterinarian to get an expert opinion and to customize the dog’s pain management plan. With this care, your dog will have a better quality of life.

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