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Don’t Let Arthritis Cramp Your Dog’s Style – Part 2

merlin jumping off pier 2Top Tips to Beat Arthritis

This is the second blog in the series on top tips to help your dog beat arthritis. Arthritis does not only affect older dogs. If we over-exercise our dogs, or if they carry excessive weight, or have had a joint injury or surgery, even as a young dog, then chances are, their joints are experiencing more wear and tear than normal and could have arthritis.
In Part 1 of the blog post we discussed the early telltale signs that your dog may have arthritis. I then outlined the Principles of Treatment to give you the best management for your dog.

In Part 2, we continue to discuss the treatment options available to your dog to maximise their quality of life and longevity.


Principles of Treatment continued…


Joint Supplementation  green lipped muscle

Adding in joint supplements to your dog’s diet is a must if your dog has arthritis.

Krill oil comes from crustaceans that live in the clean waters of Antarctica. It is said to be cleaner than fish oil due to where it is sourced and the processes it undergoes to ensure quality and eco-sustainability. Krill oil contains powerful anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), and also has 47 percent more antioxidants than standard fish oil. It has been shown to decrease joint tenderness and stiffness.

Green-lipped mussel such as ‘Technyflex’ contains eicosatetaenoic acid (ETA) which is a potent anti-inflammatory and has been proven to reduce symptoms of arthritis and improve joint function in dogs, while being gentle on the stomach.

Glucosamine sulphate is also a commonly used supplement for dogs with arthritis. It works to help rebuild lost cartilage and to cushion the joints. There are many dog specific brands available, such as Blackmore’s Osteocare in a convenient kangaroo chew.

Plants as Pain KillersRHVC-bottle-150g-400pxh

Tumeric has been around for centuries as an important Indian spice but has also more recently become popular for its powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions due to it’s active agent curcumin. Tumeric has been shown to be effective at soothing joint swelling and pain. Speak to your homeopathic vet about whether turmeric is suitable for your dog and the correct dosage.

Rosehip has also increased in popularity for its effectiveness in managing arthritis in dogs without side effects. It has been shown to reduce pain and increase movement in arthritis joints. ‘Canine Rosehips Vitals’ are a reputable source of rosehips for dogs with specific dosage instructions for your dog’s body size.

Medical Managementvet-check-large-image

If you suspect your dog may have arthritis, or you would like to be sure, then head to your dog’s vet for some advice and assessment. Your vet should ask you a complete history about your dog’s mobility and exercise, watch your dog walk and assess your dog’s joint mobility. This is often sufficient to diagnose arthritis. They may also want to take some x-rays to rule out other causes of the discomfort.

Control of pain and inflammation are super important to the success of managing a patient with arthritis. Based on their examination findings, your vet will decide whether your dog requires prescription medication like a non steroidal anti-inflammatory, to make them more comfortable. This may just be temporary, but if your dog’s arthritis is severe, it may be a long term treatment.

Your vet may also recommend injections of a DMOAD – disease modifying osteoarthritis drug such as Pentosan, to help maintain joint health. This is typically a series of 4 injections done weekly for one month, then a regular booster is given  – often 3 or 6 monthly – after this, long term.

Once your dogs reaches 7 years of age they move into the ‘senior’ pet category. Make sure you discuss with your pet’s vet at their yearly check up about their joint health and if they need any medical management.


physioPhysiotherapy can play a vital role in the management of dogs with arthritis. An experienced animal physiotherapist will fully assess your dog’s body including their joints and their muscles for tender points, shortening and weakness – all common with arthritis. They will then devise a treatment program to meet your individual dog’s needs that will typically include soft tissue treatment to sore and tight muscles through massage and stretches, and strengthening exercises for weakened muscles, so as to support the joints. The treatment may also include hydrotherapy. Underwater treadmill can be extremely helpful to dogs with arthritis as it allows exercise in a semi-weightless environment so it is gentle on the joints, but is super – controlled so we can carefully increase muscle strength without making the joints sore. As your dog improves, exercises will be progressed so they get the most from their program.

Heat and Ice

Ice can be used on superficial joints such as elbow, and knee, when these joints are acutely inflamed. The ice can help ease pain swelling and inflammation. Use a commercial ice pack, a bag of frozen vegetables or a bag with crushed ice, wrapped inside a wet towel or chux, and wrap around the joint for 10 minutes twice per day. If your dog doesn’t tolerate the ice, then don’t persist.

If joints are not acutely inflamed, but are stiff, and the muscles around them are sore, then a heat pack can be helpful. This can be helpful for the back, neck, hips, knees, shoulders or elbows. Apply the heat pack – just warm- to the affected muscles or joints for 10 minutes twice per day. Again, just as with the ice, if your dog does not tolerate the heat then don’t persist.


Acupuncture can also be very beneficial for dogs with arthritis. It can be used to reduce acute pain and inflammation as well as reducing muscle spasm around painful joints. Acupuncture should only be administered by a trained acupuncturist.

Massage to the sore muscles

Regular massage to the muscles surrounding the affected joints can help your dog to move more freely. How often this needs to be performed depends on your dog’s activity level and how severely affected they are. Look for a qualified canine massage therapist, or your animal physiotherapist can also provide these treatments.

Gait aids

IMG_4977If arthritis is very severe then a walking aid may help your dog to still get out and about and enjoy life, but not make their joints more sore. A dog pram can mean you can still get your own exercise, or exercise a younger, fitter dog, while your arthritic dog rides along in the pram. Once you get to the park, your dog can hop out for a shorter walk around and a sniff, so still getting good quality of life, then pop back in the pram for the ride home. Beats being left at home alone! A wheelchair can also provide a similar solution. If your dog’s hind limbs are affected with arthritis but the front limbs are still fine, then a rear wheelchair can allow your dog to go for their regular walk / run with the rear limbs protected in the chair.


A harness can make it much easier to move your dog around. Sometimes they just need a little assistance to get up from the floor, or up the steps, or into the car. A great brand of harness that we use in the clinic on a daily basis is the Help ‘em Up Harness.


Well that’s it for Part 2 of this Blog Post. I hope you found some useful tips to help your dog, or a friend or neighbor’s dog. Remember we are always here to help. If you would like to see one of our qualified animal physiotherapists to assess your dog or provide you with a program for managing your pet’s arthritis successfully at home, please give us a call on 03) 9553 0896 or send us a message. We now also have virtual consultations available if you can’t make it to the clinic.

Michelle Monk, Animal Physiotherapist, Dogs In Motion Canine Rehabilitation




Don’t Let Arthritis Cramp Your Dog’s Style – Part 1

merlin jumping off pier 2Top Tips to Beat Arthritis

As an animal physiotherapist, arthritis in dogs is one of the most common problems I see. Arthritis doesn’t discriminate. Dogs of all shapes, sizes, breeds and age groups can be affected. For many it is as a result of an injury or surgery to a joint. For others it can be through prolonged wear and tear. In this 2 part blog post I will discuss some tips you can put into action straight away to maximise your dog’s quality of life and longevity when they have arthritis, and how physiotherapy can help them feel and move better.

Early telltale signs your dog may have some arthritis

Arthritis is a progressive degenerative disease affecting the joints of dogs, causing swelling, pain inflammation. This can be debilitating to dogs if left untreated. However if we can detect signs of it occurring early on, we can take steps to make sure our pets live long happy, healthy and pain free lives.

As our pets age they will naturally slow down, but slowing down may also be due to discomfort in the joints. Slowness to rise from lying down, reluctance to get up off the bed or jump on the couch may all be early signs of arthritis and warrant a check up with the vet or animal physio. If your dog has an actual lameness on one or more limbs then a vet check is essential.

If your dog has had a joint surgery at some time such as surgery for cruciate disease, medial patella luxation, hip or elbow dysplasia, shoulder instability or OCD, chances are very high, that these joints will have some arthritis as the dog gets older.

If your dog was super active as s younger dog, chasing the ball flat out every day, running for long distances or flat out with other dogs at the off leash park, then these are also prime candidates for earlier onset arthritis.

Principles of Treatment

So once we have a diagnosis, or even a suspected diagnosis of arthritis, there are many things we can do to keep our dog comfortable, happy and healthy.

As an animal physiotherapist, my aim is to maximise longevity and quality of life in dogs. This requires a thorough assessment of the whole dog, their environment and the goals of their owner. Then development of a specific program that meets the needs and fits into the life of the dog and the family. If its not easily achievable then the program wont be followed, but if we want to make a difference to our dog’s life, there has to be some level of commitment to them as owners of these valued companions – you may have to put some effort in, but hey aren’t they worth it? In my clinic, we discuss and address each of these principles for each individual patient.

Check out these principles below – many you can easily apply straight away.

Avoidance of aggravating factors running in sand

Trying to reduce activity or exercise that impacts the joints will reduce the chance of them being aggravated. Dogs are really poor at self limiting – they will keep running even if the joints are sore.

Walking and trotting on the leash are typically quite safe exercises but if your dog likes to run madly around off leash chasing the ball or other dogs, then the repeated twisting, turning and sudden stopping and starting may make the joints sore and inflamed. But if you think your dog would really miss out if you took away the ball chasing or socialising with others, then at least cut these activities significantly down.

It really is a balance of activity they really love, versus crippling pain of arthritis that limits their quality of life. Some modification will prolong longevity and quality of life.

Exercising in the sand can also be quite stressful for arthritic joints. If you, as the owner, have a sore knee or ankle, or even a sore back, trying walking in the soft sand and you will soon see how difficult it is and how painful your joints can become. If you live near the beach and this is where you walk your dog, at least walk on the firmer sand if possible, and if the sand is always soft, swap some of your dog’s walks to the path or grass to give the joints a rest.

If your dog has arthritis in the front limbs, then jumping off the furniture or out of the car on a regular basis can flare up these arthritic joints. The same stresses are experienced with running downstairs. Either prevent this from occurring, or use a ramp or pet-steps and assist your dog wherever possible. Use of a harness such as a ‘Help em Up’ Harness makes life easier for both you and your dog for in and out of the car, and for assisting your dog to get up if this is a real struggle for them.

If the hind limbs joints are affected it’s the reverse: try to avoid the jumping up on the furniture or into the car, and racing up a staircase.

I once had a patient – a boxer – with moderate elbow arthritis. No medication from the vet would help and the owner was very distressed at his dog’s continual lameness and inability to exercise without pain On questioning, it was discovered she went to and from work each day in the owner’s ute and jumped in and out of the back twice a day. We eliminated this by adding a ramp and voilà… lameness resolved.

Regular Moderate activity

I have alluded to the type of regular activity that’s unsuitable above. So what can you do with your arthritic dog? Essentially we are looking for a similar time for exercise each day (say 30 minutes) and similar impact eg 20 minutes on leash and 10 minutes pottering around off leash sniffing. There is no hard and fast rule here as each dog is different, but of course the longer the exercise period and the more intense the impact, the more stress on the joints. So if your dog is quite lame, shorter sessions on leash are advisable

Try to avoid the ‘weekend warrior’: 10 minutes per day during the week and 1 hour per day on the weekend if the joints are arthritic. This can really flare them up quickly. Moderation and regularity are the key.

A couple of shorter walks per day of 20 minutes duration will also be easier on the joints than a 40 minute walk, if you can fit this into your schedule.


Swimming is a great alternative to walking and running. Just like for us humans, using swimming as part of our exercise regime, there are many benefits to be gained from this activity if your dog likes to swim.

There is no impact, so for the most part swimming is good for arthritic joints.

Purpose built dog pools are the best – heated all year round and entry and exits purpose built. Home pools can also be great in warmer weather if you can help your dog safely in and out.

Swimming at the beach, dam or lake is also fine if you can limit the running and jumping to get in and out. If your dog likes to chase the ball into the water, then standing knee deep yourself, so your dog remains in the water and swims back to you, rather than getting out of the water and running back in, is much safer for them.

Sometimes swimming can flare up arthritic joints. This can be either due to the duration of swimming, or the joints affected. If your dog has severe elbow arthritis then vigorous swimming can sometimes make this worse. So if you plan to try this for your dog, start with a small amount and use a buoyancy vest for support. Then increase slowly each swim session as long as lameness doesn’t increase. For most other types of arthritis swimming is fine. Always fully supervise your dog. If you are swimming in the water with your dog, beware that they may try to swim onto you and scratch you if they are nervous.

Use of a harness can assist them in and out, and a buoyancy vest can reduce fear and fatigue, and allow them to swim longer without tiring.

Environmental modification

Making sure your home and car are set up for your pet with arthritis can also reduce pain and flare ups. Make sure you have non slip flooring for their main traffic area – a runner or several rugs, even yoga mats can make a huge difference to easy of movement about inside your house for arthritis joints, not to mention getting up from the floor. This can prevent not only slipping and injury, but also reduce the need for your dog tensing its muscles around the joints as he tries to cross the slippery floor. If putting rugs and runners down doesn’t suit your decor then your dog could benefit from a great pair or set of 4 Ruffwear boots.

For bigger dogs who can still step easily on and off the couch, then making sure there is a non slip rug below is essential. For the little ones, they either need to not jump up and down or buy or make your dog a small ramp or steps to ease the load on the joints.

If you have a dog door, then you may need to place a ramp over steps leading to and from the door, and make sure its non slip. You may also even need to increase the size of the dog door if your dog has to really crouch or jump up to get through.

Good Bedding = a Good Night’s Restsupportive-bedding

This is an essential and often overlooked component of not only management of dogs with arthritis, but for general health and well being of all dogs. Just like us, your dog is going to benefit from a firm supportive mattress that’s easy to get on and off. Many dog beds on the market these days are either like fat cushions with no support, or really thin foam  that bottoms out and offers very little support once your dog lies on it.

Raised dog beds can also be a challenge for stepping on and off, as well as offering very little support. Certainly not for periods of long rest. Think of sleeping in a hammock or poorly sprung mattress with a sore back- how would you feel if you did this all night?

The best test of a bed is for you to kneel on it. If you can feel the ground below then its not supportive enough. Of course your own bed is a great supportive mattress, but your dog needs to be able to get safely on and off.

For larger dogs then an inner-sprung cot mattress can be great and easy to place a cot sheet and a mattress protector if needed, over it for easy cleaning.

Commercially available memory foam beds such as the Memory Sleeper are also a top quality bed with easy cover removal and come in a range of sizes for all dogs.

A good bed ensures joints and muscles are supported and cradled and that your dog can recover during the resting period, and make getting up the next morning easier.

Weight Controlon scales

If joints are sore, then carrying extra load through being overweight significantly affects not only pain, but contributes to acceleration of deterioration of the arthritis.

Weight control in dogs is just the same as in people. In order for weight to be lost, the dog must burn more energy that they consume. If your dog is not losing weight then they are eating too much for the energy they are burning. You need to alter the balance through reduction in food, or at least fatty food and snacks, and increasing exercise where possible. If exercise is limited by pain, then you could try swimming, or underwater treadmill.

Adequate nutrition

It is important to ensure your dog receives good nutrition to assist with reduction in inflammation, along with repair of cells. There are so many differences of opinion on what is the ‘best diet’ for dogs. This may be based on convenience – leading owners to choose pre-packed processed foods, or on recommendation from the vet – if your dog has particular health conditions that require a specific food, or personal choice – leading you to home prepare of cook your food.

For me, it makes sense, as it does with us, that minimal processing and fresh and if possible organic ingredients are going to be best. I feed Organic Paws to my dogs and raw meaty bones, chicken wings and necks.

Arguments from vets around home-prepared food   – which are certainly warranted – are usually based around ensuring the diet is balanced and can meet all the nutritional needs of the dog.

Do your research (just as you would for your own diet) – there’s so much information available online. A really great resource is ‘Dr Becker’s Real Food for Healthy Dogs and Cats’.

At the end of the day, think about the source of the animals – are they GMO? Were they full of preservatives and chemicals, do we even know this? Do you care?

Well that’s it for Part 1 of this Blog Post. Stay tuned for Part 2 next week where I discuss supplements for arthritis, veterinary management, physiotherapy treatment, acupuncture, massage, passive range of motion, mobility aids, heat and ice, rubs and liniments,harnesses and braces.

Michelle Monk, Animal Physiotherapist, Dogs In Motion Canine Rehabilitation


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Green Lipped Muscle Powder- Is It Any Good For Dogs With Arthritis?

At Dogs In Motion, owners of arthritic dogs often seek advice regarding appropriate dietary supplements. Most will have received advice regarding the use of glucosamine or fish oils but more recently green lipped mussel (GLM) has come into vogue. So what is the evidence for the use of GLM in arthritic dogs?

GLM is known to have anti-inflammatory components and its powder is shown to contain glucosamine components and omega 3 fatty acids, all known to be beneficial in arthritis. As with most supplements, initial studies have been done in humans. Such studies have shown conflicting results dependent on the type of arthritis. Significant improvements were seen in clients with Osteoarthritis (OA) whilst GSM had a less positive influence on Rheumatoid arthritis clients (RA) in the majority of studies. In dogs, though arthritis is known as degenerative joint disease (DJD), it shares osteoarthritic traits in the majority.

Studies in dogs with DJD have indeed been quite promising. Dogs treated with GSM for between 6 weeks and 6 months have showed significant improvements in measurements such as joint pain and swelling as assessed by a vet. Measurements looking at joint movement did not show a significant improvement. It can however be argued that treating arthritis is in the main part about achieving pain management and that altering the physical changes within a joint through the use of a supplement are unlikely.

Some owners may question why GLM is not just included within their dog’s food. It has been shown that the heat treatment involved in food production markedly reduces the beneficial effects of the supplement.

Another common question is there any point using GLM in combination with the anti-inflammatories my dog is already on? The answer here is yes. There is evidence that GLM reinforces the activity of some anti-inflammatories but also markedly reduces gastric ulceration associated with their use, which whilst much less common in the dog is a possible side effect of long term use.

Finally evidence suggests the powder form is more effective than the extract. Many dosages can be found online but a study published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2002 states that small dogs that weigh less than 50 pounds should be given 450 mgs of supplement per day. Medium sized dogs that weigh anywhere from 50 to 75 pounds should be given 750 mgs per day. Large dogs that weigh more than 75 pounds should be given 1000 mgs per day. It is advised to cater for your own pets needs by for example using a higher dose in the winter months and reducing same when your dog is doing well.

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact us.