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How to help a dog with sore Joints

Colder weather makes joint stiffness more pronounced as the joints stiffen up due to the cold and moving less frequent. None of us want to rush out of bed and take the dog for a walk but did you know…. that we really should! By moving regularly and keeping that exercise up, your dog will move more freely and have less pain.

Exercise is even more important for the older dog or any that have arthritis in place from ageing or a medical condition like Hip Dysplasia. Arthritis or DJD (degenerative joint disease) is so much better managed with movement amazingly. Being active fights the stiffness and reducing stiffness reduces the pain.

Exercising helps build and retain muscle too and muscle tone is vital for keeping ill functioning joints in correct placement.  Gentle, low intensity exercise is important for dogs so that they burn off excess calories and maintain mobility in joints. Dogs enjoy a daily stroll to the park or just down the road and might even enjoy a play at the beach where water will help provide some low impact resistance as they walk.

So don’t roll over and go back to sleep! Your dog needs you to get some exercise, so rug up, warm up, top up on supplements and let’s stop muscles from atrophying and keep achy joints moving as freely as possible?


Arthritis (or more correctly osteoarthritis) means inflammation of the joints. It is also called degenerative joint disease or DJD. Arthritis is one of the most common health problems seen by veterinarians. It can range from mild and unnoticed by the pet owner, to completely debilitating. The majority of cases fall somewhere in between. Unfortunately, arthritis is often only diagnosed later in life once severe joint changes have already occurred. Most cases of arthritis develop as a result of abnormal rubbing within the joint. Any alteration to the bones or cartilage in the joint can cause arthritis. Typically the most common causes are developmental abnormalities, e.g. hip or elbow dysplasia, or secondary to trauma, e.g. previous fractures, previous cruciate rupture (with or without subsequent repair).

The most common joints affected by arthritis are the hips, knees, elbows and shoulders.

These types of joints depend on a layer of cartilage to act as a cushion and create a smooth surface between the bones to allow them to move freely. Cartilage also produces synovial fluid to act as lubrication in the joints. In arthritis, the cartilage deteriorates, there is less synovial fluid and the fluid has reduced lubricating properties. This means the movement of the bones is less smooth, resulting in pain and reduced mobility. Bone rubbing on bone with every movement hurts!

Older pets do not handle extreme changes or stress well. They become less tolerant of hot and cold weather and some with joint problems visibly struggle. In summer, dogs may resort to sleeping on hard floors to cool off but this sedentary behaviour along with the heat stiffens their joints and may result in hair loss and calluses which become a problem if they become raw and infected. Encouraging them to sleep on soft surfaces would help but water-filled cool beds especially for dogs are terrific at offering a soft base while still keeping them ultra-cool and comfortable.

In winter, beds with extra thick padding helps to keep their joints warm and make it easier for them to move after lying down for a long time. Raised dog beds combined with a cosy mattress keep the dog off the cold ground but also position the bed at a height that is easier for them to step off and on to. Older dogs will really appreciate a heated pet bed which may be electric, have a microwaveable insert or have a special inner panel that radiates heat.

Dog ramps are a brilliant solution for owners who have difficulty lifting a large dog with arthritis. The ramp allows the dog to walk straight into the back of a car or onto a bed without any pain for it or its owner.

Weight control in arthritic pets is very important so that extra stress is not put on their joints. Short, moderate exercise can be undertaken but it is important to start this very gradually and not to allow the pet to exercise excessively which will only result in pain later on. For dogs that are still physically active but who are showing signs of slowing down, it would be wise to change their exercise routine from a run to a walk or perhaps a swim at the beach. Don’t stop the exercise altogether as they will still enjoy the time with you and will benefit from the activity, albeit reduced.

Warm packs on the joints and simple flexing and extension of the joints will also help to maintain a pet’s range of motion.  Older dogs that spend their nights outside will benefit from extra warm bedding in their kennel or on their bed and will love a cosy jacket to curl up in. Put the jacket on them in the late afternoon before the sun goes down and the air begins to moisten and remove it again in the morning.

Not every dog with arthritis is OLD!

Dogs that have had any form of joint condition or an injury may have arthritis but may not have it in all joints yet.


The key to most joint supplements is they contain ingredients that help to lubricate the joint by assisting in cartilage growth which produces Synovial Fluid. This matters so much because the effect of arthritis is that the cartilage doesn’t act as the proper cushion it should and reduces its ability to produce Synovial Fluid. That means that bone rubs on bone ……. Ouch!

Joint supplements promote the growth of healthy cartilage and conditions the joints by helping to maintain the fluid that cushions them, the synovial fluid. Supplements in general are given with food and heating any of them should be avoided as it can degrade their ingredients.

At Better Pets and Gardens, we have a range of joint supplements to help ease the pain associated with arthritis and those groaning joints, but if the disease progresses further the veterinarian may recommend cortisone-like drugs or injections.

Visit any Better Pets and Garden store to discuss the supplements and bedding options available for pets suffering from arthritis or joint pain.

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